Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion
Review by Jen
Her Interactive's Nancy Drew games are marketed toward teenage
girls, but they can really be enjoyed by all ages, and both male
and female players. Her Interactive is garnering an impressive
roster of accolades for these games, from groups as diverse as
Parents' Choice, Good Housekeeping, and Teen People Magazine Online.
I played the first Nancy Drew title, Secrets
Can Kill, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I have not yet played
the second in the series, Stay Tuned for Danger, but by
all accounts, it was superior to Secrets Can Kill. How
will Message in a Haunted Mansion measure up to Her Interactive's
previous efforts? And adventure gamedom in general?
You play as Nancy, of course, in this first-person, point-and-click
adventure game. You can choose from two difficulty levels, and
there is a tutorial for adventure game neophytes. I played on
the higher difficulty level; I had to or I would have lost all
Nancy has been invited by Rose, a family friend, to help renovate
a San Francisco Victorian mansion and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast.
Based on various documents and clues in the mansion, Nancy soon
suspects that there's a treasure hidden in the house.
Rose has a partner, Abby, who has a strong interest in the paranormal.
Abby implies that the mansion is haunted, and you do begin seeing
ghostly phenomena, which continue throughout the game.
Charlie is a young handyman who appeared on Rose's doorstep one
day looking for work. Rose hired him because he worked cheap and
seemed competent, but there have been a lot of construction accidentsand
Rose wonders whether Charlie may not be as competent as he appears.
However, Rose is on a tight budget and can't really afford to
let Charlie go. Besides, she's insured to the hilt. Charlie seems
like an okay guy, but he's maybe a little on the sneaky side.
Then there's Louis, an antiques dealer who advises Rose on keeping
the renovations true to the original period in exchange for free
use of Rose's extensive library of antique books. What is he really
Nancy, in her inimitable fashion, uncovers clues, learns more
about the suspects, and brings to light all of the mansion's secrets.
You simply can't go wrong with a story based on a Nancy Drew
book! The game is tightly plotted and interesting throughout.
In direct contrast to Secrets Can Kill, which had some
improbable puzzles and unlikely clues just laying around any old
place, Message in a Haunted Mansion's puzzles are completely
organic to the game. There are clues to every puzzle somewhere
in the mansion, although sometimes I found the clues only after
I had solved a puzzle. While this game is not difficult for an
experienced adventure game player, neither are the puzzles in
any way dumbed down for the inexperienced player. This player
definitely had to put on her thinking cap!
Bad news: The game has a maze. The game has a sliding tile puzzle.
Her Interactive has always done a beautiful job with background
graphics, achieving near photorealism. MHM's backgrounds
are no exception; they are lovely. The character animations have
improved vastly. In Secrets Can Kill, they were very cartoony,
superimposed on the backgrounds in a way that was jarring to the
eye; but in MHM, the characters are 3D-animated, fairly
smoothly, and fit into the overall look of the game quite nicely.
As with Secrets Can Kill, the characters don't move around
within the game at all, but in MHM, sometimes they're in
their fixed locations and sometimes they're not, which opens up
some new avenues for exploration.
The voice acting is passable. It's not the greatest, but it's
not the worst either. Sometimes it sounds as if the actors are
reading lines out of sequence because their inflections are off-kilter,
but it is never annoying. (That's about the best we adventure
gamers can expect.) The music, on the other hand, gets old quick.
It's very nice, but the loops are too short and there's not enough
variety from room to roomit all sounds the same before too
long. The sound effects are great, never out of place, always
Ever since their games first came to my attention, I have been
a staunch admirer of Her Interactive. I really like the fact that
they design games for girls (that everyone can enjoy), with no
stereotypes, no overt educational value, and absolute respect
for girls' intellectual abilities. A lofty goal to be sure, and
well-met, but was Message in a Haunted Mansion actually
fun? I think so! I had a great time playing it!
Release Date: November 2000
Four Fat Chicks Links
166 MHz Pentium
16 MB RAM
130 MB available hard disk space
16-bit color graphics video card
8X CD-ROM drive
16-bit Windows-compatible stereo sound card
Mouse and speakers
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