Dracula: The Undead is an atmospheric one-player thriller from Hand Made Software, a UK company that also made the one good golf game for the Lynx, Awesome Golf. Switching genres hasn't affected Hand Made's standard of quality; this is a beautiful, unique tale of horror presented as an adventure game of exploration and puzzle-solving.
Though it's not directly related to the popular (though pretentious) 1992 Francis Ford Coppola epic. The game does mirror the film in the sense that it emphasizes close ties to Bram Stoker's original novel. In fact, Stoker appears on the screen to introduce the game himself. He frequently pops up during the adventure to read passages from the book, flipping pages as he sits near a flickering fireplace -- and he actually looks like the photographs of Stoker that I've seen.
As Jonathan Harker, a guest in the castle of Count Dracula, you must explore rooms and find objects to help you escape before the Count or his three brides can feast on your blood. The Harker character is nicely animated, moving in and out of each scene through effective use of scaling; he grows larger as he steps closer to you. Complemented by appropriately eerie music, the game's biggest thrills come from not knowing what might happen next. Each time you walk through a door or look out a window, you might discover a new object, find a hidden passageway or witness one of the game's chilling intermissions.
Punctuating the atmospheric storyline is the unsettling look of the graphics, which are displayed entirely in sepia tones and shadows. The nearly colorless presentation gives Dracula: The Undead the feel of an old photograph come to life; indeed, the game opens with a crisply digitized shot of Dracula's piercing eyes. (Yes, Hammer horror fans, they are the eyes of actor Christopher Lee.) Certain rooms can only be reached by - gasp! - climbing out a window and clinging to the castle's outer wall, and there are some terrific lighting effects in the scenes where Jonathan carries a lantern into the catacombs where Dracula sleeps. While most Lynx games have a dated look, Dracula: The Undead manages to hold up simply because of its unusual look. It may not sport amazing 3D graphics, but the detail in the backgrounds are fantastic and it all looks so stylized that it's hard not to be impressed, even today.
Aside from a few minor complaints, namely an occasionally sluggish interface and the complete lack of a password of save function, Dracula: The Undead held only one major disappointment: It's not quite long enough. The game itself can be beaten in only a couple of hours, but it will definitely take you a while to figure out just what you're supposed to be doing from room to room. The good news is that you will probably want to revisit this game a few times, there's just something about the story that is intriguing, certainly better than most Hollywood Dracula movies. There aren't a lot of great adventure games on portable game systems, but Dracula: The Undead is definitely one of the best. Not only is this one of the best Lynx games ever released, but this is one of the best portable games of all time.