Nancy Drew: Treasure in the Royal Tower
I have never read a Nancy Drew book. I have read The Hardy Boys though. I suspect it's a boy thing.
Neither of my daughters has ever read Nancy Drew either. I suspect that's partly a boy thing too, a boy called Harry Potter. He seems to take up every reading moment.
Nor have I or they played a Nancy Drew game, although we have played The Legend of Lotus Spring from Women Wise, another game specifically designed to appeal to female players. It was an excellent daddy/daughter experience, so we were more than keen to set off with Nancy.
In the end, only one daughter set off. The game promotes itself as being for 10 years and above. Clare, who is 8, lost interest in playing along pretty quickly. She poked around for a while on her own, but is secretly more interested in the next installment of Freddi Fish.
Emily though, who is 12, stayed with it right to the end. In fact, she was the main player. I played it with her much of the time, but she was always in control of what to do next, and there were many occasions on which she played by herself and kept me filled in on what happened. If her enthusiasm to keep playing is any indication, she clearly enjoyed it enormously.
The storyline, to paraphrase the Her Interactive information sheet, is as follows: "Nancy's ski vacation in an old castle is interrupted by a fierce blizzard. Snowbound inside the castle, Nancy learns of an elaborate plot devised by Marie Antoinette 200 years ago to hide a royal treasure. Eccentric Ezra Wickford built the castle, and had one of the towers of the resort shipped intact from an old castle in France. Nancy begins to uncover the rich history of the lodge, as well as some mysterious events, all leading to the hidden treasure".
Nancy does so through the tried and true method of point and click. She has an inventory, and a smart cursor, and a phone line to her friends who can occasionally offer useful insights to what is going on and what to try next. She can converse with a variety of other characters, and whilst there seems to be a fair amount of latitude in the responses she chooses, certain responses are clearly important for progressing the story.
Not everything has to be done in the correct order, although certain things will have to be achieved to advance the story to the next stage. Nancy can choose to play easy (Junior) or hard (Senior), and subtitles are available. She can die, and be trapped or caught, but the game returns her to immediately prior to the fatal event, so saving every step of the way is not imperative. She occasionally came to an end because she couldn't do something fast enough, but only a few reincarnations were needed to be able to move on.
There is an alarm clock that can be used to make time pass more quickly, and importantly, use of this feature did not seem to lead to events being missed that meant you were permanently stuck. Used judiciously, it was a very useful tool, although the game seems to be perfectly playable without it.
There is also a fair bit of to and fro-ing, and this can involve some lengthy walks and the need to redo some puzzles.
The ski lodge itself is quite splendid, and beautifully detailed. Sweeping staircases, glorious artwork, and secret towers, turrets and dungeons to winkle your way into and then explore. Historical fact is woven through the storyline, and the plot hangs together quite well. The mystery unravels in a nice measured way, and in the grand tradition of all things mysterious, everyone is suspect at some stage. Also traditionally, any gaps in what happened and why are filled in by a talkative baddy just before the climax.
The music tracks suited the environment, and the 3D sound was noticeable. You can actually follow a sound to its source, which is at times quite critical.
I thought though that the game was a bit flat and static. More animations would have helped or perhaps the characters could have moved around the gameworld more. Also, the game environment occupies about two thirds of the screen, the rest being taken up with the permanently open inventory, a speech window, and some decoration. Those two aspects together meant that I didn't engage as much with this game as I have with others. I certainly enjoyed it, I just felt a bit distant from it.
As a game for my daughter, it was excellent. Once she got into the hang of how to approach the game (this was one of her first adventure games), she managed pretty well on her own with only a gentle push here and there. She played on Junior, and whilst the aim of some puzzles needed explaining (ie what to do) she ultimately solved all of them herself. I think too that a bit more familiarity with these types of games would have required less explaining - the mechanics of some of the puzzles will be familiar to many game players.
What did she think of it? "It was really fun playing it! At times I got a bit confused, but once I thought about it and went over it I knew just what I needed to do. Wherever you go you need to pay attention to everything around you so you didn't miss anything. It was a bit annoying to have to solve the same puzzle again, and go through the same tunnels every time you need to get to a particular place. I think that once you go through a lot of things e.g hidden doors, puzzles, there should be a shortcut to get back. I would play another Nancy Drew game".
Copyright © Steve Ramsey with Emily 2001.
All rights reserved.
Windows 95/98/ME/XP/2000, 166 MHz Pentium Processor (200 MHz recommended) 16 MB RAM (32 MB recommended), 150 MB hard drive space (250MB recommended) 16 bit colour graphics video card Direct X7 (or higher) compatible, 16-bit windows-compatible stereo sound card, 8x CD-ROM Drive, Mouse and Speakers.