The game industry has several defined buying seasons, the most powerful of which is obviously over the December holidays. But game companies are starting to branch out somewhat as well, giving holidays like Halloween their own genre-specific titles to help people get into the season.
This is evident in humorous titles like Ghost Master, which GiN will have a review of in a few days.
Nosferatu: Wrath of Malachi is more of a traditional Halloween game. It is very much like a haunted house in that things are always very dark, and monsters are jumping out and trying to scare you. Only here, the monsters really do want to rip you limb from limb in a bloody rage. Put in a first-person shooter interface, you will really feel like you are there, so much so that I would not recommend the game for the feint of heart.
If you think you can conquer Nosferatu because you are an excellent shooter gamer, think again. Just because you are used to putting thousands of bullets a minute downrange at some hapless monster does not mean you won’t become a late night snack here. The year is 1912. The place is Transylvania. And your most powerful weapon for most of the game is a flintlock pistol or musket. Don’t miss with your first shot, because you will be surely dead before you can reload.
Like any good scary title, Nosferatu has an interesting plot. Your family has been invited to the wedding of your sister to a mysterious Transylvanian count. It seems your aristocratic family has fallen on hard times, and the count promises much wealth once the bond is complete. You however, arrive a day after everyone else, travel being slow and unreliable back then.
You find the castle you expect to be decorated for the pending celebration instead dark and deserted, your family’s luggage spread out around the courtyard. Armed only with your trusty sword cane, you venture into the depths trying to figure out what went wrong, and why you are all alone. You quickly learn that the night is filled with terror.
Yes, the count turns out to be a vampire. And yes, his henchmen need an aristocratic virgin sacrifice in order to free their master from his crypt. The horror of the situation becomes clear when you meet your family priest as he is thrown from an upper floor window, landing at your feet badly hurt but still alive. Your first task is to rescue your family doctor within 30 minutes, or the priest won’t make it.
Such is the way Nosferatu works. You have a limited amount of time to rescue your family members and bring them back to the one safe area in the castle, the sanctuary at the main gate. They can hold out there till morning.
You have a photo album with everyone’s picture. As you rescue each person, a green circle is drawn around them. Likewise if you are too late, their portrait is crossed out. When you rescue people, they will unlock their luggage and give you new weapons, or give you information about the castle or the monsters within. This keeps the game moving, though it is so tense anyway it hardly needed any extra push.
The game is really creepy. The monsters are scary and do some very smart things, like hide in the rafters and jump down on you when you pass. If you take your time you can catch them once you know where to look, but time is a luxury you don’t have if you are going to rescue your entire family. The castle looks very good, but everything is purposely very dark. Graphically, the game is not exactly cutting edge, but things look pretty darn good nonetheless.
The sound effects in the game, including the noises the monsters make and the creepy music that crescendos at just the right time, is second to none. You need spooky music to complete a game like this, and Nosferatu delivers.
One key to beating the game is using the right weapon at the right time. A guard dog is not going to care one bit if you hold up a cross or splash holy water at them and a full vampire is only going to laugh if you shoot it. If you do kill a master your task is not complete, because you need to track their coffin down and deliver a stake through the heart before they recover. I felt like I was inside one of the many vampire hunter movies as I searched for the bosses’ unholy resting places, wooden stake at the ready.
The game is rated M for Mature, mostly because there is a lot of blood and killing, plus people – your family mostly – are often found in great peril being hung by chains inside some diabolical trap that you have to unravel. And putting a stake through someone’s squishy heart, even a pretty undead vampire girl, is bound to jack your rating up a bit. Personally I think the game is fine for teens, so long as they are not prone to nightmares.
And at just $30, it’s a heck of a great buy, even without a multiplayer mode which is ubiquitous with most shooters these days. As an added value, the game randomly pieces the castle together differently every time a new game is started, and changed the locations of our imprisoned family. So each time you play, you will get a different experience.
We had a little trouble with the game on some test systems. It refused to run properly on a game system with an ATI 7500 card, even though the proper card was detected and the driver up to date. It ran smoothly on any system with an NVidia card.
Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi is a good old fashion haunted house where the monsters actually try to kill you, and you are allowed to kill back. And isn’t that really the true meaning of Halloween?
God bless us, everyone.