Written by Joe Pranevich
Happy Halloween! Er… Thanksgiving? Hanukkah? Christmas? New Years? What month is it? Whenever it is, welcome back to Dracula Unleashed. I hope you remembered to guess the score.
Last time out, we watched the introductory movie. We are Alexander Morris, brother to Quincey Morris who died while facing off against Dracula in the original novel by Bram Stoker. Alexander has come to London to investigate his brother’s mysterious death ten years prior. The younger Mr. Morris’s primary character trait appears to be procrastination: not only did he delay ten years before coming to London to investigate his brother’s death, he was immediately side-tracked by meeting a woman, a beautiful young lady named Anisette. Now, several months later, Alexander has finally been inducted into the “Hades Club” on the night that Anisette’s father passed away. We ended the night with a request that we visit Anisette in the morning as her father’s doctor sedated her for her own health. That’s where we’ll start the plot today.
It’s a real adventure game this time!
Before we get too far, I take stock of the interface. The first big difference from the Sherlock Holmes series is that we have an inventory. One of the curious quirks here is that when I want to “look” at an inventory item, I click the “ear” icon! This causes Alexander to describe the object for us. It's nice, if momentarily confusing.
At the start of the game, I am carrying:
- Father Janos’s card. He’s a priest in a Romanian town that I cannot quite make out and there are no subtitles. Googling some phonetic attempts suggests that he may be from Bistrita, a town in northern Transylvania. That checks out and I’m going to pretend it’s true even if I misheard the name.
- A handkerchief with the initials “AHM”. I spend too much time trying to work out whose handkerchief it is, but it’s obviously my own: Alexander H. Morris.
- A photograph of Anisette.
- A London Museum Guide. That has to be useful somehow, but we cannot read it.
The upper right corner tells us that we just received an item for watching the opening cutscene: it’s the note from Andrew Bowen’s doctor telling us of his patient’s (Anisette's father's) death.
From what I glean from the manual, the “Hand” icon in the top left will put an object “in hand”. When we go someplace or watch a cut scene, the object in our hand could trigger a different event. They use the example of visiting the telegraph office: what we are carrying will determine whether we intend Alexander to send a telegram and to whom. I expect this to be the primary way that we progress the plot and solve puzzles.
Alexander is a methodical note-taker.
The “Notebook” icon in the lower-left takes us to our journal. The original Dracula was written as a collection of journal entries and newspaper clippings; having the game be narrated in a similar style seems fitting and I look forward to seeing how and if ICOM is successful at it. The arrows by the page number are not clickable, probably because we have only a single entry written despite being on page five.
The top of the page also reminds us that we have a time limit: our introduction to the Hades Club was on the evening of the 28th and it is now the following morning. As the “flash forward” scene in the opening took place late in the evening on the 31st, we have roughly three days to complete the game before a giant meteor strikes Hyrule. Now, where did I put the Master Sword again?
Our address book is much simpler this time.
A tab in the journal takes us to our address book. This feels again like Sherlock Holmes, except that here we start with a very limited set of addresses and presumably will pick up more in our journey. Holmes already knew London like the back of his hand, but Alexander Morris does not! It’s a nice touch. Our starting list includes our home, Anisette, the Hades Club, Holmwood, a newsstand, and the telegraph office. I am already forgetting names: Arthur Holmwood was the man who inducted me into the club in the opening scene.
The rest of the interface seems straight-forward: the clock lets me see the time (7:00 AM) and to jump ahead. The compass shows a map of London that we can use to calculate travel times. My suspicion is that we may have a puzzle eventually which requires efficiency to talk to everyone in a set amount of time. The blue-hatted person is Dr. Van Helsing and he acts as an in-game tutorial on the interface. He stresses, for example, that even if a scene appears to take only a few seconds, that these are condensed and that the whole event may even take several hours. The final icon on the far right is the CD-ROM and is used for saving and loading the game.
Let’s take a ride!
