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Review--Alibi in Ashes

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  • Review--Alibi in Ashes

    Case File: 10

    While following a lead for the River Heights Clues Challenge, Nancy is found at the scene when the Old Town Hall bursts into flames and is promptly arrested for arson. Now she'll need help from her closest friends to clear her name and nab the true culprit.

    This is a wonderful, unique premise and definitely something special for the 25th game. I'm sure many players were excited to have a game take place in River Heights and investigating arson provides the more mature plotline that several fans have been clamoring for.

    Solution: 7

    Don't worry...no spoilers here!

    I found the culprit reveal to be a little anticlimactic. ASH continues the tradition of the more recent games in having a longer, more in-depth game ending where the focus is apprehending the culprit. Is it more realistic? Absolutely. But I do miss the shocking left turn endings that some older games had.

    Overall Plotline: 9

    Boy does this game start with a bang! Beginning with Nancy in a burning building really kicks things off, giving players an incredible sense of danger and intrigue--just what we've been wanting! The past few games have truly shown HER stepping up their game.

    The overall plot is a simple whodunit with a lot of focus on characters and good old-fashioned police work. The bulk of the game involves collecting evidence for each suspect. Because you play as four characters--Nancy, Ned, Bess and George--you get to see suspects interact differently, which is interesting and adds a whole new factor to gameplay. For example, Dierdre has a crush on Ned, so you may get more information through him rather than through Bess and George. I also like the references all the characters make to past events in River Heights, such as Brenda impersonating Nancy. It gave the game a unique continuity by showing how these characters have been part of Nancy's life outside this plot.

    Overall, it's a good, albeit simple, story that really feels like a classic Nancy Drew book.

    Setting: 8

    There's lots to see and do in River Heights! Nancy's clue crew can explore the Drew home, the scene of the crime at the Old Town Hall, the local ice cream parlor "Scoop", the antique store, Brenda Carlton's news van, and the police station.

    There are also several locations all over town you can click on to hear a silly sound effect, like planes taking off at the airport or a kind word from George's parents at the Fayne home.

    Graphics: 7

    ASH debuts a new graphic style, not radically different from the 3D rendering HER is known for, but still noticeable. The set design is wonderful and the new style offers lots of crisp, clean lines and more textures. Some of the characters look more cartoon-like, such as George and Dierdre. But other characters are extremely realistic, such as Toni. The little bit of glare on her glasses is a fantastic touch. The animation of the fire was quite impressive too--smoke graphics can be very difficult to master. Ultimately, the graphics are quite good--I see no reason to complain about the change.

    Suspects: 8

    There are 4 suspects:

    Dierdre Shannon, Nancy's rival in more ways than one. Dierdre is another competitor in the Clues Challenge and practically the president of the "Nancy Drew Not-a-Fan Club". She also has a huge crush on Ned.

    Antonia Scallari, city councilwoman and owner of Scoop. Toni sure was quick to turn around on Nancy after her arrest. Could the councilwoman have a reason to want the young detective behind bars?

    Alexei Markovic, owner of the local antique shop. Alexei was once a beloved young detective, much like Nancy. These days, however, he's nothing more than a grumpy old man and if there's one thing misery loves, it's company.

    Brenda Carlton, Heights Nine News ace reporter. Brenda was immediately at the scene of the fire, just like she's first on the scene everywhere else. She's never one to let a potential story go, even if it means stretching the truth. But what reason could she have for spinning Nancy's story so hard?

    Overall, the suspects of ASH are an interesting bunch. Interacting with them as multiple characters is a lot of fun and helps you get to know each suspect in several ways. This offers a rounded, deep, but still realistic view of each character and their motivations.

    Phone Friends: 5

    In ASH, Nancy can call...

    ...her father Carson Drew for advice on the case.
    ...Dierdre's friends Holly and Jessica to check up on an alibi.
    ...Ned, Bess or George to hand off the case.

