I’m still waiting for more developers to step up to the plate and bring original adventure game content to the iPhone and iPod Touch. In the mean time, though, I’m content with ports (or in this case “heavily inspired” redesigns) of games from other platforms as long as the source material is good. So far Tetraedge has done a commendable job with the release of two adventures based off of the works of Jules Verne, and the promise of an iPhone version of the Syberia series is quite exciting. In the mean time they’ve chosen to fill the gap with Path Of The Dragon, the first part of a three episode saga that’s a retooling of the third installment of a PC series of games based on the legends of Dracula. Got it? Good.
I don’t know a whole lot about this series on the PC, but I do find it curious that they chose part III to base the iPhone games off of. In any case, the game centers around a priest named Father Arno Moriani, who has been tasked with investigating the potential sainthood of a doctor named Martha Calugarul. Your mission takes you to Transylvania, and, well, you can guess where it goes from there. The first thing you’ll notice after a few minutes of playing is that this is a lot more character interactivity driven than the Mysterious Island games. That stands to reason, of course, given that the point of the other games was that you were theoretically alone on the island. I bring it up, however, because there seems to be a whole different dynamic in this game, with the character interaction replacing a lot of the item collection / puzzle solving of the Mysterious Island games.
That doesn’t mean the game is any less interesting, however. In fact, from the moment you arrive in Transylvania the atmosphere draws you in, and after your first round of investigation and spending a night in the quaint little village inn, you’ll be sucked into the story as well. In vintage Tetraedge fashion your environment is a series of 360 degree panoramas, which in theory looks really cool but makes it somewhat easy to miss things if you forget to look completely around each location. It can also make navigation somewhat difficult, as there’s not always a clear indication of which direction you came from when you move to a new location. Some sort of overhead map would be nice, though unfortunately that’s never been a feature of any Tetraedge games. I will say that to its credit, Dracula is definitely a lot less confusing to navigate than the second Mysterious Island game.
Because Dracula seems to be a lot more story driven than the Mysterious Island games there isn’t nearly as much inventory to collect. There are only three pages of inventory slots instead of the 7 or 8 that filled Mina’s pockets, and the ability to combine multiple items into one object doesn’t seem to exist. I was a little worried that the lack of puzzle solving would make the game drag, but honestly it’s been quite intriguing wandering around talking to the various people that inhabit Vladoviste and the surrounding areas. When there is something to interact with, whether a person or an object, you’ll either see a hand or a gear symbol appear on top of the object. A hand means you can take the object, and the gear symbol means there is some way for you to interact with it. To use an item in your inventory you select it while viewing the inventory, then you just click on the item in the scene that you want to use it with, assuming that item has a gear on top of it. When it comes to talking with individuals you’ll be given a list of topic points to pursue, and you just touch the one you’re interested in hearing about.
The characters in Dracula are certainly full of personality. From the creepy little boy in the cemetery to the skittish reporter named Stephen, each has a unique way of presenting their thoughts on your investigation. The developers also did a really good job of recruiting voice actors for the parts. As you listen to the characters recount their tales (and yes, there is audio for every conversation) the world of Path Of The Dragon really comes to life. It feels like they could just take all the conversations and put them into an animated film that could very easily stand on its own. The only thing that bugged me a bit was that it sounded like all of the characters except yours were in some sort of pit or something when their voices were recorded. Something about them just doesn’t sound quite right.
The visuals are quite gorgeous. They really did a wonderful job of capturing the feel of a small 1920’s post war European village. Buildings on the edge of town are in shambles, while the insides of buildings that are still intact exude turn of the century architecture. The cemetery in particular is quite eerie, just as it should be. I was also quite impressed with the character renderings. A lot of times 3D rendered people in these types of games don’t look that good, but the artists for Path Of The Dragon really seem to know what they’re doing. There’s also a nice dose of music to complement the visuals. At times the score can give you the chills as you’re wandering around the mostly abandoned town of Vladoviste and the cemetery that houses the remains of Martha.
Overall I found Path Of The Dragon quite enjoyable, except for one small annoyance. It all of a sudden just ended. I knew it was supposed to be an episodic game, but I wasn’t sure how much was to be included in the first episode. Just as I was really getting into the story I saw the dreaded words “End Part I”. Fortunately there’s no question in my mind that this tale is worthy of continuing once part 2 comes out. Sometimes I just wish developers would forget this whole episodic thing, though, and give me the game all at once. I don’t like to wait!
Overall Score: 9/10
App Store Link