What caught my eye on this ad was the really great artwork of Cerberus that appears here as well as on the cover of the game. Look at that thing. It’s a snarling, slobbering, three headed dog triclops that, as myth goes, is responsible for guarding the gates to Hades. And Elvira is down there in the lower left, almost a tiny spec to its horrible maelstrom of bones and death. The box art alone is worth gawking at on shelves.
The ad also follows Accolade’s new format which they apparently adopted for 1992, that of a giant page of text, a few screens off to the side, and the actual box art thrown in for good measure. Games like Mike Ditka Ultimate Football and Les Manley in: Lost in LA would be promoted in the same, infotastic way.
The DOS version of Elvira II arrived in ’91 with other versions, such as the tried-and-true Amiga, the C64, and the Atari ST, once again guests in the house horror party that Elvira has thrown in ’92.
The game was humongous. The previous game boasted 800 locations to visit (which can be anything from a hallway or a tiny room). The sequel, again by Horror Soft, boasts 4000 such locations to fight through spanning seven-disks – something that critics quickly noted in their writeups for this titanic adventure.
So what’s wrong with Elvira this time? At Black Widow Productions, the studio that she owns, trouble is brewing in the form of a horrifying power that has risen up to claim it. Elvira has disappeared within its vast confines, held in the clutches of Cerberus which she calls Shaggy the Wonder Dog, and it’s up to the player to rescue her before it’s too late. The player is also the new flame in her unlife which is why they get the job.
Starting off, players can actually pick from one of four professions that define what stats they start with – Stuntman, Private Eye, Programmer, and Knife Thrower. A Stuntman is going to do better in physical combat than a Programmer in this game because of their much higher Weapon Skill stat, though a Programmer may be much better at resisting magic and casting spells.
The rest of the game is largely similar to the first one as a first-person dungeon crawler in the vein of FTL Game’s Dungeon Master. A menu system makes everything clickable whether it’s in moving down dark hallways or picking up anything that isn’t nailed own to arm yourself with or to put together spells. Spells draw on power points but certain ones can only be cast limited times. General combat is still in real time as players click on whether to attack or defend depending on how the enemy acts. At least you can still save wherever you are in the game, such as right before you die at the claws of some horrible thing.
Elvira’s studios span themed sections such as a haunted house and a graveyard. The game also boasts a number of puzzles that may remind players more of adventure games than action RPGs. Some of these are also disguised as copy protection gates which the included code wheel helps to solve.
It was a huge game which brought its own issues to the table whether it was the rampant disk swapping or the over-reliance on mazes in certain sections of the game. NPC interactions were limited experiences, though it balanced that out with a focus on combat and exploration. This is one game that you might have needed a pad of graph paper sitting next to your keyboard just in case.
Unfortunately, this classic is just like its predecessor – not available on digital download services like Good Old Games. Until it does, you might be able to find it under the ambiguous heading of “abandonware” out in the wild. But I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing this along with the first game make a comeback as a remake or as part of a horror-themed collection such as Elvira’s Horror Pack released in 1998.
This would be the last game that Elvira would star in detailed with the kind of creative RPG conventions that had taken her out of television and into a genre that no one had expected her to make her own. Horror Soft created an incredibly clever adaptation for everything Elvira embracing her dialogue from the manual to the PC screen alongside the goretastic horror salad awaiting players when they die. And it’s also a remarkable application of game design that has proven to be as elusive.