Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor
Review by Toger
Something's wrong with Linda Penvellyn.
Not long ago, Linda married a British diplomat, became stepmother
to his twelve-year-old daughter and moved to Blackmoor Manor,
her husband's ancestral home in England. During a recent visit
to the manor, Linda's mother noticed that her daughter was very
pale and always tired, prone to sudden irrational outbursts, and
her eyes had become so overly sensitive to light she'd actually
taken to hiding behind a curtain in her bedroom. Visits from numerous
doctors had failed to find a cause for her behavior. Immediately
upon her return to the States, Linda's mother convinced her neighborNancy
Drew, ace detectiveto fly to England and investigate.
No sooner has Nancy arrived at Blackmoor Manor than mysterious
things start happening. As she traverses the walk to the manor's
front door, Nancy hears her name whispered, turns and is confronted
by a pair of glowing, red eyes! When she tells the woman who opens
the door what's happening, Nancy finds that they're alone in the
courtyard. Let the sleuthing begin!
The Curse of Blackmoor Manor is Her Interactive's eleventh
outing for our intrepid girl detective. Like the previous games,
the suggested age range is 10 and up; however, this game is slightly
darker than the othersNancy has a couple of bizarre nightmares
that could be disturbing to younger kids. So if your gaming urchin
is easily frightened or, like me, has an overactive imagination,
you might want to sit close by while she plays; especially during
the forays into the dark, hidden passagewayseven I was a
little freaked out by the noises there.
Blackmoor Manor is presented with the traditional first-person,
point-and-click interface. Left-clicking the fat yellow arrow
will take you forward or backward, left or right and, in some
cases, rotate the static screen 360 degrees. The default interactive
cursora magnifying glass, a girl detective's best friendwill
glow red when an object is available for closer inspection or
will change into a talk balloon when chatting up the suspects.
A minor complaint: that fat cursor was a nuisance while using
it with the cell phone. The hot spot for the tip of the arrow
is not where you'd expect it to be, causing all sorts of problems
when trying to call someone or do a web search.
Gameplay is offered in two flavors of difficultyJunior
or Senior Detective. Playing in Junior mode includes a checklist
in your notebook of what to do next, more verbal clues from Nancy
and an easier time during the minigames. Normally, you'd also
have the option of calling Bess and George or Frank and Joe Hardy
for help, but this time they're all off doing their own thing,
so you're left to ask Loulou, the parrot, for help. (Yes, I said
parrot.) Playing in Senior mode, you're pretty much left to your
own devices to figure out what to do next, and you'll only interact
with Loulou for a specific set of puzzles. Since I fired up Junior
mode for a quick comparison only, my observations will be from
the Senior detective point of view.
Blackmoor Manor's puzzles are quite varied and devious,
so be prepared to take lots of notes. (Nancy doesn't take notes;
she makes observations in her notebook.) The puzzles run the gamut
from the typical inventory-based varietyfeeding Loulou a
parrot caketo using an alchemist's formulary to open a door.
You'll also come across a couple of timed sequences (nothing too
daunting), a modified slider, rotating rooms and a vast assortment
of fun minigames.
Deciphering the array of puzzles will involve keen observation,
diligent attention to detail and actual typing ability. That last
is a nod to one of the many minigames employed throughout the
game to advance the story. One of the characters you'll meet will
require that you impress him with your "mad typing skillz"
before he'll consent to helping you in your quest.
(Spoiler alert! There be spoilers ahead, so if you'd rather
your knowledge of this particular puzzle remain unsullied, I'd
suggest skipping the next three paragraphs.)
No matter what game I play, I always seem to find a puzzle that
makes me crazy. This time, it's the word association puzzle necessary
to open a door. The door in question is at the bottom of a long,
dark and hidden passageway. In order to navigate the passageway,
Nancy needs light in the form of a glow-stick, which she receives
from Jane after winning a game. As we all know, glow-sticks have
a limited lifespan.
Nancy and I negotiated the passageway and come upon a door with
a very peculiar lockit's a word. We trudge back up the stairs
and come upon Loulou in her cage. We nonchalantly ask if she knows
anything about this, but she refuses to help unless we say "the
magic word." We scratch our heads and head off to question
everyone in the house. Upon learning "the magic word,"
we again accost Loulou and she tells us what we need to know.
