Dracula Returns 

Do vampires ever die or just hibernate until the next walking blood bank arrives on the scene?

avanquest the dracula files
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While the names of Count Dracula and Van Helsing may be known to you, especially if you are a fan of the Gothic genre, those of Michael and Quinn Harker might not have the same familiarity.  Yet these characters appear in the Tech Front Studios game entitled The Dracula Files now available on Avanquest’s GSP Click & Play label.

For those interested in the genealogy aspect, Michael and Quinn are the great grandchildren of Jonathan and Mina Harker who worked closely with Van Helsing in the fight against ghosts, goblins, demons and monsters.  Following a serious falling out, Jonathan and Mina moved to America to raise their family away from the threat that the undead had previously held over their family.  This change in the family circumstances resulted in Michael and Quinn have little if no interest in the existence of vampires and the threat they posed.  That is until their friend Mark Roberts, a reporter investigating the disappearance of a young girl, is bitten by Vladimar Draco, the current incarnation of the blood drinking count.

This game is yet another example of the hidden object, puzzle solving genre built around a storyline featuring the fight against evil.  Various profiles can be set up for individual players with an option to play the game in a choice of Timed or Untimed mode.  With over 30 levels, the game features some well drawn and visually impressive scenes that contain multiple objects that need to be located in order to proceed.

Running across the bottom of each of these scenes is an area containing the list of items to be found and an inventory sandwiched between a mystic mirror and an all-seeing eye.  The mystic mirror will display the silhouette of the currently selected item while the all-seeing eye will pinpoint the position of the item in the scene.  As there is only room to display ten items in the list, any extra ones required will replace those that are found.  In some cases an item that will be required later in the game will be automatically placed in the inventory when it is located.

As well as the main view, each scene has a hidden area.  When touched by the mouse cursor this area will be revealed by a sparkling effect.  Entering this hidden area reveals another list of items to be located.  In one or two instances a further hidden area will be concealed within the first one.

Mixed in with the various hidden object scenes are puzzles that will need to be solved.  The puzzles are reasonably varied in type as you attempt to reform pictures; repair a fuse box; open a door using weights; move chess pieces around a playing area; and recreate Dracula’s face on a sliding puzzle board.  There is an option to skip any puzzle that might prove too difficult.

Interspersed between the hidden object scenes and puzzles are numerous cut-scenes which help develop the storyline.  Unfortunately these cut-scenes lack the visual quality of the main scenes.  The cut-scenes consist of cartoon style static characters that communicate with printed dialogue.  After each speech you need to click the mouse button in order to move on to the follow-up response.  I could find no way of cutting short these scenes to speed up my return to the main action.

The cut-scenes apart, this game is visually impressive and reasonably challenging.  While the puzzles remain the same when replaying the game, there is some difference in the list of objects to be located in the various scenes as you work towards the ending that has a nice, but disappointingly handled, twist to it.

As an additional bonus, Avanquest has included a second title at no extra costs with this product.  This bonus offering is Mah Jong Quest which allows you to play this popular tile game in Classic, Quest of Puzzle mode.  This game has plenty of animation with colourful cartoon style graphics and is a gift not to be sniffed at.

Priced at £9.99, The Dracula Files requires a 1.00GHzprocessor with 512MB of RAM, 130MB of hard disk space and support for DirectX 9.0 running Windows XP and later.

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OverallAvanquest The Dracula Files rated 76 out of 100

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