Written by emo, published March 4th, 2011. 1 comment(s).
Bram Stoker’s Dracula-a game of horror!
A new challenge! That’s what was needed so within hours of waving goodbye to one pin machine I had spent the cash on Dracula-easy come easy go. I had been strangely drawn to this machine because of its theme, what I’d read about it in the Complete Pinball Book and on the net. I was pleased to find a one quickly but didn’t have the space for it straight away so I had to delay it’s delivery for about a month. The previous owner didn’t mind as he’d not had much of a chance to play it himself but by the time delivery was due his tone had changed. “I will be pleased to see the back of it as I just can’t get the hang of it” he said and warned “I hope you like it but I don’t think you will keep it for long as it will drive you mad”. I then looked up some playing tips on the net in anticipation of its arrival and was dismayed to find that one author called it “the most unforgiving game ever made”. What had I bought? Dracula has a reputation as a dark and difficult game but is Dracula really evil or just misunderstood?
Start of game quote-“Do you believe in destiny?”
Williams produced Dracula in 1993 based on the superb Coppola film, which in turn was based on Bram Stoker’s book. It is a gory love story and film quotes/scenes are used throughout the game; many quotes are from the superb Gary Oldman who played Dracula and whose voice is suitably sinister. The pin deviates from the film plot by allowing you to kill Dracula with a stake, an end that is saved for the beautiful Lucy, another vampire in the film.
Dracula feels solid and well made. It was the first game to use the fliptronic 2 flipper system and was brought out just before Williams introduced their DCS sound system. Despite this the pin's sound is great and noticeably better than games that were produced only a few months earlier. Some sounds are almost too realistic and spooky-check out the church bells at the end of the game. In addition it boasts an operator optional “dual volume” system so that the game becomes louder and scarier for certain quotes or when the action hots up.
The artwork is high quality and attractive. The cabinet is decorated with a scene of Dracula’s castle in blue, purple and black with the words Bram Stoker’s Dracula emblazoned across it in blood red. The same blood red writing is on the back box along with a picture of “the man himself” plus other characters and scenes from the film. The phrase “Love never dies” flashes like lightning in ghostly blue below the display at appropriate times. The actual display is red and animated blood drips continuously while the score is displayed. This gives more impact to the animations in what is an atmospheric and bloodthirsty game.
Barry Oursler was chief designer and is a man with a long pinball history. The pinball database credits him with 33 machines including classics like Gogar, Space shuttle, Pinbot (one of my favourites) and more recently Doctor Who, Whodunnit and Junkyard.
TIPS & TACTICS.
“Your struggles are futile”. To get big scores you must go for multi-multiball and try to keep the balls under control as much as possible. The latter may seem obvious but balls drain easily in this game and you don’t get many second chances. I must admit to having increased the ball saver setting from 2 to 5 seconds on my game as this at least allows me to bring the ball under control before the saver times out. Danger areas are everywhere but the center targets and lower side areas of the playfield are especially dangerous and if you don’t make the left ramp shot you can expect to loose the ball straight down the middle.
Catching is vital but tricky as the ball can easily roll back up the inlane and out the outlane (aargh!). The ball can be passed from right to left flippers by shooting the tunnel or visa versa the dungeon if you find bounce passing difficult. You should be able to catch balls ejected from the dungeon on the right flipper without any problem and continually loop both ramps with a bit of practice. This is vital if you are going to prepare all the multiballs to run at the same time.
Collecting extra balls, mystery etc. at the tunnel is reasonably safe as the ball is ejected to the left flipper. Video and targets are best aimed for during multiball or when the ball saver is active as shooting these in normal play means you loose control of the ball and run the risk of Dracula gaining the upper hand.
I find it easiest to start either mist or coffin multiballs first but it’s best not to be “picky” in case you loose the ball (or game) in the process. During multiball I try to keep looping the left ramp. This will keep awards lit at the tunnel and enable you to lock balls at the castle lock via the left ramp. Locking a ball or two gives you clearer shots with the balls that remain in play.
My usual game plan would go something like this:
1. Shoot the tunnel to collect mystery. Then continually loop the coffin ramp until the coffin is open and a couple of balls are locked so that multiball is ready to go.
2. Continually loop the left ramp until Mist and mystery are lit, ignore bats and pick up any castle locks when lit.
3. Start mist multiball at the tunnel followed by coffin multiball and pick up castle locks until castle multiball starts. By now major shots are worth “Thirrrty million!”
4. Keep shooting the left ramp and coffin lock, watch for the mist light at the tunnel and start mist multiball over again, scare bats, kill rats, collect mystery, castle locks, video, extra balls, castle jackpots, spike Dracula, more multiballs etc. etc. yes, yes, yes!
“Oops sorry” I got a bit carried away there as it does get exciting but I should add that the plan often fails around stages 2 & 3.
It’s critical that the machine is in good working order. My machine arrived with a couple of missing rubbers and a weak flipper that made it unplayable so it was no wonder that the previous owner had problems. Weak flippers mean you will never make the ramp shots!
If all else fails try wearing a cross and hang some garlic nearby-who knows it may help!
During the game Dracula’s eyes often appear in the display and look around. Press the fire button when his eyes cross for 20 a point bonus and a picture of Fluffy the vampire.
During the asylum animation hit both flipper buttons. This awards a 5m bonus and alternative animation of Renfield being slammed against his cell bars-nice animation but horrid!
You can get your name in lights for the highest number of loops (ramps) per game, as well as for high scores.
The animation awarded for a replay is great as Dracula and Mina waltz around in the display.
Dracula is one of the most exciting games I have played. The term multiball mania could have been invented for this game and it has the quality sound and features to make the most of the experience. The pace, concentration and planning needed for success seems to fit Dracula’s dark theme perfectly. It is an intense, atmospheric and unpredictable game that draws you in and keeps you coming back for more.
It is notable even now, ten years on for its dual volume/quality sounds, red display, mist multiball and multi-multiball game play. Although I like Dracula I couldn’t recommend it for someone with space for only one machine, as it can be frustrating and is not a game for bad losers or beginners despite its simple playfield. Another consideration is that I have heard (from one who knows) that it can be a pig to work on as minor faults can lead to a playfield strip down.
So to return to the question “is Dracula evil or just misunderstood?” I think it’s a bit of both. The game isn’t unfair, just unforgiving and more exciting because of it so dim the lights crank up the volume and concentrate but remember that the fight against evil is never an easy one!
“Blood…. is a precious thing in these times”-end of game!
Suggestions for customising your Dracula.
1. Replace the Dracula in the coffin with a scarier one from a model shop-you can always substitute a playmobile figure instead. If you cover it with enough fake blood no one will notice the difference.
2. Place a small amount of damp earth in the bottom of the cabinet to give the game an authentic smell-add a few worms if you’re feeling particularly horrible.
3. Smear the edges of the centre plastic with fake blood so that it appears to be dripping onto the playfield.
4. Take out a speaker and grill to allow bats to set up home in your machine.
5. Hang garlic and crosses around the machine. This will confirm to your family & friends that you have finally flipped and should discourage them from interrupting your game.
These are all practical suggestions but never…never reconnect the mysterious “switch sixteen” if disconnected or the consequences could be truly horrible!
Eddie Mole 01/01/03.
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