Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion - PC
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In this interactive mystery game, girls play as teenage supersleuth Nancy Drew, called upon to help a friend renovate a beautiful Victorian mansion. But there's trouble afoot ... from collapsing scaffolds to leaking gas, suspect fires to ghostly threats, Nancy is about to stumble onto a secret that someone--living or dead--would rather keep unknown. Follow your hunches as you explore a fully interactive three-dimensional mansion filled with peepholes, trapdoors, and hidden passageways. Interview fellow guests, poke around dusty nooks, and uncover cryptic messages. Clues, dead-ends, and trickery abound. Created especially for girls ages 10 and up, Nancy Drew features two "spy IQ" levels of difficulty, more than 20 hours of gameplay, helpful hints if you need them, 3-D graphics, and much more.
Will Nancy uncover what's behind the series of accidents at the creepy Victorian mansion her friends are restoring into a bed and breakfast? Why is the clock in Nancy's room set at 8:30 a.m. and the alarm set for 9 a.m.? What does the arcane inscription, "When the 10 daughters are reunited in order . . .," on the tapestry mean? Will Abby's séance reveal the secrets of the haunted mansion? And why are the "spirits" in the house interested especially in Nancy? These and other mysteries begin to unfold with the opening scene in the third of these remarkable Nancy Drew interactive role-playing games that put players right in the middle of trying to solve another classic Nancy Drew case. Fans of Nancy Drew books step into their young heroine's shoes as she investigates the mansion's various rooms in search of clues. Especially compelling software for pre-teen and early teenage girls, this 3-D cyber-mystery is totally from the first-person detective perspective-doing everything from unlocking creaky doors, jimmying secret bed-post knobs, questioning suspects and witnesses, calling cohorts on the phone, and collecting evidence to build a case. But not without some help: The short interactive tutorial will get newcomers started right, the magnifying-glass cursor turns red when passing across a clue or a direction worth taking, and the ever-present help icon saves the day if players get stuck. Graphics and animation is dramatic and realistic. The voices, spooky background organ music and special effects are crisp and fun. But the evolving storyline is the star of the software--except for Nancy, that is. A 2000 Parents' Choice® Gold Award.
Reviewed by Don Oldenburg, Parents' Choice® 2000 -- From Parents' Choice®
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PLOT - 4/5: Nancy is off to San Francisco to help a friend of Hannah's renovate a Victorian mansion. This friend, Rose Green, spent her life savings on the historic home and plans to turn it into a Bed & Breakfast. But strange accidents have been setting back the renovations and if things keep going badly Rose will have to sell the house and lose her investment.
I thought this was an alright plot, it was very short though. On the back of the CD case it said "20+ hours of gameplay", but I finished mine in about 4 hours. Other than that, there were lots of snooping opportunities - in fact, Nancy gets to snoop through all four of the suspects' things. The plot flowed nicely and there was enough progression in the story that I never felt stuck in the same place for too long. But it wasn't as educational as other games have been. I love San Francisco and it would have been great if they had included more information about its Victorian houses, its role in the Gold Rush, how it recovered from the earthquake of 1906, or how its Chinese history influences its style and culture - really, any of those things would have been great because it gave you little tid-bits about each of them but not nearly enough information to be considered "educational". Which is a shame really because the plot and setting gave the game the perfect set up; it could have seamlessly put in so much information without having the player feel like "Oh great, here comes another history lesson."
CHARACTERS - 3.5/5: The suspect list in this game is pretty straightforward. There are two male suspects and two female suspects (a formula which I believe is pretty common to the earlier ND titles). The suspects include Rose Green, the owner of the mansion, a quiet woman who didn't have too much to say throughout the game. Abby Sideris, a friend of Rose's and is also co-owner of the mansion, who believes the mansion is haunted. Charlie Murphy, a college student and inexperienced handyman helping with renovating the mansion (Charlie was voiced by Scott Carty, who does Ned's voice in the later games). Louis Chandler is an antique dealer specializing in Victorian era furniture and decorations.
The graphics were... interesting - but I wasn't expecting a whole lot considering it's an older game. Louis was probably the strangest to talk to because it would seem that sometimes his eyes would be closed for an entire conversation, which may or may not have been a glitch in my game. The characters were not too memorable. Rose and Louis were particularly boring. I don't know if the voice acting on these characters was just bland or if their characters were meant to be more reserved.
