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Throwback Review Series: CUR {a fresh new play-through and in-depth review}

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  • Throwback Review Series: CUR {a fresh new play-through and in-depth review}

    CURSE OF BLACKMOOR MANOR (CUR)
    Release Date: September 28, 2004
    Difficulty: Senior Detective


    FINAL SCORE: Strong (8/10)

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    Rating Scale:
    1. Dreadful | 2. Poor | 3. Mediocre | 4. Not Bad | 5. Acceptable
    6. Good | 7. Exceeds Expectations | 8. Strong | 9. Superior | 10. Outstanding

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    MY PERSPECTIVE:
    Hi there! I am a veteran Nancy Drew player, and have been playing these games since I was very young. Message in a Haunted Mansion was the first game I played at eight years old. I am now 29 and have played every game in the series (aside from MID) at least once. However, it's been years since I've played my last ND game and many, MANY years since I have played many of the games. I've had a bout of Nostalgia and have decided to replay the entire series, starting from the beginning. I've decided to write a review for each game as I go. I will be playing on Senior Detective and using as few hints/online help as possible.

    Please keep in mind that everything written below is only my personal OPINION. If you don’t agree with something I have to say about a game, please don’t feel upset or offended. We all enjoy different aspects of these games and it’s wonderful that we can all have differing opinions about what makes a game great. I hope you enjoy!!


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    PLOT: Outstanding (10/10)
    Hello, “Jolly Old England!” That’s right, for the first time ever we get to follow Nancy abroad!! At the bequest a neighbor worried terribly for her daughter’s wellbeing, Nancy takes off for Blackmoor Manor, a peculiar estate in the heart of England. Since wedding her new husband, Hugh (a diplomat who travels often), and moving across the world to live at Blackmoor, Linda Penvellyn has hermitted to a dark bedroom where she hides shrouded behind a curtain and refuses to let anyone lay eyes on her. Furthermore, the usually upbeat and levelheaded woman has become prone to both sullen silence and outbursts of anger. While some believe Linda is just an unhappy new bride struggling to adjust to the change of scenery, the woman’s mother believes that something in Blackmoor Manor itself must have gotten to Linda - possibly something sinister. And while Nancy isn’t one to believe in the paranormal, the Manor does indeed have quite the history, ripe with a secretive, peculiar family, witches burned at the stake, and of course the legendary Beast of Blackmoor, who is said to still haunt the moors at night. Nevermind that this sounds more like a job for a psychiatrist or a Witcher than a teenage girl - Nancy would never turn down the opportunity to take on a case like this! So off we trot to the moors of Blackmoor, where we delve not only into the origin of Linda’s condition, but into the very history of the manor itself.

    Let’s just get it over with, because there’s really no other way to put it. This plot is, plain and simple, OUTSTANDING! And if you have read my previous reviews, you will know that I am quite conservative with my rating system, so I promise you that this one does not disappoint. What we have here is a plot so beautifully and masterfully woven that I almost feel I can’t say much about any of it without giving away too much, as its something that should really be experienced as organically as possible. But since this is a review and I have to say something, here’s what’s important: The story is captivating, the manor is terrifying, the Penvellyn family history is top notch and you will love learning about it, and there are so few plot holes that I can’t think of a single one off the top of my head.

    The chilling, suspenseful tone of this game is made clear before Nancy even reaches the front door of the manor, and the way the game begins really does the rest of the game justice. Unlike other entries that appear at first to promise a spooky experience but then don’t ever deliver (looking at you, DOG and CAR), Blackmoor lives up to its promise time and time again. Yet, even the scary moments aren’t just there for show. They play into the grander plot intricately by providing the player with more and more substance to this already full story.

    The single most endearing aspect of this plot is the way it’s there the whole time, from the very beginning, staring you in the face. You just don’t know enough yet to see it all for what it is. At first, things may seem disjointed - the cast, the puzzles, and especially the bits and pieces of the manor itself. But as you traverse this story, Nancy is pulled deeper and deeper into the history of Blackmoor and the Penvellyn family, and things begin to make sense in the most intriguing of ways.


