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Missed Classic: The Count - Won and Final Rating

bigajeff

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Written by Morpheus Kitami
Bela Lugosi just looks so goofy with a cigarette, I don't know why


Dracula has been portrayed by a wide variety of actors, but the best known are Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. While Frankenstein is associated with Dracula thanks to Universal making films on both in the 1930s, did you know that both Lugosi and Lee have played Frankenstein's monster? Lee appears as the monster in the first Hammer Horror Frankenstein film, Curse of Frankenstein. Lugosi's is a touch more obscure, being Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. It wasn't even Lugosi's first appearance in a Frankenstein film, as he originally appeared as Ygor, a blacksmith who was the victim of a botched hanging.

Speaking of Hammer Horror, I didn't realize it at the time of the first entry, but this general story matches up with Horror of Dracula's opening with Jonathan Harker, who goes into Castle Dracula to kill him...for reasons. Though in that case Dracula didn't know that Harker was trying to kill him at first. In that film Harker is distracted by a woman in a low cut dress, and instead of killing him, kills the woman.



When last I left off, I didn't have much of a clue on how to proceed. I knew there was something going on with the dumb-waiter, but what wasn't obvious. It was as simple as raise dumb and lower dumb. Lower was Dracula's dungeon, which had a note from Scott Adams thanking players for making his games a success. The note was attached to a locked door, no key. There was also a rubber mallet. Not sure if that's how I'm going to stake my man, Dracula, but goofy seems to be the order of the day. Further down led to a pit and some iron rings.

Raising the dumb-waiter lead to a pantry, with garlic and matches. Cool, I guess I can light these, then? Not light, burn...wait a minute. The Scott Adams system only registers the first three letters. How can I burn and bury something? The Japanese verb list is unambiguous about having both dig and bury, or horu and homuru. The former engrave or dig, the later bury or suppress. To recap, I used a hex editor to read the verb list to the Japanese version, because I couldn't figure out what I was doing, and that's confusing me about the original English version. I think I'm the first person to ever have that issue. I feel like I should get that on a plaque.

The pit in the dungeon could be reached, however, there was no way back up. This wasn't obvious at first, you can light a match to briefly see the objects in the room, then light the torch, but you are then stuck. I had just missed it, in order to get out, I need to tie sheet to rings, then climb down. I put the stake here, then climb back up. Only this does nothing. No, what I'm supposed to do is go down with the sheets, burn the torch, then get the torch and climb back up. In the grand scheme of things, that gets me the torch, Dracula still notices the stake down there.



I wouldn't have figured this out without the game's help function, but the player can pick locks. Even then it takes a moment to connect the dots...I have a locked door, okay...what can I pick it with...? A paperclip! This leads me to a room with no-doz tablets, which I figure are useless at the moment, and dust. Neither are very useful now, but it takes a little while longer to figure out this is where I hide the stake! My suspicions are confirmed when I go to sleep, wherein all the items in the game flash before my eyes before the usual morning routine happens. Curious, a skeleton. I didn't take a screenshot, but I figure this is probably for the best anyway. Only I still get the message, and it got stolen. Turns out I should have locked the door with my lock pick. I didn't figure that one out before because that's not actually possible in real life.

After all that there's not really anything that opens up. I don't see any logical purpose for the dust yet. Even if I save the stake, a purpose for that doesn't magically appear on the second night. The next is to take the no-doz tablets. With those my character stays up much longer after dark. He'll still fall asleep given enough time. A bat appears, but smells something and disappears, every turn. I assume the garlic is keeping me safe. There's no light though. Finding out about the torch at this point, I can wander around properly...but nothing much is different.



I find out the next solution quite by accident. I can go into the oven after dark. It's solar powered, which makes sense. In here there's a lens and a metal file. The file is stolen after I go to sleep, which means putting that into the closet. What can I do with it? I don't know. I try filing everything that looks possible to file and some things that don't, but nothing happens. So that means I have to do something with the lens or there's something that I'm missing. Nothing happens to items I leave in the oven either, though I haven't tried everything. I had to think about something else.

