At the end of the Vampire Wars, the Dracula Spear, the pivotal weapon developed by wizards to defeat Dracula, was split apart between four nations as a sign of victory and alliance. It is present day. Each of the four nations has received a message saying “Bring the Dracula Spear, and you will be given rewards beyond your wildest dreams.”

The war to defeat Dracula has once again commenced. This is Operation Dracula.

Developer: Crescent Moon Games

Price: $2.99

Bullet Hell Is Back

Hailing the glory days of Arcade shoot ’em ups, Operation Dracula can best be described as an SNK shoot em’ up meets Capcom’s Street Fighter. While that may sound like a bizarre hybridization, it works quite well.

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Graphics

The game looks AMAZING! I say this with the utmost conviction. The game just looks phenomenal. The graphics are sharp, crisp, vibrant, and colorful. The game’s art is fantastic! From the mechanical designs of the ships and robots, to the backdrops you fly over, Operation Dracula’s art direction oozes quality and provides a faithful representation of what the greats like SNK and Capcom were distributing in arcades all throughout the 80’s and 90s. Although arcades may have died here in the West, it’s refreshing to know that the very genres that kept us there are being refreshed in the mobile realm.

Sound

Do you remember when I said earlier that Operation Dracula is part Street Fighter hybrid? The game’s sound design is why I made that claim; specifically, the narrator’s voice. From the moment I heard the voice utter the words “Operation Dracula” at the game’s main menu, I was immediately transported back to an arcade somewhere, hearing that same voice emanating from a Street Fighter arcade machine. As a matter of fact, if you’ve ever played Street Fighter Alpha 3, it’s the exact same voice. While I cannot verify whether it’s the same voice actor in both games, I can tell you that the voices sound identical, and it’s a wonderful thing.

With the mix of the narrator’s voice, the sounds of explosions, laser cannons firing, alarms going off, and more explosions, Operation Dracula’s sound does a great job of supplementing (and complementing) the game’s already visual chaos. With your blood pressure already on the rise, the game’s soundtrack pushes you even further over the edge with music that I would describe as “classic arcade music meets heavy metal.”

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All of these elements work incredibly well together and help create a tapestry of sheer brutality (from a difficulty standpoint) that I think was very intentional on Samurai Games’ part; which leads me to the next topic:

Gameplay

Brutal. There is no other way to describe Operation Dracula’s difficulty. The game has two modes: Normal Mode, Easy Mode. I would rename these modes to: Blood Boil Mode, Cardiac Arrest Mode. I found myself relegated to Easy Mode, and I still was slaughtered over, and over, and over again. I hope you like Game Over screens because you’re going to be seeing this game’s Game Over screen a lot.

Despite it’s difficulty, Operation Dracula’s controls are solid, responsive, and tight. You control your ship by simply moving it with your finger. The game automatically fires the ship’s main weapons for you. To the bottom right of your screen you will find an icon for your bombs and you can also perform a unique, special attack with your ship, by double tapping the screen. Each character has its own unique bomb and special ability, and each have their strengths and weaknesses.

The problem with Operation Dracula is its difficulty. It is brutal; no doubt about that. I know I am parroting that statement but I can’t over emphasize how difficult this game is. While I am not opposed to a challenge, I do think that Operation Dracula’s level of difficulty may severely limit its audience. In a climate where Free To Play is dominating the mobile game market, releasing a $3 game with such an unforgiving level of difficulty may spell a recipe for disaster. Don’t get me wrong; the game is fun, but it’s not for the faint of heart, and $3 may be too much of a risk to ask your audience to take.

Conclusion

Two simple changes can transform Operation Dracula from an amazing game, to an “ABSOLUTE MUST BUY!” game of the year contender:

  1. Diversify the game’s difficulty. Offer three levels of difficulty instead of two. Break it down into:
    1. Easy – Make this a step down in difficulty from the game’s current Easy Mode
    2. Normal – Make this identical to the game’s current Easy Mode
    3. Insane (or Brutal) – Make this identical to the game’s current Normal Mode.
  2. Change the price. $2.99 is a bit steep for this game. I’d recommend an MSRP of $.99. I feel like this is a perfect price point for what you get with this game, and I also think it will help Operation Dracula gain more success in such a “Free To Play” saturated market. With gamers being so accustomed to seeing ‘Free’ on everything in the Google Play Store, $2.99 will almost surely scare them away. It did me.

Even with my criticisms, I really, really enjoyed Operation Dracula. I am thankful for the opportunity to have played it, but unfortunately, I just cannot recommend it to my audience at such a steep price. This is a shame because Operation Dracula really is a good game. However, asking $2.99 for a mobile “Arcade Shoote ’em Up” that’s this difficult, is just asking too much. Fix the difficulty, change the price, and you have a 5/5 game.

Operation Dracula – Google Play Store