We rework the mechanism necessary to open the hidden passageway,
fire up our trusty glow-stick and head back down that long, dark
and winding road ... uh, hallway. We spin the dials to spell the
word that Loulou's given us ... another word. Drat. We
traipse back to the main floor of the house and consult Loulou.
A new associated word! We open the hidden passage; take two steps
and Nancy remarks that we're going to need another glow-stick.
We toddle off to Jane's room and play another round of an obscure
Mayan game. Jane rewards our victory with a glow-stick. We rework
the passage machinery, hurry back down into the bowels of the
manor, spin the dials ... another word! Ack! Up the stairs,
confer with Loulou ... now she wants a parrot cake before she'll
help us further. Nancy and I wonder if there's a cat nearby.
Luckily for us, we'd already made the cake on a previous foray
into Jane's room. We feed Loulou, she bestows "the word"
upon us ... passage mechanism, slog through the passage, twirl
the dials ... heaven save us, another word! By now, Nancy and
I are muttering that there'd better be gold behind that stinkin'
door. "Once more, with feeling ..." up the
passage, Loulou, passage machinery, down the passage, spin ...
the door opens and the villagers rejoiced. Yay. Okay, so
there really weren't any villagers, but Nancy and I celebrated
with a full-blown fete.
(End spoiler alert.)
In retrospect, I can laugh about itafter all, isn't that
what most adventure games are all about, traveling to and fro,
here and there?but at the time, there was some serious grumbling
As with any Nancy Drew mystery, the only way to solve it is to
identify and chat up your suspects, and Blackmoor Manor has
its own rogue's gallery: Mrs. Drake, Hugh Penvellyn's aunt and
"housekeeper" now that Linda's indisposed; Jane Penvellyn,
Linda's precocious stepdaughter; Edith Bosinny, Jane's stuffy
tutor; and Nigel Mookerjee, an author who's writing a book about
the history of the Penvellyns (or is it a scandalous tell-all
Voice work was done very well, although, to my ear, the British
accents didn't quite sound authentic, but what would I know? My
only point of reference would be all those Masterpiece Theatre
or Mystery! period pieces. My favorite was the phone
call with the Cockney owner of the local pub. Both Nancy and I
had that "deer in the headlights" look while listening
to him describe the meal options available for delivery.
Blackmoor Manor's ambient sounds are excellent. In the
majority of the game, you won't hear Nancy's footsteps as she
wanders from room to room, but you will hear them when she walks
across the cast-iron balcony in the conservatory. You'll also
hear unseen water dripping in the hidden hallways, panels sliding
open and shut, the tapping of the keyboard when you type and the
sound of cards played or pages turned.
There is some music during the game, but it's very unobtrusive
Graphically, Blackmoor Manor is an eye-candy junkie's
dream. That's not to say that the game breaks new ground, but
there's a tremendous amount of detail and color that's just plain
yummyI wanted to reach out and touch everything. With the
exception of the hidden passageways, all of the rooms are awash
with brilliant colors. The wood in the library gleams, the plants
in the conservatory are a vibrant green and the tapestry and illuminated
book in Jane's room are luxuriously rich in detail. (Pay attention
to the little gargoyles on either side of Jane's door when leaving
her room. The eyes move!)
As with Ghost
Dogs of Moon Lake, I still had the issue of not
always being able to identify what Nancy has picked up and dropped
into her inventory. It would be lovely if, in future games, the
inventory items had a written description or Nancy verbally tells
you what it is as you roll the mouse over the object.
Character animation is quite good. The combination of lip-synching
with the character's arms and hands movement made it appear as
if I were talking to a real, live person. At one point, as Nancy
and I were admonished by the tutor, I noticed that she was actually
pointing at us to make her point clear. As terrific as the animation
is, including blinking, characters are limited to only one facial
expression, which can detract from the game's immersion factor.
Oversized cursor, unidentifiable inventory objects and an annoying
puzzle aside, I enjoyed my trip to Blackmoor Manor enough
to reward it with the FFC thumb up. The puzzles were challenging,
the various ways to end my visit were hilarious, and the minigames
added an extra bit of diversion and fun to the game. While the
game may be a little difficult and scary for those at the low
end of the age requirement, I think the 12+ group will have fun
with it. I know that I did.
Release Date: October 2004
Four Fat Chicks Links
400 MHz Pentium
64 MB RAM
300 MB free hard drive space
16-bit color graphics video card with at least 16 MB of VRAM
16-bit Window-compatible stereo sound card
12X CD-ROM drive
Mouse and Speakers
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