Nancy Drew: The Haunted Carousel

Developer/Publisher:  Her Interactive, Inc.
Year Released:  2003

Review by Steve Ramsey (January, 2004)
This is Nancy's 8th pc adventure, and it's been a while since I played one. After playing a few, I thought they were a bit much the same, and so left them to my daughters. However I was looking for a light outing, and this one caught my eye. The break obviously worked. The Haunted Carousel is still essentially more of the same, but I am pleased to say that I enjoyed an afternoon sleuthing with Nancy.

What can I say that hasn't already been said? Read the review of Deception Island, or Ghost Dogs, or Stay Tuned for Danger, or indeed any of them and the same applies here. The game play, the design and the characterisation are all as they were in the previous games. Scenes are detailed, the voice acting excellent. The plot is tight, the puzzles slotted realistically into the events. The Nancy Drew games franchise is a solid adventuring product that well and truly hits its target audience.

Some minor changes
Some little differences exist. A time component was present in some of the earlier games. Some things happened only at night, or the next day, and you had control over making time pass. That is not a factor in this game. Everything seems to happen in a single day, and time is irrelevant to game play. A plus in my opinion.

Some characters were also only present at certain times in other games, and you did not want to miss them. Here, apart from some events triggering a character being absent from their location, which is essential for some private snooping, everyone remains pretty much where you first find them, and they are always available for a chat. The lack of character movement is something I would like to see worked on; not only do the characters stay put, they are pretty much static.

At least one game also had little animations as you moved between locations using your map. There are no such animations here.

Feel right at home
There might be other differences; I haven't played all the games. But it's the similarities that will appeal to fans, and which will make first time Nancy Drew players - young and old, new gamers and experienced - feel at home. Check your mail, call your friends, chat with the characters, explore your surroundings, poke and fiddle and solve some puzzles, learn a bit, suspect and accuse almost everyone, and save the day (and the park) in the end.

Indeed, this game seems to have focused the plusses of the earlier games. It might be that this happened a few games ago, but this one is certainly a well constructed chapter.

A fun park is an obvious location for some fun investigating. Add some hauntings for a bit of spice. It's not a spooky game though (Ghost Dogs made my daughter, Emily, a bit cautious at times) so it's suitable for all comers. I suspect even those under 10 will enjoy the attractions of the Captain's Cove Amusement Park.

Which includes a haunted house, a roller coaster, and some arcade games. You can ride the carousel as often as you like, and you may have to play the several little arcade games more than once to win. But they aren't difficult, and you can play them on a couple of difficulty settings, and you also have unlimited opportunities.

As in other Nancy adventures, the whole game can be played on Senior or Junior detective level, there are in game hints if you want them and there is a second chance if you do something "wrong". I managed to burn down the hotel and get fired, as well as electrocute myself more than once. I suspect I could also have been skewered by the carousel horses, and run over by the roller coaster, if I hadn't moved out of the way. There are obviously a number of wrong moves, but this in no way could be considered an action element, time being liberal (or not relevant) and no fancy keyboard or mouse work required.

The game claims to have 20 hours plus of playing time, which might be true for the lower end of its target audience. I finished in about 4-5 hours, and had an enjoyable afternoon doing so. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2004. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 98/Me/2000/XP, 200 MHz Pentium Processor, 16 MB RAM, 200 MB Hard Drive Space, 16-bit colour graphics video card, 16-bit sound card, 8x CD ROM, Mouse.