Dracula: Love Kills (Collector's Edition)
Year Published: 2011
Publisher: Frogwares
Developer: Waterlily Games

Hidden Object Games have potential to cover nearly every genre of storytelling, so it's not surprising to see one like Dracula: Love Kills - a horror themed game based on the mythos of vampires. It borrows the characters of Count Dracula, Van Helsing, and Mina Harker directly from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, Dracula, but it also includes an archetypical "Igor" character (usually reserved for adaptations of Frankenstein, though he did not appear in Mary Shelley's original novel) and a Vampire Queen, who serves as the main villainess. Dracula and his archnemesis, the vampire hunter Van Helsing, learn that Mina has gone missing, and as unlikely as it sounds, they team up to find her and stop the Queen of the Vampires from converting the human world to a vampire world. Their adventure will take them not only to Transylvania, London, and other European locales, but to some unusual places around the globe, including New Orleans and a Mayan temple.

Dracula awakens to find his home a mess and the Queen of Vampires running amok.

This premise has all kinds of potential, so if you're like me, you'll be disappointed that most of the dialogue is wasted on Van Helsing and Igor trading insults and Dracula yelling at them to stop. I would've preferred if the material had been played straight, but instead it's like some goofy comedy/parody that, despite having a horror theme, is never actually scary. But as a comedy, nor is it really all that funny. Quite frankly, I would've liked it if the Igor character had been left out. His contant remarks about wanting to eat rats won't be funny to anyone over the age of 12.

As a game, Dracula will certainly keep the player busy and it has some innovations that are worth checking out, if you can tolerate the goofball story and (sometimes) cheesy voice acting. You, as Count Dracula, gain new abilities that allow you to unlock areas and obtain certain items. These powers include seeing invisible objects, strength for breaking things, telekinesis, and yes, turning into a bat. Dracula's power, unsurprisingly, comes from blood, so you'll want to scour each scene for hidden blood vials.

Confronting one of the Queen's servants in a Mayan temple.

In your travels, you will occasionally come across human women who are serving the Vampire Queen, and here is where things get interesting - you have a choice between biting them and turning them into vampires, or showing mercy and letting them go. Your choices will affect the outcome of the story (and changes a major element in the Collector's Edition's bonus chapter). You will need to play through the game at least twice if you want to get all of the achievements since there are different ones for both endings. Also, if you choose to bite the women, Dracula's blood meter fills instantly, but don't worry if you choose not to - you'll be given an extra hidden object scene where you look for blood vials to make up for it.

Along with parts of the shields that grant Dracula his powers and vials of blood, each area contains scattered parts to various puzzles, and once you've collected all of a kind, you'll have that puzzle available to solve or skip. Achievement hunters will need to complete them, but may wish they had the luxury to skip some of them as they can be quite devious. (Save yourself some trouble with the Eight Queens Problem and look it up - personally, I've done that puzzle so many times now that I resolve to never waste more time than necessary on it again.)

Pretty Gothic architecture.

If a serious vampire story is what you want, I'd suggest going to a search engine and entering, "Best Vampire Books" or "Best Vampire Movies", because you won't find it here. If you don't mind a tale that often feels more "Three Stooges" than "Bram Stoker", wrapped around a competently-crafted hidden object adventure with plenty of items to find, puzzles to solve, different endings to uncover, and pretty scenery to behold, than Dracula: Love Kills is definitely worth sinking your fangs (or perhaps, in this case, baby teeth) into.

SCORE: 3.5/5



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