I think a flaw in my usual reasoning is I try to think of what the developers would actually put into the game rather than what would be a reasonable course of action. There are two areas I can possibly advance at, a vent and a window. Crawl isn't recognized as a verb, probably because the vent is supposed to be too small for a human, but it's something I'd try anyway. For the ledge I would climb down directly...but I can't do that. If I had another option, I'd tie it to the bed...is that an option? It is. I have to take the end of the sheet and go out the window with it, but I can do it. Wouldn't think of that normally.

This leads to an unusual series of rooms, the end of the bed sheet, the flower pot (with daisies) outside the window, then finally the room itself. Where there's nothing but a full-size portrait of Dracula. Okay...I clearly didn't climb down here to mess around with daisies, so there's something I have to do here. Something tells me this isn't going to be filed down, and I can't burn it. No, I take it, just grab a full size portrait. Naturally, this reveals a passage. A dark passage, but I have a torch, so it isn't a problem. This leads to a pile of cigarettes and a sign from Dracula that says to not smoke here. There's no obvious path, but I think I get what I have to do.
I swear I got Lugosi's smoking pic before I knew this

While waiting around for the package with the cigarettes, I notice that by looking up I can also see the dark window. Neat. Not sure why you'd ever do that, but neat. Okay, back at the dark passage, I have to burn the cigarette and then smoke. This causes a COUGHIN to appear. This couldn't be any more '70s if the bat was described as having a mustache. The first time I open the coffin and enter it, finding nothing there. Once inside, I see a lock and I can close the lid. Closing the lid kills me, because I asphyxiate. I guess Dracula assumes because I did that I'm not worth turning.

It takes about three more tries to get the timing right, but the objective on Day 2 is to hide the pack of cigarettes in the closet, while filing off the lock of the coffin. This takes longer than I thought because I kept either taking the no-doz tablet at the wrong time, or doing something I thought wouldn't be a problem. Like climbing down the sheets while carrying a lit torch. Not sure what to say about that in relation to a game where I can only stake Dracula because of a pun. There's also preparing for the final day, which mostly involves me putting down everything in the passage or outside the passage that Dracula won't take.
Why is his skeleton moldy? Yuegh

Day 3 is all about staking Dracula. The timing is mostly just an issue with the last day, if everything's downstairs all I need to do is go to the closet and get my stake and cigarette. I haven't mentioned it much yet, but there's a five or six item limit in your inventory. It isn't much trouble until you get to Dracula, because most of it is at most 5 places away. There's a minimum of 7 rooms between the bedroom and Dracula's coffin. And thus, most items are at least that distance until you go out of your way to put them down there. Once finally face to face with the sleeping Dracula, there's a mild issue with figuring out what word to use. Stake Dracula doesn't work, because why would it? Attack Dracula is what works. Yeah...well, I won.

Atari 8-Bit
There's the Japanese Count, right there

I don't know, I don't exactly have any motivation to finish the game in this version. While I eventually figured out that the issue with letters flying everywhere is because I hit F12, I don't exactly like this version. The game is plain in descriptions of...everything, but if I imagine it, I can at least imagine I'm in some Romanian castle. This looks like an unfinished house. Who decided that Castle Dracula should have exposed RED brickwork? Just because you have these colors doesn't mean you should use them.







But the real big issue is that its just a pain to type commands in this game. Every time I change screens, which is often more than once a room, I have to press a key before I can type anything, which is just not something I can get used to. It actively ruins my enjoyment of the game. Also the graphical images gradually start looking a lot worse than they should, which is just great.

BBC Micro

Something interesting happened in this version. During the first night I don't get the messages with the bat. (replays fix this, albeit he only happens once) Then when I make it to day 2 and file off the lock in Dracula's coffin, I see Dracula. As in, during the night. There's something funny going on here. Proceeding as usual works well, although I mess up typing move commands in the dark a few times. But I can kill Dracula just fine during night 2. I wonder where this error was introduced? It seems unlikely to be an emulation or a ripping error. No, somewhere in the original tape this happened. Was that accidental, or did AI UK think that British audiences were too dumb to play this properly? We will never know.

