Top positive review
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The Lost Tomb is Worth Finding!
on May 8, 2012
I've been playing Nancy Drew games for years now. There were only 9 games out when I first started playing, and the very first one I played was "Stay Tuned for Danger". I've played every single one ever released (including both versions of "Secrets Can Kill"). At best, they've been very well-done and fully entertaining games (almost all of the first 13 games, Legend of the Crystal Skull, Warnings at Waverly Academy, Shadow at the Water's Edge, The Captive Curse) and at worst, they've been somewhat interesting ways to pass some spare time (Ransom of the Seven Ships). After playing the newest addition, "Tomb of the Lost Queen", I'd say it isn't necessarily the *strongest* addition to the ND lineup, but it's definitely a great one that's a good follow-up to some relatively strong releases.
To start things off, I'll mention that this game brings in a brand-new playing interface. I really didn't view it as necessary, because I thought the interface as far as gaming quality went was perfectly fine in games 16-25, but I can't really complain all that much about this game's new interface. I will say that I still prefer having the "book-style" menu (last seen in game 15, "The Creature of Kapu Cave") and letter openings (last seen in game 13, "Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon") over anything else that's been brought to the table, so I still won't feel *fully* satisfied unless they come back, but I really did think that this interface wasn't all that bad. One *good* thing about the interface is updated the task list - when a task is "checked off", it is brought to the bottom of the list, so that way only tasks that still have to be completed will be seen on the top. This made things much more convenient, as it's much easier to see what to do next when it's all on top instead of having to scroll through a long list about halfway through the game. Also, unless I overlooked it (which is possible), I didn't see any tutorial on how to play the game like games 3 - 25 have all had, which is the main reason why I personally think that this game is best taken on AFTER playing a few other Nancy Drew games. Players who already know the basic controls of how to play the Nancy Drew games (especially the interface that began with game 16, "The White Wolf of Icicle Creek") should have little to no trouble figuring out the new interface on their own, though.
The overall premise of this game was a bit confusing at first, as the new interface generally lacks any background information to be learned of before the game (be it from a letter, case file, or anything). All that's given is a short historical narration from Nancy before the action begins. However, it begins to make a little bit more sense as the game goes on. Basically, Nancy is sent off to Egypt to job-shadow a professor named Jon Boyle as he explores a tomb that could very well be the long-lost tomb of Queen Nefertari. However, during the first cutscene, Boyle experiences an accident during a sand storm. At first, it is believed that he is struck by lightening, but medical analysis shows that somebody actually stuck him in the head. As more accidents occur, it's now up to Nancy to find out who's behind all the attacks and inconveniences, and what his or her ultimate goal is. Still, does Nancy know that the ones who built the tomb to begin with are rumored to still be there, and willing to protect the queen at any cost?
Despite an initially confusing premise, the story does become very engrossing with time, and I was always interested to see what would happen next. This does present a very original plot that's never been seen in a Nancy Drew game before, and it's definitely for the better. The plot sort of reminded me of "Treasure in the Royal Tower" or "Secret of the Scarlet Hand" with the use of historical rulers and performing research on an ancient civilization (more so "Secret of the Scarlet Hand" with the latter), but if it were focusing on the history of Ancient Egypt instead of the Early Modern French or the Ancient Mayans. And in addition to all of that, I loved finally having another game in a brand new area that Nancy had never been before, too (most of her previous games have taken place somewhere in America or Europe, with the sole exceptions being "Ransom of the Seven Ships" in the Bahamas and "Shadow at the Water's Edge" in Japan).
One aspect of this game that I can fully praise is the graphics. I will say that the graphics seem to keep getting better and better with each game, and some of the graphics used in the setting were so realistic that they looked like actual photographs. Character animation is a slight step down from "Alibi in Ashes", as their movements weren't quite as "lifelike" in my humble opinion, but that's hardly anything worth complaining about. Everything else was top-notch and splendid.
At first, the tomb seems very crammed and like there isn't all that much to explore (all that can be seen outside of the tomb is the campsite, featuring two tents). However, as the game goes on, Nancy must solve puzzles to open up more secret rooms in the tomb. The area that can be explored seriously doesn't stop until the game ends (no exaggeration what so ever), and every area in the tomb is very realistically done. I enjoyed solving all of the puzzles, and solving them in a lost tomb gave the game somewhat of an Indiana Jones feel, in my opinion. I will admit that I was hoping to see a bit more of Egypt; taking a trip over to the cities (like Cairo) to do some research at some point in the game would've been cool, but there is still quite a lot to explore in the tomb itself, so I can't complain much about this.
