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Nancy Drew: Shadow at the Water's Edge - PC/Mac
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83 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2010
Nancy Drew 23: Shadow At The Water's Edge

-Before I Begin...
My review will be spilt up into sections and have a in-depth look at that topic. Then at the end of the review I round up the stars and give an overall rating.

The interface is very simple, intuitive, and has not been changed from the latest release. Nancy's cell phone is a key element in the game: you use it to call off-screen characters, receive text messages, call for clues, and send pictures. Having the cell phone is very fun and a great addition to the overall gameplay. You can make avatars for your characters and even add phone charms to the side. Other than the cell phone, nothing of the interface has been substantially changed. Take a look at your checklist and journal for help during the case.

The plot of this game is simply phenomenal and well thought out. Nancy Drew, is staying at the Ryokan Hiei, a traditional Japanese inn where a ghost is haunting guests and making things very difficult for the family running it. I won't go too much into the plot because you have to see it for yourself. There were lots of times during the game where I was wondering if the ghost was fake or actually real. There is plenty of evidence, but also some unexplainable events that can sway you to believing or not. I really liked how the plot developed and got even more dangerous as you continued on throughout the game. There were plenty of red herrings and twists that kept you on your toes, I was surprised when the game ended.

There are only four characters that you see face-to-face in this game but they are absolutely great and well-developed. I was happy to see that each character had its own quirks and different relationships in the family. The fact that the whole cast of characters was basically a family lead to some very interesting conversations. There was even a bit of romance between two characters, Miwako Shimizu and Rentaro Aihara, which was entertaining to analyze from both perspectives of the relationship. There are also the other characters of: older sister Yumi Shimizu, and grandma Takae Nagai. Yumi, the rebellious older sister to Miwako, runs her own bento stand in the bustling city of Matsue and wants nothing to do with the Ryokan Hiei that her family has owned for generations. Miwako is a stressed and overworked younger sister who fell in love with her childhood friend Rentaro. Rentaro is the unofficial handyman of the Ryokan and is very goofy and geeky. Finally the grandma Takae is very serious about Japenese tradition and loves the Ryokan with all her heart. As you play the game you will find that some characters have stronger motives than others, but all have secrets to hide.

-Setting & Graphics
The graphics are just outstanding this time around. Every scene is so beautifully detailed, I found myself walking very slowly through the environments just to take in all the eye candy. I really imagined myself in Japan from the bustling, bright cities, to the quaint and picturesque (oh and creepy) gardens of the Ryokan Hiei. Her Interactive really outdid themselves with the graphics in this game, even the characters have such a lifelike quality to them. There were so many environments to explore. The game includes the main location of the Ryokan (which is huge), and three city locations: the Technology Expo/Bento Stand, Yumi's apartment, and the Pachinko Parlor. I felt like there was plenty to see and do without having to get lost in all the different locations.

Gone are the chores that we saw in the last release Trail of the Twister, this game has all organic puzzles that make sense to the game and aren't just busy work assigned to do by others. There were a lot of puzzles that I found pretty challenging but fun at the same time. You also play some traditional Japenese brain games like sodoku and renograms, and nonograms. I would say that this game is somewhat puzzle heavy, but it doesn't take away from the mystery. The only thing I sort of didn't like was there was a bit of repetition of puzzles, like doing a nonogram & sodoku in the beginning and ending up having to do bigger, harder, versions later. But still, even the repetition made sense in the context of the game. Also if some of the puzzles are taxing on your brain you can go play some pachinko or make some Bento with Yumi for a phone charm. There was always something for the player to do if you just wanted to take a break from the mystery which I thought was great. Another thing I loved was the amount of snooping. You get to do PLENTY of snooping, mostly at the middle of the night. It was so much fun to explore every nook and cranny and get new evidence on your own when nobody is watching.

The ending was split into to two parts, similarly to Trail of the Twister. It was scary and heart pounding for sure. The "catching of the culprit" was logical yet pretty simple, and you get two options that affect the end scene, which was nice. I felt like the second part of the ending could have been just a bit more dramatic and a level scarier. But the conclusion/wrap-up of the mystery was all worth it, especially since everything was explained. A great way to end the game though, I felt happy and that I accomplished something.

