ELVIRA / Accolade / PC
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Elvira's kind of an odd choice for a game license, but I guess they synthesized her in as well as could possibly be done. Her castle out in the middle of nowhere is invaded by demon knights from medevial Europe or something, along with a good handful of monsters. They're keeping her imprisoned in the kitchen (lol), presumably to supply them with delicious sammiches. Somehow she puts the word out that she needs rescued, and you play as typical 80s dude who cruises in to rescue her. I'm not really sure what the story is honestly, I guess it's in the manual, which I didn't have. The game just kind of dumps you off outside the castle without any explanation or prelude, but you soon run into Elvira, who gives you the basic rundown of how to play the game.

The game is an unusual fusion of adventure, RPG and action. There's even a bit of a "survival horror" tinge in that you're trapped in a dangerous environment with enemies all around you constantly, with only limited opportunity to heal yourself. Shadowgate is an obvious influence here, but the game's combat system operates like a simplified version of Punch-Out or the system from the first Quest For Glory game. When the monster attacks you simply get the option to "block" or "parry", which translates to "left" or "right" really. You have about a second to read the monster's movement and decide which side they are going to attack from, then click the appropriate button. If you block successfully, you get a chance to attack, which just seems to randomly succeed based on your stats and the opponents armaments. If U Fail It, they just keep spanking you and hacking away at your health until you manage to block something. Fortunately, your little Corey Haim-lookin' dude is surprisingly durable and can take a good twenty or so sword hacks before he goes down for good.

The game is pretty hardcore and I definitely think it qualifies as an unheralded early "survival horror" influence. There's no way to heal at the beginning save three shots of jelly that you get at the outset, which only heal about 20 of your 100 total HP per shot. Elvira can make more healing jelly for you, as well as other spells and items, but you have to bring her ingredients, which are only found in finite amounts around the environment. Waste too many of these and you're screwed - when some things run out they are gone for good. And right from the outset you're literally surrounded by combat. Nearly every doorway and thru-way in the castle is guarded by some monster or another. At the beginning, pretty much only the guards dressed in red are killable with your weenie knife and lack of armor. But you'll run into plenty of others, and once they've engaged you in combat, there doesn't seem to be any way to run away! Also, some monsters will follow you, which entails them basically becoming attached to your butt and chipping away at your health whenever you stop, until you turn around, at which time you get automatically thrown into combat with them. Oh, and as you take damage, all your other stats temporarily drop too, making it harder for you to do damage to enemies and block their hits. There's no auto-map. And then there's mazes, instant death traps, etc.

The game looks nice, and I like the way the monsters/enemies actually appear to be logically inhabiting the environment (and responding appropriately to you) rather than just sort of appearing out of nowhere in typical RPG style. It's also quite challenging and functions pretty well. It ends up being a little too bad-ass for its own good, though. Exploration gets tedious when 9 times out of 10, a path just leads you to death. Basically, if you aren't using a walkthrough, you pick your way through the game by trying paths until you find one where you don't get slaughtered, then save and repeat the procedure. The monsters look nice but the combat quickly becomes very tedious and repetitive. And it's too easy to accidentally screw yourself over with the limited ingredients for spells; fetching them is also tedious. Plus all the enemies share a rather ridiculous death/pain scream that kind of spoils the effect of their appearance. If you find yourself intrigued anyway by the unique look of the game, the Amiga version actually looks like the better version to play.

Videos :

* Amiga version has way cooler music apparently