Dracula in London is an adventure game based on Bram Stoker's Dracula. The game begins on October 1, shortly after Dracula has purchased a new mansion in London; Jonathan has returned from Transylvania and the investigation into the Count's activities has begun in earnest. The original release was on DOS in 1988 and relied primarily on ASCII graphics and keyboard navigation. A Windows 3.1 version was released in 1993 and featured a full GUI with mouse support. It can be played as a pass-the-keyboard sort of board game with multiple players, or with one player taking the role of the entire party of investigators.
Dracula in London is intended to be played with multiple people, each taking on the role of one of the investigators. At the start of each day, a different investigator takes the lead and directs the investigation. This is indicated by the message, "Pass the keyboard to Dr. Seward (or Van Helsing, or Mina, and so on)." Under the Hunter Status/Provisions screen, players can equip each investigator with a variety of provisions. They can also check on each hunter's health and location. (Note that a character's "Location" rarely has any effect on how you play the game and can't really be altered.)
- Van Helsing: The de-facto vampire expert among the investigation team. Van Helsing is the only character that can use the crucifix provision. Van Helsing and Dr. Seward are the only two characters that can use the Medical Bag provision. Van Helsing is represented in exploration mode as a brown V.
- Jonathan: Jonathan has finally escaped from Dracula's dungeons in Transylvania. Jonathan is the only party member that allows the investigation team to follow-up on any clues they may encounter. Occasionally, while tracing the Count's cargo, Jonathan may be subjected to a random event. These events tend to cause Jonathan to succumb to the trauma of being imprisoned by the Count and may alter his health for a short period. Jonathan is represented in exploration mode as a blue J.
- Mina: At the start of the game, Mina appears to experience fatigue and can only equip a single provision. Her health is only listed as "?" - probably to indicate that she has already become the object of Dracula's affections. It is possible to fully remove the Count's hold on Mina and make it so that she can carry more than one item. As the game progresses, however, you may need to guard Mina at night. Mina and Dr. Seward are the two characters that can calm Renfield down and convince him to return to his room if he escapes and attacks the party. Mina is represented in exploration mode as a yellow M.
- Dr. Seward: Dr. Seward runs the Asylum and must frequently checks in on his patient, Renfield, for clues about the Count's actions. Dr. Seward is the only character that can use the Skeleton Key provision. Seward and Van Helsing are the only two characters that can use the Medical Bag provision. Seward and Mina are the only two characters that can convince Renfield to return to his room if he escapes and attacks the party during exploration mode. Dr. Seward is represented in exploration mode as a green S.
- Arthur: Arthur was engaged to Lucy Westenra prior to the start of the game. Before the game begun, Lucy was turned into a vampire by Dracula, and the investigation team was forced to destroy her. Arthur is the only character that can use the Rat Terriers provision. Only Arthur or Quincey can choose the Horses provision. Thanks to his aristocratic upbringing, Arthur can occasionally help with legal issues the investigation team runs into. Arthur is represented in exploration mode as a pink A.
- Quincey: Quincey is a wealthy American from Texas. Like Arthur and Dr. Seward, Quincey also had a great deal of affection for Lucy. Only Arthur or Quincey can choose the Horses provision. Quincey is represented in exploration mode as a turquoise Q.
At the start of the game, there are five default activities the investigation team can take. These may change over the course of the game. Thanks to the multitude of random events, there is a wide range of changes that may happen to this menu. To avoid spoilers, only the five default actions are listed here.
- Trace the Count's Cargo: This lets the investigation team read their collected letters, diaries, etc. for clues regarding the location of Count Dracula's cargo. This may also open up leads that the players can go and speak directly to for further information, or add locations that players can go visit and search for the boxes of earth Count Dracula has shipped to London. When there is a clue to be followed up on, this activity will change to read: Trace the Count's Cargo / Clue
- Hunter Status / Provisions: This lets you change your investigation team's equipment. It's a good idea to fully equip everyone with two items - ideally a knife and an extra item, as, unlike most of the films, Dracula can be killed by being stabbed by a large knife.
- Investigate Newspaper Report: At the start of each day, there'll be a news headline. Some of these are red herrings, some are actual indicators of the Count's activities. These may also produce clues.
- Visit Renfield: At this point, the investigation team has grown suspicious that Renfield's actions are a sort of barometer for the coming and going of Count Dracula. (Also, if you don't visit Renfield semi-regularly he may decide to escape from the asylum and meet up with Dracula (making those encounters much more difficult) or attack Dr. Seward or Mina.
- Go To...: You can visit any place you've discovered on the map. Typically, it's most valuable to visit places you've unlocked by tracing the count's cargo, as these locations may have boxes of dirt you can purify with the sacred wafer provision.
- Rest: This is incredibly important, especially if any investigators have been injured. Note that resting will not cure Mina of her "?" health status at the start of the game. However, it is possible (albeit rare) to keep the Count at bay long enough that Mina fully recovers and can carry two items as you prepare for a final battle.
Investigating locations takes place once you've decided to Go To... a specific place. Each member of the investigation team is intended to be controlled by the player that has taken on that role. Each character is depicted as a coloured letter indicating their name, and can be controlled by the keypad or the arrow keys. Note that only the provisions investigators have been equipped with are available when investigating a location. If you think you might encounter one of Dracula's vampire brides, you may want to bring a stake with you. Since you are far more likely to encounter the boxes of earth Dracula has shipped from Transylvania, it is strongly encouraged that you equip someone with sacred wafers.
During these investigations, you may also encounter other monsters like spiders, rats, or wolves. By design, it is nearly impossible to be prepared for every encounter and you may need to flee. You can accomplish this by running back to the door you came in.
Characters can attack a foe by moving right next to them and moving into them. Certain sacred weapons are mostly defensive (like the garlic) but the sacred wafer, for example, can be pressed against the Count's flesh to damage him. Likewise, Van Helsing's crucifix can be used offensively. Like the ending to the novel, the Count can be dispatched by stabbing him with large knives. You cannot defeat him by trying to drive a stake through his heart.
Ending the Game
If the investigation goes on for a long time, the Count may retreat to his castle in Transylvania. This may be expedited by locating and sanctifying all of the boxes of earth Dracula has shipped to London. Players will receive a notification that it looks like Dracula has abandoned London, and they can pursue him in an attempt to destroy him once and for all. There is a chance that, when players arrive at the castle, the Count has already moved on. The game will end there and produce a final score, which will list the fate of each member of the investigation team.
Obviously, if the players encounter Dracula prior to his retreat and manage to vanquish him then, the game will end after the battle.