-Scare Factor
So this game is probably the scariest Nancy Drew game to date. I don't want to spoil your scare but be prepared for spooky music, eerie locations, and hauntings from a very "Grudge" like ghost. There are multiple scary moments in this game that keep your heart racing, which I just loved. There are also a lot of bad Japenese omens that Nancy gets. I was definitely freaked out during the course of the game. I would definitely recommend playing this game in the dark, at night, or on Halloween for the ultimate scariness. Everything from the ghost to the actual story behind it brought shivers down my spine. Granted this is only an E-10+ game, so there is no blood, gore, or intense violence. So if you are worried about kids being scarred for life, it won't happen with this game. But I would definitely recommend this game to the recommended 10+ age range so they can actually understand what the back-story is, and not get extremely frightened by this game.

I can honestly say that this Nancy Drew game has to be the best one out there. Everything about it was exceptional. The characters, plot, setting, graphics were all very well-developed and intricate. I was impressed by all the different aspects and how it was all pulled together in one nicely organized mystery. Her Interactive really brought back all the elements of a great game that fans have been missing. If you are already a fan of these games, I recommend this game with no question that you will enjoy it (unless for some reason you hate Japan or are very easily scared). If you are mystery game fan, than this is a great game to get you started on the Nancy Drew game series. I just loved this game because: it was really long (12+ hours of gameplay), the setting was beautiful, the puzzles were challenging but fun, it was pretty scary, the characters' personalities were multi-dimensional, and the plot was involved yet focused. This game is literally my most favorite of the whole series, they put every different thing I liked about all of the Nancy Drew games and melded it together to make an all around great mystery. This is the first Nancy Drew game that I have given 5 stars in each category, and it rightfully deserves it. I am so excited for the next installment of the series: Nancy Drew 24: The Captive Curse, taking place in a castle in Germany!

Add all these up and divide by 7...
5 *'s (Interface)
5 *'s (Plot)
5 *'s (Characters)
5 *'s (Setting & Graphics)
5 *'s (Puzzles/Activites)
5 *'s (Scare Factor)
5 *'s (Ending)
= 35 Stars Divide By 7 (Categories) = 5 Stars

-Recommended Games
Secrets Can Kill REMASTERED (See my review of this game)
Warnings At Waverly Academy (See my review of this game)
The Phantom Of Venice (See my review of this game)
Danger On Deception Island

Thanks for reading my review!
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Shadow at the Water's Edge (SAW) is Nancy Drew's 23rd mystery with Her Interactive, and it's one of the most impressive in terms of story, puzzles, and spooky ambience. Nancy is taking a well-deserved vacation at the Ryokan Hiei, a traditional inn in Kyoto, Japan. From the moment Nancy arrives, there are spooky omens, and the Shimizu family isn't very talkative about the family tragedy that hangs over the ryokan. Part of Nancy's job is to teach English through the Japan Teacher Exchange program, so you'll have various homework assignments to grade in the evenings. Because you're teaching all day, the game takes place at night, adding to the creepy atmosphere.

Shadow at the Water's Edge is one of the scariest games next to Curse of Blackmoor Manor (note that the game is rated E (10+), so there's no gore or violence, but there are some heart-stopping moments). Various paranormal phenomena follow Nancy as she attempts to discover the secrets hiding inside the ryokan, and these were genuinely scary, since several were still unexplained after the finale. This is also one of the longest Nancy Drew games, with ample opportunity for sleuthing, snooping, and interviewing. You'll have the opportunity to hop on the subway as well as conduct phone interviews in your quest for the truth behind the hauntings.

The game designers did a good job on incorporating Japanese culture into the game. You'll find Harajuku-inspired fashion, traditional Japanese gardens, cute cell phone charms, and customizable cell phone avatars that you can assign to your cell contacts (design enough, and you can win an award at the end of the game). I loved the little authentic touches, like the very Japanese hot water heater perched over Yumi's apartment sink. Nancy also has a Japanese-English dictionary to help her translate written items. The in-game music ranges from soothing, traditional Japanese instrumentals to ominous taiko drumming and sudden, eerie starts and stops that will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

Gameplay is nonlinear. You can advance the game by setting your cell phone alarm; some actions can only be accomplished at certain times. There are numerous logic puzzles based on Japanese favorites like sudoku, renograms, and nonograms, along with several Japanese cultural lessons offered. If you're not a fan of sudoku and math puzzles, consider yourself warned, as you'll spend most of the game solving a variety of them. This is also one of the more difficult Nancy Drew games; I played the game on the Junior level, and ended up resorting to a walkthrough. Because of the two difficulty levels (Junior and Senior Detective), length of the game and the many opportunities for exploration (including at least three Easter eggs), the replay value is high.

