A popular criticism of 16-bit games is that while they have excellent graphics and sound, the underlying game may just as well be on any of the leading 8-bit machines. Unfortunately Vampire's Empire looks just such a game.
You take the part of a grumpy old man, fascinated by tales of vampires. He has decided to enter Dracula's castle and put an end to the bloodsucker by guiding a beam of light through the corridors and chambers into his place of rest. Dracula's castle is made up of crumbly stonework platforms and staircases. The castle may be crumbling but it is certainly not dead; menacing faces come alive with excellent slurpy sounds as they dribble killing slime onto passers by. Chests are flung open revealing over-friendly young men, goblins and naked blue-skinned women, all of whom such your vital blood supply. Other hazards come in the form of chomping ogres and trapdoors. The fast, smooth scrolling background matches the sprites in detail but could do with a bit more variety.
By pressing the button and pulling the stick down you can select one of a few items to help you in your quest. Mirrors have to be placed around the castle to guide the light beam in the right direction. A crystal ball can also be used to catch and redirect the beam.
The trouble is that far too much of the game is spent chasing the light beam around the castle, losing it completely if you happen to fall through a trapdoor or down a staircase. For the first few games, the graphics and sampled creaks and slurps are very entertaining, but later games lack the action needed for a good platform game. The very derivative puzzle element fails to compensate for this, and the unhelpful instructions add to the initial confusion. It is a shame that a game that looks as appealing as this turns out to be Just an unfortunate mix of two well-worn game styles.
Magic Bytes have some great graphics and sound, put together with some smooth, neat programming. Their only weak area is game design, perhaps the most Important part of any development team. As it is, their efforts appear to have been wasted on a lifeless, unoriginal piece of software. There is no part of Vampire's Empire that is particularly bad, but then again none of it is particularly good.
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