If we’re ever going to defeat Dracula, I need to actually play the game! My initial thought is that I should grab a newspaper then check in on Anisette. Checking the map of London however, the only newsstand in the city is quite a distance, while Anisette’s house is close to my own. We’ll head there first. Just for giggles, I check the time frames on a modern map and they seem reasonable: a journey from Notting Hill to Westminster takes 45 minutes in the game, quite similar to the 30-45 minutes that it takes on the underground today.
A wreath! I guess Christmas decorations are still up.
When we arrive, we are shown a traditional painted/drawn depiction of the area. We can mouse around to see what to click on, but in this case we only can select Anisette's front-door and the carriage. Will there be other events or items that we can pick up if we click on different places? That will be something to watch out for.
I select Anisette’s door and we have our first cutscene of the game!
They left you here alone all night with a dead body!?
Alexander rushes into the master bedroom and embraces Anisette. The doctor is long gone, but his patient is not: the dead body of Andrew Bowen still rests in his bed, covered by a sheet. According to what the doctor told Anisette, her father died due to a heart attack brought on by shock. We also discover that the bedroom window was left open– not a wise idea on a late-December night in London. (Alexander promises to talk to Mrs. Colpepper, the housekeeper, about that.)
Alexander removes the sheet to see Mr. Bowen’s face locked in a look of horror and shock, his eyes still open and his mouth locked in a silent scream. He clutches something against his chest.
He went to sleep in a suit and tie? Or was his body moved by the doctor?
Alexander removes the cloth from Mr. Bowen’s hand while Anisette sobs, “Why do things have to go away? Why can’t all the things we love stay forever?” Alexander comforts her and kisses her hand as the scene ends. Our inventory now contains the piece of “strange white cloth!” Alexander also writes up the event in his journal, stating that he will never forget the look of horror on Andrew’s face. It’s obviously not just a heart attack, but perhaps death of fright? I assume that he snatched the white cloth off of whatever frightened him.
I place the cloth “in hand” and return to the house. Can I ask Anisette about it? Or the housekeeper? Instead, I am greeted by Mrs. Colpepper who refuses to allow Anisette to be disturbed right now. This dead-end answers one other important question: unlike in the Sherlock Holmes games, we cannot rewatch scenes. The game is storing state, knowing what we have and have not watched, and making choices based on that. It makes the game feel more real, while also increasing the tension. If we miss something, it’s gone and there is no way (short of restoring a saved game) to see it again.
Mrs. Colpepper does not allow even Anisette’s future husband to see her.
With my trip to see Anisette out of the way, I continue my plan by heading into Westminster to pick up a newspaper. As I have learned to expect, we get a nice drawn scene to set the mood and a place we can click on to watch a cut scene. I keep clicking around, hoping or expecting that there is some other hotspot in one of these locations, but I continue to be disappointed.
Let’s see what’s in the paper today!
I had to go all the way to Westminster just to buy the Times?
The newspaper looks familiar somehow.
The lead story for today is “Killer Strikes Again: Headless Corpse Found in West End!” The newspaper salesman fills me in on the details even before we could read the article: the police found a decapitated corpse with all of the blood drained from the body. By way of an aside, the poor guy tells us that he likes to go after work to the Saucy Jack, “the best pub in the Strand”. He tells us that the barwoman is named Rebecca and that she has the best ale.
More importantly, this interaction not only gives us the address of a random pub (why would we go there?), but also a new interface in our journal that allows us to read three of the articles.
|Alexander is so organized!|
I cannot help but compare this to Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. A cornerstone of that game is finding clues inside of newspaper articles, but we have a much tighter presentation here. In that game, we were inundated with dozens of articles, most of which had no bearing on the case at hand. We could read them either in the game itself, or in a print-out that came with the game. Dracula Unleashed keeps the concept, but only gives us three articles (and no printouts). As I review the games side-by-side now, I also notice that Dracula Unleashed runs at a higher screen resolution than did Consulting Detective, making reading the articles significantly less painful!
The three articles that I pasted into my journal are:
- “Gruesome Murder in the West End” - The body of George O’Keefe was found near a tavern of “dubious repute”. His decapitated head was left nearby, but no blood was found on the scene and the police suspect the body was moved from elsewhere. O’Keefe was Lord Godalming’s coachman.