    I would have liked being able to switch players directly from Ned to Bess or Bess to George without using Nancy as the constant go-between, but I can understand why the game is structured this way. Nancy doesn't just need to stay in the loop--she is the loop. She's the big curvy part.

    Puzzles: 8

    This game focuses far more on a little elbow grease and real investigative work than it does on puzzles. What few true puzzles there are fit flawlessly into the plot. As Nancy's clue crew, you'll dust for fingerprints, pick locks, work an audio mixer and organize evidence on the police board. There are also a couple mini-games that you can play at any time to take a quick break. There is a timed game in which you try to find and press a series of numbers in order, and a word game like Lukas's encoded note from CAP.

    Length: 8

    This game is a little shorter than the past couple--it took me about 7 to 8 hours to finish on junior level with help from the hints and tips board 2 or 3 times. The game is very well paced, though, and therefore feels like an appropriate length.

    Overall Difficulty: 8

    This game was not impossibly difficult, but still certainly gave my brain a workout. Playing as multiple characters both required and allowed for greater organization. Because Nancy, Ned, Bess and George have to communicate so often, it's usually very clear what the next step is. The puzzles are also quite manageable. The only times I needed help were to find certain items or locations rather than solve a puzzle.

    Realism: 10

    This game is very realistic.

    From the nitty gritty crime of arson to the hard boiled police detective work Nancy uses to crack the case, this was a real world mystery the likes of which we haven't seen since the early days of HER. Throughout the entire game I felt like I was solving a real crime.

    Snooping: 10

    There are many definitions of snooping on this board. Hopefully I will be able to address everyone's areas of interest.

    Hidden Areas: Nancy finds one important hidden area.
    Snooping Through Suspects' Things: Players will snoop through all the suspects' personal effects, quite extensively. You may also have to get two characters to work together on a distraction so one of them can snoop.
    Snooping in Off-Limits Areas: Players snoop in quite a few off-limits areas. Work quickly so you don't get caught!
    Piecing Together Clues: There is a lot of piecing together clues in this game. Ned, Bess and George will drop off any physical evidence at the police station so Nancy can work on the suspect board.

    Music: 8

    The music of ASH is tranquil most of the time, but for the opening fire sequence it offers the perfect amount of urgency. Overall, the music is good and adds to the game's atmosphere.

    Miscellaneous Info:

    This game is solved in the course of one day.
    Navigation is by point-and-click map. There is still driving animation, but you no longer have to worry about controlling the car.
    This game includes brief scary moments.
    There are no supernatural references in this game.

    Ultimate Rating: 8.2

    Overall, this game was quite well done. Its greatest strength is its realism. If you want a game with a serious premise and lots of real investigation, then ASH was made for you.
    Edited to add: I've seen many reviews disappointed by the lack of extras in the game and it's true. If you're looking for lots of puzzles, hidden objects, alternate endings and the like, ASH doesn't have it. This game is about the core essence of a Nancy Drew story, sans the bells and whistles.
    Last edited by Tiny_Dancer; October 15, 2011, 09:35 AM.

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  • #2
    Well done.
    ~~ LadyLinda ~~ -----
    LINKS...ND20+ Easter Eggs & Glitchs...CAP Phone Charms...ND Game Extras...TMB Phone Charms

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    • #3
      What an impressive review! Loved reading it! Concise, interesting and informative. You gave no spoilers but covered all the areas we are interested in. Can't wait to play ASH! Thanks again for taking the time to write your review!

      Some of my favorites:

      Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake
      Danger on Deception Island
      Secret of Shadow Ranch
      Curse of Blackmoor Manor
      Treasure in the Royal Tower
      Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon
      The White Wolf of Icicle Creek
      Legend of the Crystal Skull
      The Phantom of Venice
      The Haunting of Castle Malloy
      Warnings at Waverly Acadamy
      Shadow at the Water's Edge
      The Captive Curse
      Ghost of Thornton Hall
      The Silent Spy

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