The team at Her Interactive obviously listened to fan feedback; gone are the endless list of chores and filler puzzles (you have the option to complete additional puzzles, but aren't required to do so). Nancy actually gets to snoop night. There's a definite sense of danger; you can die, but there's a handy second chance feature. All of the suspects have something to hide; you'll find your opinion constantly changing based on what you unearth in your explorations. The finale (there are two possible endings based on how you react) was satisfying, as was the trailer for the next game in the series. This is the perfect game to play on Halloween and a fine return to form for Her Interactive.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2010
I've played more than a few of the previous 20+ games in the Drew series. At best, they've been thoroughly entertaining titles (Royal Tower, Crystal Skull, and Castle Malloy) and, at worst, slightly amusing diversions (Danger by Design). Sadly, Shadow at the Water's Edge is easily the worst Drew title since Danger by Design.

As usual, the graphics are quite nice for a budget title, though a bump from an 800*600 resolution would be greatly appreciated; I've seen ten-year-old monitors that can do better than that, so I really think it's time for Her Interactive to upgrade the engine to 1024*768. Kevin Manthei's score is good, but could have been implemented better if the creepier tunes had been reserved for more tense moments instead of constantly playing as background music.

The story has promise, but the execution leaves something to be desired. The game's driving mystery doesn't develop much until over halfway through the games. The characters are fairly entertaining and somewhat interesting. Sadly, your dialogue with them is oddly stilted, and even casual conversations take on the tone of a third-degree interrogation.

Speaking of dialogue, Water's Edge resurrects the long-dead mechanic of being careful in your interactions with the characters, which hasn't been seen since its rather unsatisfactory implementation in the first game. Some dialogue options will make the characters react to you more negatively. This sounds like a good idea on paper, but gradually you end up with a half-dozen insensitive dialogue options ("O hai! Want to talk about how your mom died?") that never disappear over the course of the game.

Disappointingly, the game continues the series' recent tradition of dropping the "adventure" part of an adventure game. You don't really get to explore the areas or pursue a goal; largely, you just wander around and search for seemingly unrelated tasks that will take you slightly farther towards the end of the game.

The puzzles in this entry are absolutely atrocious. I appreciate the idea of incorporating traditional Japanese puzzles such as sudoku into the game, but there were simply too many of the number puzzles, particularly a five-cube "master sudoku" puzzle which felt unnecessary and only served to draw me out of the story. One of the final puzzles is a massive 25*25 renogram; it easily ranks among the most tedious puzzles ever featured in the series. There's also a ridiculous timed puzzle towards the end of the game that's nearly impossible with a cheat-sheet and seems completely unfeasible without one.

Finally, as for the scare factor, if you've played a Jonathan Boakes or Silent Hill title, nothing here will affect you in the least. I won't knock the game for that, as it is marketed to young children instead of the adult audiences that those games target. The title carries an E10+ rating, unlike most of its predecessors, but I honestly can't say that it deserves it any more than Crystal Skull or Castle Malloy did.

I can't say that I completely hated this game, though some of the puzzles made me rage. It's not hard to recommend it over most adventure titles these days, but I'd advise waiting until the price drops before buying it.

Story: 3/5
-Atmosphere: 3/5
-Characters: 4/5
-Plot: 2/5

Presentation: 4/5
-Graphics (Artistic): 4/5
-Graphics (Technical): 3/5
-Music: 4/5
-Voice Acting: 4/5

Gameplay: 2/5
-Exploration: 2/5
-Puzzles: 2/5

Overall: 3/5
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2011
I have played all the Nancy Drew games and I personally have noticed that the last couple games before Shadow at the Water's Edge were really just lacking something that was present in the first 20 or so games.

