In the middle of 2021, it’s hard to imagine that I’d be writing a blog post about one of the defining games of my youth, Transylvania. But with my recent retro lab build-out, I really took a long walk down nostalgia lane with this one.
To understand the kind of games I reach for when the nostalgia gets huge, you need to understand the mid-80s through the 90s.
Especially during the early part of this time period, there wasn’t much. If you got bored or stuck with a game, you couldn’t just reach out to the Internet for help or a different game. You could potentially dial up to BBSs, but even then, often these were absolute deserts of any useful information.
For me, this situation was further complicated by the fact that my household owned solely Macintoshes, which meant I had almost zero resources available to me if I ran into a puzzler.
I think this early training for troubleshooting has lead me to the person I am today.
In any case, my very first computer was the venerable Macintosh 512kE. In the mid-late 80s when we bought this, it was an amazing machine, especially since in the x86 world, Windows was still in its infancy and wouldn’t gain serious traction until version 3.0/3.1 was released after 1990.
Recently, I did manage to track down a normal 512k, and with a ROM upgrade, it turned it into a 512kE (essentially)
Upgrading the ROMs allows it to do new tricks:
Unfortunately, there was almost NO software for it. So the games I had were limited to a handful that we could trade between a few of friends, family, and enthusiasts that my pops knew.
An absolute staple of my youth was Transylvania. Some of my first computing memories were of trying to hack out that game’s secrets. And it was a… slow process.
A few times a week I would plop down and spend 20 or 30 minutes hammering various commands into the console, usually without much luck. Funny enough, this is a game that can be conquered in less than 10 minutes if you know what you are doing.
Every once in a while I would have an epiphany moment, like realizing you could type things like
go up or
enter house, even though they weren’t represented as a direction in the text or in the GUI controls. This would open up a few more possibilities in the game, but ultimately I still was stuck.
But killing that werewolf the first time was MAGICAL!
And this continued for at least 5+ years, until I eventually got MS-DOS based PCs and started gaming there, at which point I forgot about it for a while.
Sometime in the middle of the 90s, I discovered the Transylvania DOS port, and was committed to conquering the stupid game once more.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take me too long to figure out that things were a bit different. For one, the cross, which you need to kill the vampire, is nowhere to be found:
And suddenly there’s a back to the house, which has a cellar that unless you know exactly what to type, you aren’t finding what you need:
And a nailed shut coffin, and inventory limits, which is a ton of fun until you hack out how to kill the werewolf that is constantly harassing you:
And finally, a super obscure command you need to type in the right place, and it’s something you have no way of knowing if you don’t have the original packaging:
But I eventually did beat it… after finding a book with solutions to old video games at the local library, which was sometime close to the year 2000.
And then finally this year, went back and beat the Macintosh version, which is a bit less exciting than the DOS version:
Of course, the Macintosh version has an advantage because you can carry the princess:
Of course, what retrospective would be complete if I hadn’t actually remade the game in 2010 for iOS?
It’s not in the AppStore anymore, and I only ever sold a few dozen copies of it, but this game was my parody remake. I wanted to keep the spirit and feature some familiar locations, while coming up with something that was dramatically different.
The goal was to find your “beloved penguin” and then escape on the boat:
Your inventory became a fanny pack:
The cross existed and was in the same place, but not to kill the vampire.
It was to get out of the cell that locked behind you in the castle:
It acted like the eagle in the original game:
You wave the cross around in the air. You almost get it moving fast enough to make a pretty picture. It makes you a little dizzy and you almost pass out. Suddenly you find yourself someplace different. The cross disappears in a puff of smoke
Also a cheeky response if you tried to type the stupid “sing” stuff that spawned the cross in the DOS version:
Did you seriously just try to sing something? Did you think that if you just sung some random song, such as 'Some Enchanted Evening', someone would just magically appear and give you the key to saving your penguin. I mean seriously, back in my day, we stored our CROSSES out in the open, like in a graveyard.
The vampire became “the slightly derpy vampire who wasn’t bloodthirsty until you touched his things”. This meant he would be in every castle room, but only kill you if you tried to pick something up.
The only way to deal with him was to eat garlic and acid at the same time and burp in his presence, before the counters on the acid and garlic ran out:
You let out a burp of epic proportions. The combination of acid and your stomach and garlic breath makes for a deadly cloud that turns the derpy vampire to dust.