The puzzles ranged from fairly easy to fairly challenging, but the "hint hotline" option always gave very helpful hints when stuck. I can honestly say this is one of the games in which the hints given were very helpful, instead of just pointless. And in addition to that, there is also one fun mini game that Nancy can play with one of the characters on the campsite, but it's only there for the sake of fun. It's never necessary to win the game.
Also, if anybody's worried about there being any "chores" in the game (as several of the more recent releases have been overrun with them), there is MUCH more sleuthing in the game than chore-doing. There is only one chore, and it does actually somewhat further the mystery. Sleuthing is also necessary in this game, as every suspect leaves his or her post at least once in the game, which gives Nancy opportunities to search through their possessions and find out secrets they could be hiding.
The characters in this game are all very interesting, but not quite as memorable as some games in the past. They aren't as well-developed, except for one particular character (I won't say which, because saying so would give a major spoiler), but they were still a fun bunch to interact with every now and again.
There are four suspects in this game: Abdullah Bakhoum, Lily Crewe, Jamila El-Dine, and Dylan Carter. Abdullah is an Egyptian native and the liaison of the dig-team, and is a well-known archeologist (though he's not without enemies, as he has a reputation for having a big head and a bad temper). Lily Crewe is a young PhD student who is quite paranoid about the curse. Jamila strongly believes that an alien race built the pyramids, and that they will be returning to lead humans in learning their ways. Dylan is a charming British tour guide who wants to make money by giving people tours of the tomb. All of them seemed to have some motive for being behind the crime, but I will admit that the weakest aspect of this game would probably be the ending. Throughout the game, I suspected all of these characters at some point, but the one I suspected the least turned out being the culprit. The game felt like it was full of red herrings with the *intention* of making the culprit hard to guess, rather than portraying it realistically like past games have. As such, the ending was hard to understand - I went through to play only the ending a second time after finishing the game to try to make a little more sense out of it. Regardless, the ending was full of exciting moments, and I was very impressed with how action-packed it was.
In addition to these four characters, there are a few phone friends that can be called. Jon Boyle is Nancy's employer who offers insight into the case, but we sadly don't get to learn much about him personally like Nancy's previous employers (we learned a lot about Ed and Bet from Shadow Ranch, Mrs. Petrov from Balckmoor Manor, and P.T. Krolmeister from Trail of the Twister). Bess is Nancy's only regular phone friend who can be called in this game, but the conversations that Nancy has with her are very well-scripted fully in character. I missed hearing from George, Ned, and the Hardy Boys, but having Professor Hotchkiss as a phone friend again certainly made up for it. If you've already played Treasure in the Royal Tower or Legend of the Crystal Skull, you'd immediately recognize her for the quirky genius she truly is, and continues to be in this game.
The soundtrack was very nice, and felt perfect for the location. I definitely enjoyed the Egyptian-themed music, and it was sometimes nice to just sit back and listen to. It got creepier at times, but it also had a good amount of "feel-good" Egyptian music, which overall added to the feel of an epic adventure.
So, while "Tomb of the Lost Queen" wouldn't be my recommendation as a first Nancy Drew game, it's still a grand effort in a very fun PC game series. It won't be replacing wonderful efforts like "Shadow at the Water's Edge" or "The Captive Curse" as the strongest games released in the most recent years (in my opinion anyway), but it's still a great game worth experiencing, and far from being the worst Nancy Drew game out there. The fact that it reminds me of some vintage ND games already makes it a winner in my book! :) So, despite a few rough edges, this game remains a winner for me. Way to go, Nancy! Thanks for taking us on this gem of an adventure.
P.S. And speaking of vintage Nancy Drew... I won't say much here, but in regards to the teaser trailer that can be watched after completion of the game, the next Nancy Drew game will feature plot devices that have hardly been used (or even mentioned) since the Nancy Drew series first started to begin with. I can tell that Her Interactive is really listening to us veteran players, and starting to give us what we want. Thank you!