- “Retirement” - A man named A. R. Shearman is retiring as chief accountant of the Bank of England due to poor health. It mentions that his predecessor in his job was Oswald Mason, whose murder was solved by Sherlock Holmes! This appears to be a reference to a case in Consulting Detective Volume III, which I have not played yet. (That game came out before this one, but our numbering is not perfect.)
- “Mysterious Livestock Deaths” - Dead animals have been found in Euston, drained of blood. That obviously seems like a connection, but the article is referring to Euston, Suffolk rather than the neighborhood in London. That’s a two-hour drive today and much longer then. I don’t see how these deaths could be connected yet. (Unless the American-based developers don’t know basic English geography.)
Curiously, while the Sherlock Holmes and Dracula Unleashed newspapers look nearly identical, the Dracula one is titled the Daily Times rather than just The Times. This doesn’t matter at all, but I noticed after pulling up the old game for comparison. I love the ways that Dracula Unleashed pays homage to ICOM’s previous series, while not being bound to it.
At this point, I’ve completed my initial plan: I have spoken to Anisette and picked up a newspaper. What should my next move be? Picking through my inventory, I remember the white cloth that Anisette’s father was holding. Can I ask the doctor about it? We don’t have the doctor’s address, but I do have his card. Could I send him a telegram? I place the cloth “in hand” in the inventory screen and head to the telegraph office.
TIL: Reuters originally was a telegraph company!
You charge how much per word!?
Unfortunately, that does not work. When I enter, the clerk tells me only that I have not received any telegrams and, if I had, that they would be “promptly delivered to the recipient”. I recall somewhere in the manual or Van Helsing’s “help” that we will see incoming telegrams back at our home, so I’ll stash that information for later.
Instead of sending a telegram to the doctor, I try Father Janos instead. I don’t need to leave by carriage, if I add his letter “in hand” on the exterior screen and return into the office, it triggers a new cutscene. Alexander asks the operator to send an overseas telegram. We don’t get to hear Alexander narrate the telegram to the officer, but fortunately our journal records it in full:
I have arrived in England and am looking into the circumstances of Quincey’s death. Strange things are happening here. Please reply soon.
I’m still confused about the game’s timeline. Some of the text and events such as this one imply that Alexander has only been in London a short time, but we also are told that he’s been here for several months wooing Anisette. How can it be both? It feels like the author wants it both ways. I check my clock and it’s 9:40 AM. I don’t have any great leads and so just pick out places in my address book. Let’s try talking to our sponsor, Arthur Holmwood, first.
When I arrive at Holmwood’s home, he’s talking to the police. We learn that his carriage driver was killed while delivering a package. That’s two carriage drivers murders? We learned that Lord Godalming’s driver was murdered in the morning paper. Is there an epidemic of carriage driver murders? Strangely, the package was not even touched after the killer chopped off the driver’s head and drained him of his blood. Whatever the motive was, it wasn’t robbery. We also learn that the package was to be delivered to Jonathan Harker, one of the lead protagonists of the Dracula novel… or rather, his son, young “Quincey Harker”. Holmwood is kind enough to tell the police Harker’s address and so I have it now as well.
I’d like to offer to deliver the package myself, but the game doesn’t give us that option. The scene ends and we never talk to Holmwood at all. I try to reenter, but am stopped by a butler who lets me know that Arthur is unavailable. While I could go to Harker’s home immediately, the Hades Club is the closest location on the map. I’ll go there next.
This place just screams “secret society lair”.
Now I ain't sayin' he a Goldacre, but he ain't messin' with no broke blokes.
I arrive at the Hades Club to find Mr. Goldacre smoking by the fire. He is immediately confrontational, unhappy that Holmwood sponsored us into their “distinguished club”. Alexander explains that it was in honor of Arthur’s close friendship with Quincey, but Goldacre has none of it. He says that we do not understand the history of the club and that Americans by nature have no sense beyond their own “whelp history”. Alexander responds that “age is no indication of virtue” and questions why the club is called the “Hades Club” anyway. Goldacre responds that it means “Abandon all hope, ye who enter– we’re in Hell, my boy.”
