It's review time!
Plot: Nancy Drew is called in by Savannah Woodham to investigate a kidnapping...or haunting. Or both. Jessalyn Thornton has disappeared during a "bachelorette" party that consisted of one friend and one scavenger hunt. The ultimate goal of the game is to find Jessalyn, but there are several other Thornton family secrets to discover, including the deaths of fifty-four people during a factory fire on the island.
Wade: Nancy soon discovers that Savannah's avoidance of Thornton Hall may be related to more things than just Charlotte's ghost. Wade is filled with information about the graveyard, and it's quite interesting to listen to each family member's short biography. His location is solidly in the graveyard, listening to his audio recordings of "ghosts," which you can listen to as many times as you'd like. He claims that the family has been split in two by the deaths of the workers over a hundred years ago, and he's still determining which half of the family he fits in with. It is clear, though, that he is avoiding the house. But why?
I thought his animation was really well done and that he had plenty of different expressions and gestures. His voice seemed to fit his appearance quite well, and I really enjoyed Nancy and Wade's conversations.
Colton: Jessalyn and Colton are engaged, but are all things going as smoothly as they'd like everyone to believe? His place in the game is on the front porch, though he disappears quite often. This was quite frustrating for me personally because I'd need to talk to him and he wouldn't be there. Nancy discovers early on that Colton has a paranoid nature and some "family issues" that had to be ironed out before his engagement.
When Charlotte died, Colton was just a child, but he was at that party. Does he know something others don't? What would he be willing to do to keep a secret?
Personally, I didn't enjoy talking to Colton. His voice didn't mesh well with the character for me, and I often noted that his lips didn't move in time with his words. His appearance, too, just seemed off, though I can't say for sure what it was. We also didn't get as much interaction with him as we did the other characters, which seemed to me like a missed opportunity.
Clara: This character is situated in the parlor area of the house. Clara became the matriarch of the family after Charlotte died, and she is the one who runs the family business. While her workers are out searching the woods for Jessalyn, Clara is calmly waiting in her shattered house. Tensions between Clara and other characters--especially the slightly "off" Harper--are at a high. Her voice and her dialogue are straight to the point, which I thought fit her character nicely. Her appearance, too, was very well done. Clara is obviously not as close to her daughter as most would think, but would she arrange for her to disappear? And does her disappearance have anything to do with Charlotte?
Harper: Nancy has never met a character quite like Harper before, though perhaps the greatest match is between Harper and Professor Hotchkiss. She's incredibly entertaining, though in a dark, morbid kind of way. She gets a kick out of making Clara and the others squirm, but would she harm Jessalyn for some kind of sick joke?
Harper was truly, I think, the star of the game. There are various scenes--not necessarily just Nancy/Harper conversations--that had a dark hilarity to them due to Harper's, well, insane personality. The mystery with her is determining whether Harper is really as crazy as she appears--and, either way, if she'd be willing to harm anyone who stands in her way.
During my game, I found myself wanting to protect Harper. We are given options of whether to rat Harper out or not, and I always found myself leaving her be. I might go back and see what her various reactions would be, but Harper definitely had my heart during the game.
Ghost: There are various scenes--sometimes at rather unexpected times--with the ghost. However, I was expecting these scenes to be much more thrilling than they were. Instead of being scared (though there was one instance where I ran into the ghost, then turned around and ran into her again when I wasn't expecting another quick haunting), I found those scenes quite beautiful and serene. With a couple of exceptions, I believe that the ghost scenes are "random," and it was always interesting to see Charlotte.
Nancy also receives notes from "The Ghost" and is asked to solve various riddles, but the way that the game portrayed Charlotte is interesting. At the end, I'm still not sure how to take it.
Jessalyn: Nancy isn't given a lot of information about Jessalyn, though the family does make it clear that she's following in [pre-ghost] Charlotte's kind footsteps. Has she been kidnapped? If so, has she been kidnapped by Charlotte or someone more human? Or has she just developed a case of cold feet?
Overall, I would say that the characters were very well developed. We learn secrets about all of them, though some secrets are easier learned than others.
An interesting part of the conversations was the fact that you could make the characters angry--and, here's the thing, they actually wouldn't talk to you for a while afterward. If you say the wrong thing, you have to wait for them to cool off.
