I got a box from my parents that had been in storage for nearly 20 years. It turned out to be full of classic IBM PCjr games. Lots of adventure games from Sierra, as well as the Ancient Art of War, M.U.L.E. and some oddities like Borrowed Time by Activision. This video shows the causes of my misspent youth.
Even back at the dawn of the home gaming, some titles dared to scare. Or, at least tried to scare. And what better source material than the Lord of the Vampires, Count Dracula? But, given the limitations of early technology, was Dracula all that fearsome? Let’s explore some of the pioneering titles.
Dracula by Imagic for Intellivision
Released in 1982, Dracula offered some of the best graphics ever seen on the Intellivision system. You play as Dracula, biting terrified citizens and drinking their blood or turning them into zombies. You not only get to rise from a cool coffin, but you also have the ability to turn into a bat. On the downside, you’re hounded by stake throwing policemen, wolves, and vultures. What’s worse, when you’re biting someone, you resemble a muppet with a gaping mouth – not dissimilar to Sesame Street’s The Count.
Fun Factor: 3 stakes out of 5
Fear Factor: 1 stake out of 5
Transylvania by Penguin Software for Apple IIe
Also released in 1982, Transylvania was a text and graphics adventure that placed you in the role of an intrepid explorer trying to save a princess. Although the vampire you’re battling in this game doesn’t introduce himself as Dracula, I think given the location and other similarities, we can safely assume it’s him. This game has some random elements that significantly ramp up the tension. However, you’re much more likely to be attacked by a werewolf than Dracula himself. (This game has recently been re-introduced on the iPhone with a handy text wheel for common words – making it surprisingly playable.)
Fun Factor: 4 stakes out of 5
Fear Factor: 3 stakes out of 5
King’s Quest II by Sierra On-Line for PC
Released in 1985, the King’s Quest games offered some of the most impressive graphics of the era. In this game, you must travel to Dracula’s castle, located in the midst of a poisonous swamp. Once there, you must kill Dracula, but he doesn’t seem to hold a grudge since he later attends your wedding. Without the proper tools, Dracula is impossible to beat – but if you have the right items, staking him is a snap.
Fun Factor: 5 stakes out of 5
Fear Factor: 2 stakes out of 5
In conclusion – early games offered some fun opportunities to either be or battle Count Dracula. But, don’t look to them to scare your socks off.