The werewolf existed in the form of the “werezombierabbit”. And was just as annoying.
A evil looking werezombierabbit jumps out of the bushes and menaces threateningly and if you didn't move away fast enough: The furry werezombierabbit eats one of your legs and runs away. Unfortunately, you are in the middle of a dark forest all alone and you definitely need your legs. You die a few minutes later from werezombierabbit poisoning (not to mention an amputated leg)
The only way to deal with him was a multi-part solution. The original game constantly whispered stuff, so in this game, it whispered “go over there” every once in a while. Which if you went “over there” from anywhere in the game:
You could move the bushes and find the knife.
The knife didn’t exist to kill the werezombierabbit. It existed to carve out a T-Bone from a loin. It always annoyed me that you couldn’t move the rocks in the original game, so I made them movable:
And when you did this, you got a rock in the your inventory. Which you would use to throw at the cart:
For no apparent reason, you throw the large rock at the cart. The rock goes through the cart and punches a hole in the coffin that is in the cart. A large beef loin falls out
Which you could then carve:
You carve the loin into a large T-Bone steak. You discard the rest of the loin and stuff the juicy steak into your fanny pack (kinda gross)
and then “flavor” with a toadstool:
Which was actually a “magic mushroom”:
A large steak flavored with a toadstool, otherwise known as a stoolsteak
Which you can eat:
While the raw steak was tasty, it was also flavored with a hallucinogenic toadstool. You waste a couple of hours chasing a green fairy through the forest
You feed the stoolsteak to the werezombierabbit. From the first lick, it is obvious the animal is seeing strange things. It runs off into the forest in a frollicky manner chasing imaginary puppies
The main barrier to actually finding the penguin was getting the shovel. Which was locked up in the tower where the Princess normally would be. But you needed the ladder to get there, which was in the basement (why you needed to kill the vampire):
For the actual lock, you needed the key, which was in the same place as it was in the original game, but in a bit more of a cheeky manner. I HATED that stupid goblin, so I went a slightly different route:
With bonus LOTR reference:
You are standing in the middle of a sandy field. Using your incredible skills of deduction and analyzing the footprints, you can tell that a person of short stature, perhaps a hobbit or a goblin, recently stood here twirling a small object, perhaps a 'precious' golden thing. The only exit is W
And if you searched the field:
You dig around in the sand for a bit. After a while, you find a small golden key buried in the sand. You place the key in your fanny pack.
Once the shovel was retrieved, many locations could be dug, but they were all empty save one:
Inside the cave:
At the house (which was locked in my game):
This silly junction, which annoyed me in the original game because the exits didn’t make sense:
You are in another part of the forest. This part of the forest seems to serve absolutely no purpose. Going E or S could take you to some random location, but that doesn't make sense. Because of this, the only exit is back the way you came, N
And of course where the penguin was actually buried, the screen where the statue and alien stuff happens in the original game:
As in the original game, the way to end the game was to sail away in the boat. And as in the original game, there was a frog living here:
The lake also had piranhas in it. And the frog was poisonous:
You now realize that kissing a brightly colored frog was probably a bad idea. The frog was a poison frog and you die quickly and painfully from the poison on your lips or Unfortunately, the frog you have been carrying around was a poison frog. The poison has been slowly seeping through your fanny pack and into your skin. You die painfully, rolling around on the ground in the dirt, all alone
The solution was to use the golf club you picked up at some point:
Since it is such a nice night, you take a couple of swings with your golf club. One of your practice swings clips the frog. The frog takes an arching motion through the air and lands in the water. The frog survives, but unfortunately the piranhas die quickly from the poison on the frog.
Once the fish are dead, you can sail away in the boat. Of course, a cheeky parody game wouldn’t be complete without an unceremonious ending:
You swim out to the boat with your penguin and sail off into the sunrise. Once you hit the ocean, an eagle swoops down and steals your stuffed penguin. Moments later a hurricane comes out of nowhere and sinks your boat. You die. Congratulations! You win! (I guess)
Anyway, it’s been fun taking this trip down memory lane, especially the stuff about the parody/remake that I had basically forgotten about.
I’ve tossed all the resources for the game up in an imgur album so you can have a closer look if you want.