I was about to complain that Goldacre doesn’t even mention his dead coachman, but then I realized that I have been a moron. Somehow, my brain has swapped “Goldacre” with “Godalming” (and who wouldn’t?) and so he’s not the guy with the dead coachman. So, who is Lord Godalming? I have to Google for the answer, but it should be obvious: Lord Godalming is Arthur Holmwood. I’m not clear on all of the details, but that means that Holmwood/Godalming is at least a baron. Good on him! Doesn’t make it easy to understand. That at least explains why Holmwood was concerned about his driver and also makes me look like an idiot for thinking the game made a mistake by having two identical crimes. Score one for ICOM!
Given all that, it’s clear that investigating the coachman’s murder should be my first priority. Let’s head to see Mr. Harker.
I’m really liking the stained glass trim.
The Harkers are good at stern looks.
When I arrive, Mrs. Harker is tending to her roses. They remind her, she says, of someone she once knew: fragile, beautiful, and dangerous. I assume that is a character from Dracula, probably Lucy? Alexander and the Harkers seem to know each other already, although they are stiff enough that they don’t seem close. They both express remorse for Anisette’s father’s death.
Alexander really needs a lesson in social awareness and not saying stupid things because he immediately starts to tell the Harkers about Holmwood’s decapitated carriage driver. Mina and Jonathan immediately blanche, terrified of the thought and Alexander’s complete lack of social graces. Jonathan insists that Mina go check on Quincy while they shoo me outside. Jonathan places his business card in my hand and tells me to visit later to “talk business”. In our journal, Alexander is perplexed why the Harkers would be more upset about the death of the coachman, a man they didn’t know, than Anisette’s father. It seems clear to me that murder is more upsetting than dying of supposedly natural causes, but also the implication that the coachman was coming to see them before he was killed. If I were the Harkers, I’d be upset too.
“Talking business” sounds like code for “we can discuss the grisly murder of a carriage driver I don’t know when my wife isn’t around”, I head to Jonathan’s office next.
These buildings are starting to all look alike.
He has his name on the door! How cute!
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the right idea. In a burst of realism, Jonathan is not at his office. Instead, I am greeted by someone suggesting that I leave my card. Do I need to wait until later? I make a note to come back after exploring a bit further. If I were the Harkers, I’d be fleeing the city right about now, obviously Jonathan and Mina are made of sterner stuff.
What does that leave? I only have one more location in my address book, the seemingly-not-connected-to-anything referral to the Saucy Jack Pub that the newspaper man told me about. Could that possibly be the pub that the coachman was killed near? That would be a contrived coincidence, but let’s check anyway.
It’s been less than a decade since the Whitechapel murders; a “Jack the Ripper”-themed pub seems in poor taste.
A Jack-the-Ripper themed bar owned by a woman? That seems worse somehow.
Alexander enters the pub looking distraught. I know we’re running out of clues, but it will be okay! He’s immediately greeted by the tavern’s owner, Rebecca Eaton, who offers him a drink on the house. A couple of gossiping patrons nearby joke that Alexander could be the murderer because he’s looking so “moody”. Rebecca tells him to ignore the rabble; they are just scared by all of the “unnatural” murders. We learn that a “woman in white” has been seen all over London, similar to the “Bloofer Lady” that haunted the city years ago. We learn that the “Bloofer Lady” was known to “bite youngins on the neck”. One of the patrons reveals that he learned about her from a book that he saw in the “Goldacre and Horner” bookshop.
Of course, the “woman in white” must have been the apparition that killed Anisette’s father; he snagged a piece of her white dress just before he died. I don’t see any way to investigate that lead however. The only new place I can go from here is Goldacre’s bookshop. Since he hates me for joining the Hades Club, I’m sure he will love it if I stop by and ask questions.
We don’t have enough good bookstores anymore.
Mr. Horner, I presume?
