Her Interactive has found a lucrative niche in its clever Nancy Drew adventure series, now in its 19th release, and the latest, Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy, lives up to the series’ reputation of delivering a fun and atmospheric tale.
Available as a 900MB download (ouch!) or in a two CD-ROM set in stores, Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy follows everyone’s favorite teenage sleuth as she travels to Ireland to attend her friend Kyler Mallory’s wedding.
When she arrives, however, a ghostly apparition appears on the road, causing Nancy to drive her rental car into the ditch. She walks the rest of the way to the castle and as we soon find out, her troubles are only just beginning as Kyler’s fiancée has gone missing. Did the groom simply get cold feet or is his mysterious disappearance related to a white-haired banshee rumored to be haunting the castle? Nancy is on the case to find out one way or another.
Gamers first select whether they want to play as a junior or senior detective, the former giving you many hints along the way to solving this mystery. As with past Nancy Drew games, players will walk around the environments, collect items for her inventory, solve environmental puzzles (such as how to figuring out how to access a locked room), talk with characters (by selecting questions or responses from a dialogue tree) and reading information (such as in books about leprechauns or letters that reveal details about family history) to help her inch towards her goal.
Without giving too much away, many Myst-like puzzles can be found, such as ones that require placing stones in a correct order (based on Celtic seasons), returning gears to its rightful place and matching dolls to a particular pattern.
Players will also discover mini-games are playable in Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy, such as various wedding-themed exercises or a “spot the differences” puzzle in a nearby pub, where you must click on 12 inconsistencies between two near-identical drawings. But you don’t have a lot of time to complete the task, and if you fail, you can start over providing you have another coin to play; the picture will be different this time around.
The mouse-based interface works for the most part, and the tutorial at the beginning of the game is helpful, but if you want to exit out of a close-up scene, you must find a small spot near the bottom of the screen that turns your cursor into the right shape, confirming you can leave if you click it. Why do the developers have to make the spot so small? Why can’t you move your cursor to any side of the screen?
Also, while the graphics are fairly impressive, especially the detailed characters you meet and atmospheric locations, when the camera goes to a top-down view (such as at the beginning of the game) it looks downright cheesy. Nickpicking? Perhaps, but anytime you’re taken out of an immersive adventure isn’t a good thing. Finally, at only a few hours of play, it’s also on the short side with little replayability (besides the mini-games, that is).
Issues aside, fans of Nancy Drew games will no doubt find this latest one on par with the rest, if not a little bit better. The Irish folklore theme is a great one for a mystery like this, and adventure gamers will also enjoy the character interaction, puzzle solving and memorable locations.