Nancy Drew: The Final Scene
Nancy Drew made her debut in our house with Treasure in the Royal Tower, the fourth game in this series. My 12 year old daughter Emily enjoyed it a lot, so the fifth instalment, The Final Scene, was a welcome arrival.
Her Interactive, the makers of the game, describe their corporate mission as "To lead the industry towards a new standard of intelligent interactive entertainment for girls". I don't know about the industry, but there is no doubt that Her Interactive is doing its part with Nancy and her escapades.
Anyone who has played any of the previous games will immediately be at home with the familiarity of this game. The interface and game play are the same - why fiddle with something that ain't really broke? Also, the sameness enables a returning player to jump straight in, no need to sort out how the game works before getting underway.
Nancy finds herself this time in St Louis, at the world premier of a new feature film, being screened in a grand old theatre which is due to be demolished. Needless to say, Nancy does not enjoy a simple night out with friends at the movies, and soon finds herself poking in and around the theatre in order to get to the bottom of a kidnapping that's a bit too close to home. The more she pokes, the more tangled things seem to become. As the demolition is only three days away, Nancy must work fast.
The whole game is played inside the theatre, and it's an excellent setting. Big heavy curtains, sweeping stairs, little balcony boxes, and a mezzanine level. Backstage is a rabbit warren of corridors and little rooms, and the odd secret passage. I hope there are many theatres like this left somewhere - they have all been knocked down where I live and replaced by multiplexes.
For those unfamiliar with the earlier games, The Final Scene is first person point and click, with 2D characters presented in well detailed 3D environments. A hot cursor in the shape of a magnifying glass will tell you there is something to interact with. Puzzles are a mix of stand alone and inventory based. They are on the whole nicely integrated into the theatre and the plot - the fact that the theatre staged magic shows assists that aspect.
Nancy will have to interview other characters to unravel what is going on, and can choose between various questions and responses. All are subtitled. There are some rather lengthy telephone conversations in which you don't participate, you just sit there and listen or read along. I thought these might be a turn-off for younger players, but Emily thought they were fine.
Although Nancy has only three days, the game is not time critical. The alarm clock to speed up time, which was a feature of Treasure in the Royal Tower, is not present here. I understand other Nancy Drew games had a similar mechanism. Personally I think it's a feature that is not at all missed, although Emily said she really liked it in Royal Tower, but didn't mind that it wasn't present here: "You don't have to meet people at particular times, so changing the time isn't important".
As in other games, the characters you meet are fairly static. Both Emily and I agreed that it would be nice if they moved and walked around more (or walked around at all).
If you get stuck, Nancy can call her friends Ned, Bess and George to try and get some help. You choose between two difficulty levels; Junior or Senior detective. Nancy can die, but a "second chance" key in the menu will return you to just before the fatal moment. The fatal moment didn't seem to be as prevalent as in the last game, but perhaps Emily was just better at knowing what not to do.
The Final Scene seems well suited to its target audience of 10 years and up. Emily played on Junior level, and was able to solve all of the stand alone puzzles herself. Inventory puzzles were logical in nature, stuckness being more a result of a missed hotspot (or direction arrow) or not having yet found the right item. Several times Emily and I discussed what she had done and talked about what she might do next, and her proposed courses of action all involved sensible and reasonable logical steps. I thought it was a plus that the game rewarded such thought by providing rational paths to solutions.
Emily's final impressions were as follows:
"I enjoyed it the same as Treasure in the Royal Tower. It was good the way that each of the other characters could have been involved in the kidnapping, so you didn't know who was really the villain. They all tried to take advantage of the situation anyway, especially Simone. Some of them reminded me of characters in the Royal Tower; Joseph the caretaker was just like the hotel owner, and Nicolas reminded me of Jacques.
I enjoyed the story, and liked how Houdini became involved. You have to pay attention to the things that you are told and that you learn, so you can work out what is going on. I liked doing the mini-puzzles more than finding the right thing to use in the right spot - you had to think about things more. There were lots of those little puzzles, which was good. It would be interesting to play on Senior level to see what the differences are, but I want to play Message in a Haunted Mansion next, which we now also have".
Sounds like it hits the mark to me.
Copyright © Steve Ramsey with Emily 2002.
All rights reserved.
Windows 95, 98, ME, XP, or 2000 Professional
166 MHz Processor
16 MB RAM
128 MB available hard disk space
16 Bit color graphics video card that's compatible with direct X 6 or higher.
8x CD-ROM drive
16 Bit compatible sound card
Direct X 7.0 or higher