Arriving at the bookstore, I discover that Goldacre is not there. Considering that I left him at the Hades Club an hour ago, that shouldn’t be too surprising. Instead, I meet with his partner, Mr. Horner. I expected Alexander to be cagey about knowing Goldacre, but instead just blurts out immediately that he’s a new member of the Hades Club. Horner is a member too! We get a very strange moment where Horner shakes Alexander’s hand and doesn’t want to let it go. I don’t know what that means. I half think they are coding that Horner (and therefore Goldacre?) are gay, but it might just be a moment of improv in the production. As silly as it might sound, the very fact that I’m getting into these videos this much and even noticing such a thing is a credit to the production!
Alexander asks for a book about the “Bloofer Lady”. We learn that she was a beautiful but “ghost-like” woman that would kidnap children but return them on the edge of death. Of course, this is all from Stoker’s original novel: the Lady was Lucy Westenra, Dracula’a first English vampire and a friend of Mina’s. Horner gives us the book, Tales of Evil, as a present. The tome appears ancient and dusty, but it has to be less than a decade old if it retells the events of the original novel! Handwritten in the cover is a note that the book belonged to a Dr. Seward at a nearby asylum. The address is added to my journal and we have a new place to explore!
I was expecting Arkham and was not disappointed.
Lunatic running by? Snatch!
When we enter, we see the strangest exchange of the game so far. I speak to an unidentified orderly who lets me know that Dr. Seward is busy. The Asylum is suffering from an outbreak of crazed inmates. Alexander even has to catch one of the “loonies” running by. After the orderly casually knocks a mentally disturbed person on the back of the head with a blackjack, he hands it to me in case I need it. It all looks like abuse. My journal suggests that I should try the doctor again later in the evening, but the blackjack is added to my inventory.
I try going back in immediately, but he’s still unavailable. We get a different scene with the orderly, who seems not to remember that I just helped him beat an inmate over the head. The situation seems calmer, but we’re still advised to come back later.
My rush of plot progression is at a dead-end. The last several leads each provided one more address to explore, but unless there is something to do with one of the objects or a certain time trigger (it’s 3:45 PM), I’m stuck. I return home briefly just to see if I have received any telegrams, but I have not. My best guess is to return to the Hades Club to see if things are different now that I have met Mr. Horner.
Have you tried the wine! It’s so good!
Back at the Hades Club, I am surprised to see a new scene, but not the one that I expected. Instead, we find Mr. Stranzikowski there, drinking alone by the fire. He’s probably been at it for a while because he’s quite drunk. He yells at Alexander, telling him that his own recent losses are nothing compared to what he himself is going through. He tells us a story of his wife, Ilyiana. She is dead, but he claims to see her roaming the city and “walking in the moonlight” at night. With so many supernatural things going on, we cannot dismiss it. Our journal adds that he believes that she is trying to contact him.
Could this be the “Woman in White”? We don’t have any new clues or evidence that we can follow from here. I’m stuck once again with an address book with no new locations and no obvious objects to use to advance the plot.
What kind of “business” are you in Jonathan Harker?
With few options, I check the asylum again but there is nothing new. I swing by Harker’s office again to see if he’s arrived yet and he has! The bad news is that he’s strangely aloof and unwilling to answer any questions about Quincey’s death or anything else, despite him being the one that told me to come here. He stresses that I am not to bother him until I have “business” to discuss (with a special emphasis on that word), but I don’t know what he means. What kind of business is he in? My guess is that he’s trying to hint to us to come back when we can show him a sign that we know what’s really going on. While we know we’re playing a Dracula game, Alexander Morris still does not. I check the Saucy Jack again for new clues as well, but nothing there.
I am, more or less, stuck. I could advance the clock (and just wandering the city is doing that effectively enough) or I could go home and sleep, but it’s still early evening. While re-reading all of my journal entries so far, I realize that I can actually flip to pages before the start of the game! That gives me a timeline for what Alexander has been doing:
- He arrived in London on March 23 with a plan to seek out people that had been with Quincey before he died. We know some of them from Quincey’s letters to Alexander ten years ago.