Curiously, after finishing all this and checking sister blogs, I discovered that I'm not the first person to notice this. CRPG Adventures mentions a different Atari version (which I didn't play) which also has the same issue. Now, I have another question. The British had Atari 8-Bits? Next someone's going to tell me that the Americans had some FM Towns.

Inform and ScottFree

These are the most convenient versions of these two games to a modern player, the former is on IFDB and the latter is on Scott Adams's own website. I tried both out briefly and they seem to be pretty close to the original versions, right down to spelling and capitalization mistakes. I've heard that the Inform version is different than the original in some way, but I don't think its in some way that really matters. The biggest flaw I can see is that they lack the intro screen explaining what you can do.

**********************************

The Count is a hard game to talk about. When it was made, there weren't exactly any standards, be it in adventure games or in games in general. You could probably fit every game on the market in a single book shelf. Its not that it's bad, it's very good actually. I'm used to games from the '70s (and including 1980 in that) being interesting for all of 15 minutes and then their repetitive nature shines through. It's hard to compare it, not just because of that, but because it's design nature is slightly alien to those that came after. I've played text adventures before, but they don't have beige prose. Nobody's going to come up to you at an IF party sipping a glass of red wine and say they love Scott Adams games for the prose. They'll probably have an empty bottle of Everclear.

But it's because of that beige prose that The Count is a fun game. There's no looking at the room description, hoping that there's something there you can interact with that you missed. Everything is in front of you, and it's either something you need to use or something cluing you in on what you need to use. That combined with the harsh but fair time limit and constant restarting changes the gameplay loop to something that forces a different outlook than usual. You're unlikely to be constantly fiddling with inventory items in vain for an hour, then quitting here.

But beyond that it's just a very well made game on the game side. Items are used in clever ways and wrong solutions just require a bit of rethinking. There are parser difficulties, strange ones considering the otherwise loose nature of it. And there are spelling mistakes, very consistent ones, even in modern interpretations. But ultimately that didn't stop my enjoyment of the game.

Puzzles and Solvability

There are two flaws here. One puzzle requires you to figure out your character has knowledge that you don't, and you have to figure out that he has that knowledge and can do it with the limited resources available. The other is that there's something beneath the ledge outside the window. Yes, it's a safe bet considering the format, but the actions to discover it are not very usual. Again, criticising someone for something that didn't exist back then. Looking up outside the castle is extremely unusual. Jumping off the ledge outside is something I only did because I do the most immature things possibly when given a parser. These are the only two ways of knowing there's something there.

8

Interface and Inventory

The three letter parser was interesting. While I didn't care for having to take two actions to tie things, I didn't mind anything else. I liked being able to shorten things if I knew what I was doing. Wonder if there's anything along the lines of "confess to war crimes" ala Saigon: The Final Days. There however, should be more ways of moving than typing a letter or go [location/direction]

I dislike the inventory limit, but given the game's size I don't mind it too much.

5

Story and Setting

The story here would be woefully simple...except we don't know the events leading up to the hero waking up in Dracula's bed. It's fairly bland otherwise, but the time mechanic adds something interesting to the game.

3

Sound and Graphics

In the version I liked best, there isn't any. 0

Environment and Atmosphere

The castle in this game only works from a puzzle perspective, not on any other level. Why is the bathroom across from a grand hall? Why does the grand hall have stairs that lead directly into the foyer? Don't the townsfolk have anything better to do then wait around outside the castle gate every day? How are normal people supposed to navigate this castle? And don't get me started on the hot garbage that is the graphical version. 1

Dialog and Acting

There isn't any. Uh...Dracula laughs? One could say the player character talks to us, but that's kind of weak too. 0

8+5+3+1/0.6=28.333 So 28. As I can give discretionary points, I'm bumping up the rating to 30.



"Very well made game" [...] "30 out of 100". I don't think Adams titles were built for this kind of rating system. I don't know if I'm going to cover anymore of Adams titles. This was fun but I didn't have that much to say. I do know, however, having played a bit ahead on the FM-7 version of this that I'm going to have more to say about that when that entry comes up, which will be my next entry.

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