Game 49: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark - Introduction

Written by Deimar

Long time lurker, first time reviewer. For my first game I’ve chosen none other than the one based on the well-mannered connoisseur, Elvira. If you believed that description, you probably know as much about the character as any non-US citizen or US citizen under thirty. So before we comment on the game, let’s start with a little introduction about the character. Shall we?

You may remember me from other TV series like this one

Elvira is the alter ego of actress Cassandra Peterson. In 1981, the producers of the TV show Fright Night were searching for a new hostess to replace the late Larry Vincent, who had died six years before. They contacted the original Vampira from the infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space to do it (because nothing spells terror like the prospect of having to watch Plan 9), but she refused due to creative differences. Therefore, they started a casting process and Peterson got the position and created the character by applying a sexy punk look on the original Vampira. This brought some court drama, but ultimately Peterson won and started hosting the show which changed its name to Elvira’s Movie Macabre.

I think I can see the appeal...

The show consisted on her showing B-rated movies, adding joyful snarky comments before, during and after the movie regarding the actors, the editing and the special effects. Basically, she provided the right company to watch those kind of movies that are so bad they become good, if you spend the whole movie laughing at it. The show’s popularity grew rapidly and the character got famous quickly, to the point that, by 1988, she even got a movie. However, her fame was, or at least I think it was, limited to the US and, more surprisingly, the UK.

And here is where Michael Woodroffe enters the picture. Woodroffe was the founder of Adventuresoft UK Ltd., a company that started by importing and distributing Adventure International’s games, which consisted mostly of Gauntlet and Scott Adams’ adventure games. Sadly, Adventure International went bankrupt, but by that time Adventuresoft UK Ltd. had started creating their own games. To break with their past, they changed their name to Horrorsoft Ltd., which also matched the common theme of their new games, horror. Well… more gore than horror per se, but you get the idea.

As horror fans, they were quite fond of Elvira. So much that her picture is part of the company’s logo. Or maybe they inherited the license and rolled with it (according to this interview, although I haven’t been able to get further details on that). In any case, they made 4 games under the label. Their first one was called Personal Nightmare (1989) and it’s a pure graphic adventure, while the other three, Elvira I (1990), Elvira II (1991) and Waxworks (1992), were RPG hybrids. After Waxworks, they changed the company’s name once again to Adventure Soft Publishing in 1992 and went on to create the beloved Simon the Sorcerer franchise (and ruin it under yet another new company) and The Feeble Files.

You got an impressive pair of… eyes… in your logo...

Which finally brings us to the game at hand: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. The game is quite known for its gore imagery (reader discretion is advised) and even got the Computer Gaming World RPG of the Year award in 1991. It’s not on GOG or any other platform that I know of, so I have resorted to abandonware sites to download it and the accompanying documents, of which there are two: the game manual, which is written in the same mocking tone used by the titular character and explains the history and the interface, and a spell book printed in two colours as a copy protection mechanism.

I won’t say too much about the game right now (you can take a look at CRPG Addict’s opinion about the game) but I’d like to clarify a couple of points. The first one is that it runs on ScummVM. However, and for the sake of fidelity, I’ll be running it on DosBox. Other than a minor occasional bug with the sound during combat, it seems to run fine. The other one is that I did play the game quite a few years ago and I’ve watched some walkthroughs through the years, so I don’t expect to get stuck or need assistance (bye bye easy bets!!). And with that off my chest, and Elvira’s, it’s time to start our journey.

Which is gonna be full of awesome... erm… puns… Or at least I hope they are better than mine…

The playing of Elvira will commence 7th of January. Stay tuned!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 20 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

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