- Only three days later, on March 26, Alexander was able to meet with Arthur Holmwood for the first time.
- Shortly afterwards, Alexander meets Anisette and ceases to write in his journal. He is unable to focus on anything but her and puts his entire investigation aside to spend time with her.
- The next entry is July 16 where he seems contrite for never writing in his journal anymore and his investigation is stalled.
- From there, we jump to October 30 where Alexander proposes to Anisette. The happy occasion is darkened because her father has recently become ill.
And that’s it! We start the game in late December, two months of no investigation later. Alexander has apparently used this time to get to know some of Quincey’s friends and he was able to gain access to the Hades Club, but his rapid-fire energy seems to have been redirected to courtship. This feels suspicious. Is it love talking or something more sinister? He investigated his brother’s death for less than a week!
It’s late enough that most doors seem closed to me.
Let’s recap what we know so far:
- Andrew Bowen, Anisette’s father, was killed. Shortly before his death, he snatched a piece of white cloth from whatever scared him to death. The attacker came in (or out) through his open window. This obviously seems to be the “Woman in White” that is being seen around the city.
- Arthur Holmwood’s coachman was murdered while delivering a present to the Harker family. He was decapitated and drained of blood.
- Additional blood-drained animal corpses have been discovered a few hours outside of London, but we see no connection yet.
- The inmates in the asylum seem to be agitated by something.
I’m not too daft to see that the game is probably leaning towards Anisette being the “Woman in White”, even if she doesn’t know it yet. It’s too suspicious that she met and has been distracting me from investigating Quincey’s death since immediately after our arrival in London. Could Alexander’s love for her be a vampire’s thrall? If so, why doesn’t she just kill him? How in control of this situation is she, if she even is the killer? My guess is that she didn’t intend to kill her father, but he died of fright when he found out.
I finally give up and go to sleep. And that was where I was going to end this post, except… I dream.
Do you need a napkin?
That night, I have a dream. I dream that Anisette is the Woman in White, finding her face covered in the blood of a recent victim. We chase after her through the city, but we are stopped by a snarling wolf.
He’s a professional acting wolf named “King”. Good boy!
I awake early. It’s only 12:15 AM. Somehow, a package and a telegram from Father Janos has arrived. The telegram I can understand, although not that they delivered in the middle of the night. But how could a priest in Romania mail me a package so quickly? He must have mailed it weeks ago, perhaps at some point after I arrived in London.
Alexander opens the package to discover a very large knife!
You call that a knife? Yes. Yes, I do.
Is this where I can stop the post for the week? No!
I transition immediately from this scene to Alexander being outside. Carolers are singing which seems strange for the week after Christmas (unless it’s a “12 Days of Christmas” thing?). Anisette, dressed in white, approaches Alexander in the street and tells him that she missed him. Something is off… she’s acting much less proper than we saw in her house. Perhaps even a bit “horny” for lack of a better term. Alexander tries to cover her up, give her his coat, but she grabs him and delivers a bite to the neck. Game over.
I guess it was more than just a dream…
24 years young!
Well, that was unexpected.
So much to unpack in three final whirlwind scenes. We know for sure that Anisette is the Woman in White and that she’s going to kill me very soon. It seems strange that Alexander would have the premonition dream and then be killed before he can do anything about it, but I assume that I needed to do something else before 12:15 AM to prevent my death.
This does change the nature of the game. We, the human players, know more about what is going on than Alexander does. What did I miss that could have clued us in to either prevent Anisette from trying to kill us or to survive the attempt? And where does the very large knife come into play? I’m excited to see what comes next! My plan will be to restart from the beginning.
Depending on when you read this, my next post will either be Nord and Bert or the Christmas game. I’m presently stuck on Nord and Bert, unable to get even a single point in the next scenario without taking a hint. I’m stubbornly refusing (because I have two other games being played), but I’ll eventually have to give up. I am also very excited about our Christmas game as it has afforded me the chance to research an entire computer platform and adventure game company that I have never heard of before..
Time played: 2 hr 35 min
Inventory: None. I’m dead.