For many, supernatural romance begins and ends with Twilight. Everything that came after it - from True Blood on HBO to The Vampire Diaries on the CW - owes its existence to the success of that franchise. Except both of those examples existed years before vampires sparkled and werewolves fell in love with babies. In the case of The Vampire Diaries, it was even adapted into a point-and-click adventure in 1996 by Her Interactive.
The game is still chock full of awkward teen romance and high-school girls with more bite than any bloodsucker. It's actually quite off-putting, if I'm honest, and I suspect that's entirely down to execution. During the opening moments of the game, your little sister gets attacked while attending a soiree at an art gallery. She gets bitten on the neck by an unknown assailant - possibly a bat - and is immediately rushed to hospital. Here, faun over the resident male nurse before heading back to what someone in their mid-30s thinks what a typical teenage girl's bedroom looks like.
To any fans of the series of books, or the show in which it is based, you know the plot does get deeper than that, but these moments paints Eleanor, our lead character, in a bad light. That could possibly be down to the writing - she can be just as bratty as the 'mean girls' she bumps into - but it still makes her less than good company.
Much of the game is spent talking to people. Most of the conversations are long and verbose, with all possible responses written out fully in the interface. The FMV is pixelated and the sound distorted making it compare unfavourably to the likes of Gabriel Knight 2 or Ripper from a technical perspective. Nevertheless, the environments are still details and nice to look at with 360° wraparounds giving you a good view. Interactive points don't stand out well, with the only indication being the moue pointer changing colour. Beyond that, it's easy to miss an important area simply because it looks unimportant.
This came to ahead for me in the graveyard. All gravestones look the same, but a select few will offer up close ups and provide much-needed clues to what the hell is going on. It is also one of the few spots that doesn't have a distinct exit to click on. In your home, you can go to the front door. The school has the main entrance. The graveyard has nothing, and so you'll have to make use of a feature you wouldn't know existed unless you had read the manual - which I couldn't source (the only eBay listing has it selling for £5,000!). On the top right, a gargoyle holds a stone orb which reveals itself to be a globe once clicked. This will take you back to the map screen. Finally! You've escaped the graveyard.
This wouldn't be much of an issue, except for a time mechanic they failed to mention. My first foray into the graveyard saw the sun descend and a translucent grey filter cover the area. All because I didn't know about the gargoyle.
Despite this, I wouldn't say The Vampire Diaries is a terrible game. There are some great moments exploring a destroyed church and uncovering the mystery - much like Her Interactive's Nancy Drew games. The reliance on teen romance tropes put me off more than the awkward implementation of design concepts. I bet that the reverse would true for some of you.
To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 running Windows '95. Tested on Windows 10.
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting DOSBox. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Press Ctrl-F9 when it is safe to do so.
The Vampire Diaries is © American Laser Games
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me