Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor

Developer/Publisher:  Her Interactive
Year Released:  2004

Review by Clare Sheehan age 11 with Steve and Rosemary (December, 2004)
Clare says
Once again Nancy Drew is back in action. I have read some of the Nancy Drew books and I am a huge fan. I have always wanted to play these games and review them but every time they were sent to be reviewed my older sister, Emily, got to review them. I was delighted to hear that I was going to review this game and I raced to my computer eagerly to play it as soon as it came.

This is the 11th Nancy Drew game and I am sure that Her interactive have more Nancy games coming.

As you know you are playing the famous detective, Nancy Drew. You are sent to Blackmoor Manor to see what is going on with Linda Penvellyn, the daughter of Nancy's neighbour. Linda is a girl who was recently married to Hugh but has been unwell ever since she came to live in the Manor.

In this Nancy Drew game there are many different tasks to do and little games to play. Some of the puzzles were hard but most of the games got easier when you got used to them. They were all really fun once you figured them out, and I played some a couple of times just to see if I could do them better or get higher scores.

I spent ages looking around the manor, and found the ghost hunting game very creepy. There was also one character who would sometimes pop out when you weren't expecting her and she gave me a bit of a fright. There was some exploring in the dark too, and funny noises. I won't tell you whether the house is haunted, but it sure felt like it sometimes!

I liked walking around and exploring but having to look in the dark and your glowstick running out was a bit boring. You would have to go back and get another stick and start again. It was good when I found another light and I didn't need to use the glow sticks.

I never knew what I would find when I explored. I found out all sorts of things about the Manor and some other things as well. You get to use an internet in the game, and do some research, and I found out about alchemy and how to make elements and other things. There were also people to talk to and Jane was the best, because I think she was probably about my age.

My favourite puzzles were solving the door with the alchemy I learned, and catching ghosts. Riding the secret slide was good too. Dad had to help me with quite a few puzzles, but you could get help by talking to Loulou the parrot. Well you could on Junior Level which is what I played. I must have talked to her a lot because when I finished I got the Parrotus Botherus award for talking her tail feathers off.

I won't tell you the ending but I am glad that the mystery was solved and that people will keep protecting the treasure.

It was a good game but a bit hard and sometimes confusing. I would have liked not to ask Dad for help so much, mostly because he wasn't always there when I wanted to play. It was easy to get started though, and the lesson you can play at the beginning was helpful. I certainly want to play more Nancy games, and Dad says some of the other ones are a bit easier so I will play them next.

Steve says
I dipped in and out of this game with Clare and thought it was probably the most "grown-up" of the Nancy Drew games I have played. It was certainly the most elaborate in terms of puzzle design, and there were a lot of them. All the clues seemed to be there, but they didn't leap out and bite you, and many puzzles required more than a little tinkering and gathering of information to fathom. It appeared to be intricate and well rounded, and a damn fine adventure.

I thought, though, that this intricacy made Blackmoor Manor the least accessible of the games for younger players. Clare certainly found it difficult, and even some of the rules for the little games within the game she found tricky to work out. I sympathised with her on some of them too, and several took some beating even with my help.

I also think for younger players (and some older ones for that matter) that the number of games that have to be "won" should be limited. For instance, if you can't hit the bullseye on the slide no matter how hard you try, or complete the gargoyle puzzle in the time provided, you simply cannot progress. Such tasks can bring games to a halt, and for Clare it at times deterred her from wanting to play some more. Tolerance levels are only so high, especially for young players. Perhaps a failsafe mechanism could be built into puzzles like this, so that after so many attempts you "win" regardless, or get the option to bypass the puzzle.

For more experienced players though, what I saw of this game suggests it will probably be the best of the Nancy Drew games so far. Rosemary can tell us more.

Rosemary says
Well, I'm smiling. I've had a delightful time playing Curse of Blackmoor Manor. Like the previous Nancy Drew games it's simple point and click and has subtitles throughout for all the dialogue. Although, I must say, this one is lighter on dialogue and heavier on puzzles compared with the previous games.

The complexity of the puzzles in Blackmoor Manor is definitely a notch or three higher so paying attention to detail and taking notes is crucial. Nancy must read various letters, diaries and books and recognise clues to solve puzzles, some of which are quite devious.

The puzzles are more devious this time around because clues don't always come all at once. On more than one occasion they are delivered in stages so one clue may be modified or even expanded by another. Other puzzles have component parts that come together to make a whole. The puzzles, in fact, are very good and make this game thoroughly entertaining, and as usual with the Nancy Drew games, there is also a selection of mini challenges of the matching tile and board game variety as well as a jigsaw puzzle and sundry others.

The graphics are again exceptionally good. Not technically groundbreaking but every room in the living areas of the manor is vibrantly coloured and meticulously detailed. There are writing desks with books and papers and photographs to examine, as well as lush, ornate furniture and intricately patterned wall hangings, paintings, and bed and floor coverings. A lot of care has gone into making Blackmoor Manor a splendid place to visit. Even the few characters you meet seemed more individual and lifelike in this game and help to make it enjoyable.

In short I'm impressed. There's a feast of puzzles in Blackmoor Manor to get stuck into and while away a good few hours. And when I say stuck I mean it literally, because I was 'stuck' for a while on a couple of occasions. And in my books, that's a great recommendation!

Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor is another fine Nancy Drew game. The story is fun and woven together well and puzzle-wise it's the best ever, even with the mini games and timed components that might frustrate some players.

The news isn't quite so good for younger fans, especially, say, the 10 - 13 year olds. Kids at this end of the recommended age group will likely need substantial help and it's much more rewarding if young players can complete a game under their own steam. Perhaps this could have been remedied by simplifying some of the puzzles at Junior level or being able to bypass puzzles as suggested above. Of course, Her Interactive bite off a lot when they try and target such a broad age group, and erring toward the higher ages in one game out of 11 should not be too harshly thought of.

Curse of Blackmoor Manor could also be a little scary for some younger players, of course others relish having their socks scared off, so Nancy fans, young and old, shouldn't miss this one. It's a great game for teens and more mature players to join in and play along with younger fans. rating:  

Copyright © Clare Sheehan age 11 with Steve and Rosemary 2004. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, 400 MHz or greater Pentium II or equivalent, 64 MB RAM, 300 MB Hard Drive Space, 16 MB DirectX Compatible Video Card, 16 MB DirectX Compatible Sound Card, 12x CD ROM.