Phone friends included Bess and George, a woman named Emily who is apparently a friend of Nancy's in San Francisco, and Hannah. In the books Hannah is the Drew's live-in house keeper who is practically a surrogate mother to Nancy, and the games also allude to the fact that Hannah is an important part of the Drew family. This was the first time I've been able to talk to Hannah in a Nancy Drew game. But Hannah's voice was really odd, like a young person that was obviously trying to sound like an old woman, so I didn't call her very much.
SETTING - 4.5/5: The mansion was very lovely and nicely decorated. It was pretty big too; Nancy can explore her room, the dining room, the basement saloon, the foyer, the parlor, and the library as well as a handful of secret rooms. I sort of wished you could go outside, or look out a window or something, but I guess the weather was supposed to be bad and that was the reason for staying indoors.
PUZZLES - 4.5/5: The puzzles were not too challenging in this game. I suppose that if you struggled with them then you might spend 20+ hours playing the game like the CD case promised. But I have played enough Nancy Drew games to recognize a clue when I see one and got through the puzzles pretty easily. My only complaint would be that at times the instructions were kind of vague, for instance at one point a character asked Nancy to take a look at a puzzle "in the corner". I spent over a half an hour looking for that corner before eventually looking it up online and discovering that the puzzle was directly behind the character.
IS IT CHALLENGING? No. I'm starting to wonder if maybe I'm getting better at these games or if I just happen to be playing the easiest titles in the series. Either way, I didn't have to use a walkthrough. I did call Bess and George a lot, though. And they were very explicit with their hints. It wasn't like "Maybe you should take a look at the library again!" it was more "Go into the library, turn left, and read the red book on the middle shelf." Which was sort of a bummer; I just wanted a push in the right direction, I didn't want to know exactly how to solve the next puzzle and what would happen when I did. I would give the game a 2.5/5 for challenge.
ENDING - 3.5/5: The ending was okay. The culprit was not surprising to me. Catching them took me a few tries even though I knew exactly what to do. But it was still a solid ending and the wrap up in the epilogue at the end was nice.
= 22.5 divided by 6 = 3.75 rounded to 4 stars
The player wanders around a richly done up Victorian mansion. Oil paintings and fine tapestries adorn the walls. There are plenty of secret passages and other neat "finds" along the way. Stuck? Just go down to the parlor, pick up the Victorian reproduction phone and dial Bess and George, your trusty friends. You can also dial home to talk to Hannah, your housekeeper, or call in a favor with a local journalist. I am certainly not in the age range of this game's target audience, and I still needed to refer to the parlor phone to get through a few binds.
The background music is suspenseful and appropriately creepy. The sound effects will raise goosebumps. This game was a 6 hour immersion for me, and I was thrilled with it.
The only problem? It was 6 hours. Now? The game is over and I know all the puzzles, I know where to find what I need to get through the game again. This game will be great to watch others play, but I don't know that I will get the same joy again. I just wish that there was some other "after you win" features. Maybe a chance to explore the mansion further? How about getting to decorate my own Bed and Breakfast? I guess its too much to ask. Regardless of its short gameplay, this software is phenomenal! I only wish this sort of treat was available ten years ago, when software for girls was almost unheard of!
In "Message in a Haunted Mansion", Nancy is hired to help renovate an old victorian house, as the owners are hoping to turn it into a bed & breakfast.
Upon her arrival, Nancy finds out that a lot of strange things & accidents have been occuring at the home - ever since they began the renovations... Is a ghost behind it all - as one of the owners believes, or is one of the hired help or even one of the owners to blame for all that's going on? And if it's one of "the living", what reason do they have to cause all of this havoc? Your job as Nancy Drew, teen detective will be to answer these questions, and get to the bottom of it.
Overall, I would highly recommend this game for anyone who enjoyed (or is enjoying) the Nancy Drew series. I am 36 years old, and still love playing these games - a testament to the fact that they are appropriate for pre-teen, teen & adults alike!
Top international reviews
The game freezes on XP and requires messing about with version 4 of direct X and chaging your graphics colours from 32bit to 16. (Even then it will still freeze on you!)