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Dracula's Castle

Series: Horror Classics #1
Translated Into: Le Château de Dracula (French)
Il conte Dracula (Italian)
Author: Brennan, J. H. (Herbie)
Illustrator: Sell, Tim
Release Date: 1986
Length:270 sections, plus introduction
User Summary: You can choose to play Jonathan Harker as he seeks to destroy Count Dracula, or Dracula himself as he faces off against his archenemy Van Helsing.
Guillermo's Thoughts: This book contains two separate adventures: one where you play Harker and another where you play Dracula. The game system is a bit more complex than your average gamebook, since you have to keep track of five stats during combat. The adventure also requires extensive bookkeeping and mapping, and is not for the easily frustrated. J. H. Brennan has mentioned in one interview that he never playtested his own gamebooks, and it definitely shows here. Many of the fights you will need to engage in in order to complete the adventure are ridiculously hard. As if that weren't enough, the entire book seems designed to cause frustration; there are many instant death passages, and way too many opportunities to run out of life points (especially if you play as Dracula), meaning that the reader will be forced to keep restarting the adventure over and over.

Completing either of the adventures requires collecting items scattered all over the castle (once again, it is much more difficult to collect everything you need if you play as the Count). In order to collect all the items you will have to revisit the same areas several times from many different directions. This serves no logical purpose and only works to confuse the player. This convoluted design also means that the castle is particularly hard to map, which only adds to the frustration since getting lost will - obviously - result in failure.

If you have managed to complete either of the adventures playing by the rules, I salute you. As for myself, after a while I realized that there was no point to using the game system (unless you want to spend your entire life rolling dice and backtracking). The separation of sections into "locations" and "action" paragraphs and the secret door mechanic only serve to make this book even more of a hard slog.

Once I decided to stop bothering with the system and simply read through the adventures, I found myself quite enjoying them, however. Mr. Brennan's signature humour is particularly effective here, and his creativity certainly adds to the experience (what, you mean I have to fight an animated garlic onion?). The ride is also made much more bearable thanks to the awesome artwork by Tim Sell. Overall, despite its flaws, I found this book to be worth reading. Just don't expect too much as far as the game aspect goes.

More reviews by Guillermo

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the back cover image.
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