Having just finished the game, I thought I would jot down my thoughts on the game.
Vampire Diaries is the story of Elena who who is a high school student we meet at a reception at the newly opened art gallery in town. Elena's parents are dead and she and her grade school sister are living with their aunt. Elena is just back from Europe where she spent the summer. There have been changes in Fells Church over the summer.
School is about to start and there is a new science teacher. The art gallery is new and is being run by a stranger in town. Also, Mr. ? who has an interest in the 'unusual' has acquired a dagger which has a long and mysterious background.
At the reception we are introduced to the players in this story. We hear about Bonnie's friend who does 'fortune telling' using Runes from the Druids. We learn of Mrs Flowers who maintains the local cemetery and who is an expert in herbal remedies. Elena meets the owner of the gallery and bumps into her 'friend' Caroline.
After speaking with the people at the reception, all of a sudden there is a scream and Elena's sister, Margaret is found unconcious on the floor. A foggy darkness is seen drifting away. Margaret is rushed to the hospital.
Elena needs to find out what happened and prevent it from happening again.
The game blends drawn scenes with photography (of the cemetery) and full motion video of people as they speak. Movement is from place to place and then you can rotate left and right up to 360 degrees. There is sometimes limited movement up and down. This world all takes exists in the top two thirds of the screen. The bottom is used to display dialog to you and your dialog choices as well having an area for your inventory.
There are six locations in the story, and you are able to move between them at will. The penalty for doing so, however is cd swapping. There are three and everytime you start the game, you need to put in cd #3. You then choose a saved game and need to swap CDs unless your saved game happens to be on CD #3.
Vampire Diaries is somewhat picky about system resources. If you try to run it with another program, it usually tells you that it is shutting down when you try to start it. It really wants your system to itself. It did run almost flawlessly from windows 98. Only a couple of times did I find myself at the desktop.
The actual game play has some shortcomings. The way dialog is handled is awkward. You see a person in a scene and click on her. The person greets you the exact same way throughout the game. This can make the puzzles somewhat difficult. The information is available, but it can be tricky to get it. You need to talk to a person several times because, depending on what has gone before, you may get a new question you can ask.
Also, you must choose the right dialog path to keep the game moving forward. No matter what you have done in the game, you will still get a list of questions that were appropriate at one time, but now no longer make sense.
As an example, you are trying to get money to buy something. Even after you have purchased it, you are still going around talking to people and having the option of asking how you can raise the money to buy what you already have.
This dialog part of the interface leaves a lot to be desired. If this interface was better explained on the one page help screen, it wouldn't have been so frustrating. This isn't how you would expect it to work and it took a while to realize that one new question was available among the others that you had already seen.
Another problem I had was that there were several times when I felt as if I was going from place to place with no idea of how to move forward. It would have been helpful to get a bit more of a 'push' from the game in the right direction.
The game does give you a 'second chance' option when you die in the game. This is good except for the ending where your second chance forces you to go through about four minutes of dialog in order to try another approach to avoiding death. A walkthrough was how I stayed sane here as I got it wrong the first two tries and didn't want to hear the same dialog again.
Another shortcoming is that there are only eight places to save the game. I managed, but dislike having to worry about how often I save. No reason not to have an unlimited amount of saves available these days.
The acting was fine.
I believe I ran across a couple of places where there might have been a bug or two. Inventory items that I had gathered seemed to be missing and I had to go get them a second time.
All in all, it must have taken about 20 hours of which 12 were enjoyable and 8 were more or less just going from place to place hoping something would happen.
The game is old enough so that it doesn't have a universal hint file and the walkthrough I found was repeated in a couple of sites. It may be the only one. It did the trick, though.
In Just Adventure terms, this would be a C+ or thereabouts for me.