I found that the dialogue was pretty witty, and I also found a lot of symbolism in some of the conversations (mostly with Wade) that I found to be quite striking.
Setting: Apparently Nancy's visiting Georgia, though it's never explicitly stated in the actual game. Nancy's on some sort of island that the Thornton estate lies upon. At times, I was disappointed with the amount of land I was able to see. I was expecting there to be more.
The majority of the places you're able to visit are shown on the product page. There were a couple of surprise locations, and two of those were simply stunning. The designers did a fantastic job with those secret locations.
Overall, I enjoyed the house and the grounds (the grounds are actually just the area in front of the house and a small cemetery), but I was hoping for more locations. The locations were beautifully designed, but I was hoping for more, like what we received in CAP.
There are a few secret passages, but I didn't feel they were utilized as well as they could be either. I would have wanted more than one reason to visit each one, but they appeared to only have one sole purpose throughout the game.
Also, though this game takes place in more than one day, it always occurs during the night. There are no day scenes and you do not get to decide when the days change.
Bonus Features: I'm not sure what they were exactly because the bonus features are not the reason why I preorder the games. However, there appeared to be a variety of phone games (though I personally played none). The outtakes were, I thought, rather disappointing. I'm not sure I really got the point of them, and none of them were all that funny.
Phone Friends: You can call Addison, Savannah, and Bess/Ned. Addison is interestingly timid, and you call her a couple of times throughout the game. With Savannah, I like that she knew the family personally. We could get some information out of her about their relationships that I thought was interesting.
Bess and Ned were hanging out at the Nickerson house because George is off in NYC, Joe is taking an interest in hiking (which is "just walking," says Bess), and Frank is being sullen and talking about needing to grow up. Being an avid Ned fan, I didn't think the conversations included him enough (though his reaction to Nancy rating Colton's attractiveness in "Ned-units" was cute) because they focused on Bess.
However, Bess was highly entertaining as always. I really think they do a fantastic job with her dialogue.
Snooping: I was really disappointed in this aspect of the game. While there were secret passages in the game, most of the time they were utilized for discovering Jessalyn--not for snooping on other characters. Like I said before, I just didn't feel like there was a point to the tunnels. They were more just inserted because we say we like them. From what I remember, there's only one instance of "snooping" through another person's items, which makes sense as none of them actually live at Thornton Hall.
Puzzles: The hint system is still included on the check list, and Bess/Ned do not help you or give you hints in this game. I used it a couple of times--and used the strategy guide a few times--not because the puzzles were hard but because I didn't know what I needed to do. At one point, I needed to find a few keys, but I couldn't find anything that would help me figure it out. I roamed around for a while simply because I didn't know what I was missing. I liked this because it reminded me of older games, but it was also frustrating because I'm not used to that anymore.
The actual puzzles themselves were quite easy. I never needed a spoiler on an actual puzzle. There's on in particular that took me a while to get, near the end. There is also a "sliding" puzzle, which took me a while to understand.
Ending: HeR is continuing on the path of the ending not being when you suddenly discover "who did it." Instead, Nancy finds out and then has to act afterward in a couple of different scenes. I'm planning on going back and replaying the end because it offers you a couple of different endings. You essentially decide how the game will end, which I enjoyed a lot. However, I didn't feel immediate "danger" at the end. There wasn't really a rush for time. I felt like I was going super slowly, and I never needed a second chance.
What I Didn't Like:
--The length. I was expecting a game that took all night to finish. Instead, I finished it within six hours of starting.
--That the secret passages weren't fully utilized.
--That not everything was explained at the ending.
--That Ned didn't have a main role in the phone conversations.
--That the secrets should have been harder to find, instead of the characters readily telling you them.
--The lack of real snooping.
--That the puzzles weren't difficult.
--The ending in general I wasn't content with. I wish it would have gone somewhere else, but it didn't.
Overall, I give the game a 9/10. The scenes were beautiful, most of the characters were interesting to talk to and well developed, and I liked the overall plot. However, it was not as scary as it was made out to be--if you're looking for a scary game, this is not it. This is beautifully rendered game, but not a scary one.