It's a gloomy, moonless night. Deep in Transylvania there is a dark castle with guttering torches and candles to light its Lcold, old passageways. Rats and mice skitter around, but only brave or foolhardy humans dare to wander the dank corridors. A clammy fear grips all those who enter through those tall portals, into that atmosphere of evil malevolence. Birds don't sing in the forest below the castle. The sun doesn't shine here. People disappear for ever. And some return, hideously changed, living and yet not living.
For this is the domain of Vlad Dracula - the Lord of the Nosferatu, the undead. You are Dracula, and this is your castle. Everyone who comes here is unwelcome except, perhaps the odd defenceless virgin from the village.
Ahhhh... but never mind that now. Something has gone very wrong indeed. A Vampire hunter called Van Helsing is after your blood, which makes a refreshing change. He has an arsenal of anti-undead weaponry, such as Bibles, crucifixes, garlic, stakes, holy water, hand grenades, Sidewinder missiles and silver bullets (well, most of those, anyway). He also has a band of fearless nutters, who believe you need to be vanquished once and for all. They'll need all their weaponry (except perhaps the missiles) to track down and kill you. (Kill you? But you're already dead. This could get very confusing later!)
However, your aim is clear. On each level (each consisting of 20 screens) you must collect three pieces of parchment and five keys. These will allow you to progress to the next level within your ancient pad. Ultimately, you must try to escape from the hordes of vampire-hunters, priests and old Van Helsing himself. He is indestructible, (and you thought you were the only one) so you must evade him at the end of each level, f Although the action is taking place in and around your ancestral seat, you must be careful as you move around the castle and, on later levels, the village nearby. The first thing you discover is that there are holes in various parts of the floor. If you step on these, you disappear into the underworld (or somewhere equally nasty) and you lose a life (it's not really a life, more of an existence). To avoid the holes, it is necessary to become a werewolf (obviously) and, by crouching and pressing fire, jump over them. All very complicated, but nice to know, because at lot is at "stake" (Ha, ha).
The only way to move around safely is to become a bat. You have to power to transmogrify from human form to bat or the werewolf. Each has its advantages: in the human state you are able to pick up objects and suck the blood of those poor mortals that cross your path. The werewolf is much stronger and has the constitution of a, well, an extremely large wolf walking around on two legs. The wolf is great at thumping people, killing them with a few good smacks to the head. The bat is best for moving around, but is hopeless at combat, killing only small and the odd vole. It flies quickly, and there is no danger of unpleasant encounters with people, as you can just zip right over their heads. Being the bat does use up a lot of energy, though, so you'll need to keep landing and sinking your incisors into the necks of passers-by. This replenishes your blood and energy levels, so is not done in vein (ha ha).
The collectable objects are scattered at random around each level, and some do require a bit of forethought and planning to reach.
Exploring the levels is not difficult. This isn't a tough platform game, and you can generally suck the plasma out of anybody getting in the way.
Occasionally you are beset by a gang of what look like skinheads but surely aren't. They punch you violently, forcing you to' turn into the werewolf and scare them to death. Also, a surprising number of unattached women wander about. Several carry crucifixes, but if you're thirsty, this shouldn't halt you for long. The bloodsucking sequence is done beautifully. You must time the initial grab of the victim just right, then go for the throat. There is a queasy, slurping noise, and once the essence is extracted, the body turns to a skeleton and the bones tinkle into a heap on the flagstones. It's brilliant.
As with many French games, Night Hunter has a lovely sense of style. The graphics are cartoon-like, with a definite feel for the Dracula genre. The human-bat-werewolf transformations look very neat indeed, and each moves nicely around the castle. Each room is different, with suits of armour, staircases, and other medieval bric-a-brac.
The sound is fine. There's a fabulous tune which plays during the intro screen which could have been written by Jean-Michel Jarre himself. There isn't a continual tune during the game, but the sound effects work well - the best definitely being the blood-sucking. At the end of each game there's a different tune, also of high quality. Very thorough, the French.
The game is not too difficult at first. There are only the holes to contend with, plus well-drawn witches that fly past, causing you to duck wildly. Mortals abound, so you need never run out of blood, and the keys and parchments are not too hard to find. Further levels lead you to take moonlit excursions outside the castle walls, and you can also meet the dangerous people armed with anti-vamp kits, axes and arrows. Turn into a bat, and flap out of the way. It's your best chance to remain safely undead. The complexity of the game increases as you get further into it. One annoyance is that when you lose a life (or a death or whatever) you start at the beginning of that level. If you happened to be fifteen screens away, you can only gnash your fangs in frustration, mutate into the bat and flap off through the passageways again.
Overall, Night Hunter is a good game to play. It has many elements of a platform game, plus a touch of exploratory adventuring, and also simplistic beat-'em-up and suck-'em-dry sequences. It all takes place in two dimensions, but scrolls smoothly, and the collision detection is accurate, as is the movement. Big graphics capture the feel of the castle, and of old Vlad himself with his flapping cape and his bat or wolf alteregos. The enemies are also up to the same standard.The pace of the game is not furious, nor does it require constant, split-second timing, but the playing doesn't suffer for the lack of it. Arcade game standard it ain't but if you like the idea of a nicely drawn atmospheric romp around a big castle, with a bit of thought and a bit of difficulty, give Night Hunter grave consideration.
Great graphics and not too frantic action guarantee an entertaining little game. The bloodsucking sequences are brilliant!
Get to Level Two.
P. Certainly not a pain in the neck.
P. Stealthy, silent stalking and squishy, sucking sounds.
Grab Factor 73%
P. Get your cape on and get exploring.
Staying Power 72%
P. Two levels of difficulty help.
P. Nice version of an immortal legend.