Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi

Good for a few jump scares, unmistakably faulty as a game.

Although not a direct rip-off of Dracula, the rising-out-of-the-coffin vampire motif is definitely bundled in Stockholm-based developer Idol FX’s Nosferatu. Their game is a cross between old school survival horror and a first-person shooter, where you attempt to rescue your ill-fated family from the clutches of a vampire huddled in some ancient Transylvanian castle, perched on top a cliff and silhouetted against the full moon – where else, right?


Dare ye enter Jump Scare Castle, mortal?

The central concept is misleadingly simple – enter sinister castle Malachi to save as many of your relatives as you can, being careful to dispatch some assorted hellspawn on the way out. A randomizing feature scrambles the architecture of the castle each time you start a game, and the lack of a mapping system means you’ll be running around bewildered quite a lot. It’s difficult to keep track of the many keys, corridors and locked doors scattered around everywhere, and playing the game against the clock definitely doesn’t help. This is by no means a simple excursion, not even on the lowest difficulty.

But from a design standpoint there’s something undeniably fresh here. While demon-infested wings slightly shift each time you begin a new game, the central courtyard where you start serves as an unalterable and secure safe haven where you gain access to the rest of the castle grounds. As you move through the various dungeons and courtyards, you must locate an entire photo album of hapless Victorian society matrons, elderly men, various cousins, a lawyer and the beloved family dog. When people, pets or livestock are located you must guard them on the passage back to the courtyard, where their luggage is piled. As they’re rescued, you gain access to the contents of their trunks. Some contain weapons or protective armor, while others hold potions or magical charms to protect you against the undead.

Visually the game is effective enough in providing an eerie feel – both the chilling music and dark atmosphere work in its favor, but overall this game is mostly about jump scares and combat than masterfully crafted tension. Each new room you enter rewards you with an enemy or two to kill, and once the telltale violin cues you know a monster’s about to lob its claws, fangs or tentacles at your face. But while they do look creepy up close, the animations holding them together are terribly amateurish. The AI fares no better, especially the pathfinding skills of your relatives whom you must constantly babysit on the way to safety.

Neither a story-driven horror game nor a typical first-person shooter, Nosferatu manages nonetheless to tinker with age-old genre conventions in its designs to yield something original, if not completely playable. Enter at your own peril.

System Requirements: Pentium III 733 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 350 MB HDD, Windows XP

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