Shadow at the Water's Edge is a different story though. In my opinion, Shadow at the Water's Edge showed that Herinteractive has been listening to their fans.
Shadow at the Water's Edge brought back more humor,scariness,character development, story development,snooping, history and puzzles.
The puzzles were pretty difficult but the sense of pride you got when finishing the puzzles was well worth the time you spent on the puzzles.
I really think that Shadow at the Water's Edge was a wonderful step in the right(and more mature) direction for Herinteractive and I highly recommend it to any Nancy Drew game lover.

This Nancy Drew game, in my opinion, has one of the best story lines and characters out of all the games.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2010
Shadow At The Water's Edge is well worth picking up if you're interested in Japan or number puzzles.

The motives of all of the suspects revolve around the management of a traditional Japanese hotel (ryokan). Each character has his or her own reasons to want to drive off business. Lessons by the eldest member of the family provide a look at traditional arts: writing, origami, and the tea ceremony. The younger generations display facets of present Japanese culture: robot pets, individual fashion design, and an obsession with cuteness.

Aside from that, this game has numerous optional puzzles in the form of nonograms, sudoku, renograms, and the bento box challenges. To move the plot along, you'll have to solve a couple of these types of puzzles, but the game has many more available, which seems like a great way to please fans who love puzzles without irritating fans who want the plot to move along.

And this is a great pre-Halloween release, as it really does have some scary moments with an appropriately scary soundtrack.

Despite the fact that the plot was good, it was also flawed in that a lot of it was triggered. I didn't need a walkthrough for the puzzles, I needed a walkthrough to tell me that things I couldn't do before were now available to me, or to go badger someone I thought I was done talking to because all of my questions had been answered and there was no reason to think there would be new information on the exact same subjects.

I was also a bit flummoxed near the end when Nancy went to speak to one of the suspects I had absolutely ruled out as being behind the haunting, and point blank accused that suspect during a dialog I did not control. (And no this wasn't a final confrontation, nor was it the actual culprit, it just appeared to be Nancy acting in a weirdly inappropriate way that I wouldn't have wanted her to if I had had any choice in the matter.) I would really like some way of eliminating suspects through gameplay and evidence gathering, as that hasn't happened in the most recent two games.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2010
Hello. I am writing this review as a teenager who plays ALL the Nancy Drew games by HeR Interactive. This game was a TREMENDOUS play and, after buying it, I have played it again. The characters are somewhat relatable (even though I'm not Japanese :) ) and the puzzles were challenging. I do want to state that there has been some concern about Nancy stealing/gambling and also Bess and George "flirting" in order to get clues. I will state my arguments to these claims below:

Stealing: In the game, Nancy gets a pachinko card. She FINDS this card, and, since it is PREPAID, she is not stealing. Also, playing pachinko is NOT gambling. You play the game by sticking your card in, playing, getting a certain amount of balls, and TRADING for prizes!!

Flirting: While Bess and George DO talk to guys, they DO NOT FLIRT. It is the GUYS they talk to that do the flirting!

Anyway, this game is the best yet, and I can't wait for the next one. The graphics are great, the scares are fun, and the mystery is intriguing. I rated this game a 5/5.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2010
I have played all of the Nancy Drew games but this one is by far the best. I do not like Japan and was not looking forward to this game, however I loveed it. This is not the scareiest Nancy drew game but it is definitely very creepy. The characters were all so interesting and likeable, the settings were immersive and the story was superb. The puzzles were challenging but not impossible and they were not just mindless chores, they actually were woven into the story. This game has restored my faith in the Her Interactive company, I've been dissappointed with most of the games they've relesased in the past three years, but Shadow at Water's edge is a return to the classic Nancy Drew that made me fall in love with the franchise in the first place. Excellent game.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Long-time Nancy Drew player here. As other reviewers have said, this Nancy Drew game is exceptional. By far the best in many years, if not one of the best overall! It combines elements of Japanese horror stories along with fun character, engaging scenary, and a compelling mystery. Even the puzzles were a lot of fun, with the exception of the Nonograms. I could not get into those, and had to use a walk-through at the end to solve the last one. (I was playing on Senior Detective mode, though!)

