Nancy Drew: The Haunted Carousel is the eighth game in the long-running Nancy Drew series by Her Interactive, and the latest one to be offered as a download through casual game portals. This first person mystery adventure game brings back the popular teenage sleuth as she attempts to unravel the odd happenings in an eerie amusement park. Her friends, the Hardy Boys, make an appearance in the game also.
This time around, Nancy heads to the Jersey Shore to investigate a rash of unusual events at the Captain’s Cove Amusement Park. The problems began when the lead horse was stolen from the park’s carousel ride, and not long after, the carousel began turning itself on. A bizarre accident on the roller coaster that resulted in a serious accident forced the park to close. It’s up to you to work with the park’s owner, employees and local police to find out what’s going on.
A hotel room nearby the park has been arranged for you. Inside your room, your laptop and other objects can help you work through the puzzles that you will encounter at the park. You can even order room service if you need a snack. (I recommend the Fundae Sundae!)
As you move throughout the amusement park, you will encounter a series of characters, mainly park employees that are working through the shutdown. Some will be helpful while others may not appreciate your presence on the scene. You’ll have to try to win them over and get various pieces of information from each park employee by finding out who is on your side and who has something to hide.
While discovering clues to put all of the puzzling pieces into place, you can also ride the carousel and grasp the prized bronze ring and play mini-games at the park’s arcade to win tokens for prizes. There is a lot to do, but the main goal is to find out who, or what, is behind the streak of bad luck plaguing the park.
The Haunted Carousel is a point-and-click adventure game with a relatively simple user interface. The game’s tutorial is helpful and will ensure that players unfamiliar with this series will be able to navigate the game with ease. There are also two different modes of play available for different skill levels. The Junior Detective level gives you a bit more in-game help and is a good choice for anyone new to the Nancy Drew games.
While in the game, there are two main sources of help available to you. In your hotel room, you’ll be able to access your laptop, which will occasionally have some very important emails that need to be read as well as a "To Do" list that will keep you on track. In your inventory you’ll find a cell phone that can be used to call friends (such as the Hardy Boys) and acquaintances that can offer some much needed advice.
The puzzles within the game are unique to the series and fit the storyline very well. You’ll have to fix a circuit board to access the keycard system for one ride, find a VHS surveillance tape and view it after breaking into the guard’s locker and even figure out the secret message embedded in a plain sheet of paper. The variety of the puzzles kept the game highly interesting from start to finish. A sub-plot in the game requires you to aide one of the park’s employees unravel the secrets of her past with the help of a memory machine robot and some very challenging riddles.
Overall, The Haunted Carousel is not as difficult as some other mystery adventure games, but the in-depth gameplay is fun, challenging and highly entertaining nonetheless. The graphics are quite good and the maps are easy to navigate. Ambient background music completes the scenes nicely. The game feels like an old episode of Scooby Doo, without the annoying "Zoinks!" and Scooby-snacks. Nancy Drew: The Haunted Carousel is sure to please fans of the series as well as those players new to the Nancy Drew sagas.