I'm a huge fan of Japanese language and culture, so this game just made me smile everytime I played it. I loved the attention to detail at the inn, and Yumi's bento stand was one of my favorites. I don't think I've ever played a mini-game in a Nancy Drew game so much (and willingly!) as the bento game. There's a lot of number-related puzzles in the game, like Sukoku and the like, so be prepared for that. The only puzzle in the game other than the Nonograms that I did not enjoy was the Origami game. I liked the train station as a means of getting around, and was extremely grateful that it "remembered" your route the next time so you didn't have to work your way through all the transfers over and over again.

The mystery is very interesting, and the inn is fun to explore. However, there are some parts where scary things happen (ala famous Japanese horror films like The Ring, and The Grudge), like getting static-filled phone calls when you're alone at night, strange girls walking by your window, and watching creepy videos. There's one puzzle that's made 100x more scary by the noises going on around you while you're trying to solve it. (I almost wanted to turn my sound off!)

All-in-all, this game was so much fun to play. It reminded me a lot of Blackmoor Manor in terms of creepiness, and also had a good story and lots of explorable areas. The only downside to the game is that I wish you had been able to see Bess and George. They are at a convention the entire game, and you can actually go to the convention area, but you're not allowed in. It would have been nice to have them just sitting at a table or something outside, so you could speak in person rather than over the phone. That would have cut out a lot of the having to leave something at the front desk for them to pick up, which is where I felt like my game got temporarily hung up sometimes. (You can set the alarm clock to proceed to the next day, which usually sped things along.) And it just felt weird that you didn't have time to see your friends, but you could go hang out at Yumi's bento stand all night long!

A++ game. Here's hoping the next one (which also reminds me a bit of Blackmoor from the preview!) is just as good!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2010
After playing some of the more recent Nancy Drew games I felt like HER Interactive was losing its touch on the games(with the pointless chores and tasks). All I can say for this game was "WOW!". It was a fanstastic game and is now apart of my top 3 ND games. As always the graphics were beautiful and the interaction with the characters is quite nice. The plot of the story was absolutely brillant and so interesting. HER Interactive as always made creative and unusual puzzles. All the puzzles were head scratchers but I was never stumped to a point I had to look at a walkthrough. One of my favorite puzzles in the games was Yumi's Bento puzzle it was tough at first but once I got the hang of it I could not stop!

I'm not going to lie to you Shadow at the Water's Edge was scary. I don't mean like in other ND games where the suspense is scary but nothing scary really happens. In this game there were some legit scary moments with the ghost of the Ryokan but very few moments like that. The rest of the scariness is in the suspense of the game and a number of things contribute to the creepiness such as the history of the Ryokan and the music. The music was wonderful and orginal as always but some of the music was seriously creepy but I guess it goes with the whole theme of the game.

I loved the game! I recommend it to all Nancy Drew fans. One of my favorites!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2010
Did good old P.G. Krolmeister know that he was sending Nancy to a haunted family inn when he sponsored her trip to Kyoto? Who knows, but as usual our favorite sleuth just can't have a normal vacation. From the moment she arrives, eerie events and what seems to be a family conspiracy to hide the circumstances surrounding the death of the former innkeeper dog her efforts to just play pachinko and relax. The more Nancy learns, the more it seems like maybe, just maybe, she's about to enter mid-2000s horror movie territory.

Gameplay is smooth and fun, with a lot more autonomy than you've had of late. Many of the puzzles are optional, so if you enjoy a particular task, you can choose to complete a series of increasingly difficult trials--or not, if you'd rather move along with the story. And you might, because this really is a good story filled with interesting, if somewhat stereotypical, characters and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. I haven't cared too much about the solution to the mystery for some of the previous games, but I really wanted to know how this one was going to end. Like, stayed-up-until-4 a.m.-to-find-out-how-it-was-going-to-end wanted to know.

Which--maybe a bad idea, because there are some genuinely spooky images and moments throughout the game. Expect to jump in your chair at least once. Parts of the adventure might be a little too PG-13 for the younger player set. There's nothing graphic, but this is probably not the best choice for the nightmare-prone.

For the rest of us, though, it's a great choice. After a number of lukewarm installments, it's a real pleasure to experience Nancy's darkly thrilling Japanese adventure. If you're a longtime player, this is the ND you remember from past favorites--and if you're new to Nancy, this is a great place to start.
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