    ************************************************** ******************************************
    SETTING: Strong (8.5/10)
    The setting in this game is everything it was intended to be - elegant, peculiar, and suspenseful all at the same time. HER nails Nancy’s first journey abroad, and their detailed attention to Blackmoor Manor is the key. Blackmoor is not only a vessel in which this story is told, but a character in and of itself. We’ve returned to a single location formula in this entry, after some good old map roaming last time in SHA. This is a choice that pays off, as the manor feels big, with plenty to explore and the locations are beautifully detailed. Is it the absolute best HER has ever done? Well, no, because this isn’t Shadow Ranch. But it’s fairly expansive, pretty and leaves very little to be desired. While this is a spooky entry to the series, the setting provided to us did a fantastic job of making it clear that we aren’t dealing with ghosts. The manor doesn’t FEEL haunted. It feels… odd. Like there’s something off, but that the thing that’s off is physically present, waiting to spring at you around every corner. (Or maybe that’s just Ethel.)




    LOCATION: Outstanding (10/10)
    Our first journey abroad takes us to Blackmoor Manor, a prestigious manor built and inhabited by the Penvellyn family for centuries. It was constructed in the twelfth century by Randulf the Red, and we learn that it is one of the oldest residences in all of England. It was passed down through generations of Penvellyns until 1650, at which point it was temporarily abandoned when Elinor Penvellyn was executed for Witchcraft. At some point, the Penvellyns resumed residence there, and it continued to pass down until it finally rested in the possession of Hugh Penvellyn, the present day owner. I mention its history because the Manor, being inhabited by so many generations of Penvellyns, has really absorbed the essence all those who lived there. While some particular names stand out a bit bolder to Nancy than others (Brigitte, Elinor, Alan), each and every Penvellyn has left their mark on this Manor one way or another. It is this diversity of inhabitants that leads to the Manor’s diversified interior design. Thanks to it having so many hands on it, each of the rooms feels so different from one another. Yet, somehow, none of it ever manages to truly clash.

    While we enter through the great hall, the first room that we truly get to explore is the room where Nancy is staying so that’s as good a place as any to begin our review. We’re immediately greeted with an ornate yet somehow cozy feeling space. The color scheme is all blues and purples, but the WARM kind, along with some red to really reinforce that this room is deceivingly warm-toned. We see a gorgeous, ornate fireplace that I would sell my soul for, with a crest above it. We see a probably very expensive, very old grandfather clock on the wall near the bed. Nancy’s digital alarm clock looks out of place on the nightstand, probably because the room feels a bit like it belongs in Hogwarts and electronics just don’t work there. The walls are adorned with tapestries. And perhaps most importantly, the theme is beautifully celestial. There are star charts on the walls, a telescope near the window and a constellations are referenced here and there. Clearly, whoever this room belonged to was an astronomer. We of course learn that the room belonged to Brigitte, who was indeed an astronomer. But the most fantastic part about this game is that we really don’t need anybody to tell us this, because if we pay attention we can figure it out for ourselves. If we peruse the portraits in the great hall, we can find one of a woman with a telescope - and below, lo and behold, the crest that sat above the fireplace! This is only one example of the beauty of the Manor.

    While I won’t go into such detail about each and every room - I don’t have ALL day - know that each and every room COULD be discussed in such detail. Every single location tells a story about its inhabitant - be it past or present - and is stunning in its design. Jane’s room is ornate and elegantly furnished, yet has the touches of a child dotted about - pictures of Brady Armstrong, school notes, and a whole little cove for her easy-bake oven. Linda’s room is dark, with everything covered with sheets - both the furniture and Linda herself. The halls are stately and warm - but also, those gargoyles staring at you all the time are pretty creepy, and a simple walk from Nancy’s room to the library can be anxiety inducing depending on the hour. The conservatory makes perfect sense - it’s brighter than the rest of the manor, but also boasts an unusual combination of stone and glass that makes it feel more elegant than functional. The sound of Nancy’s footsteps when she walks up and down the metal stairs makes me happy. The Library is dark but warm and inviting, as it should be, and is never frightening. Yet again, the old boxy computer feels like it doesn’t belong, because the whole manor is a mishmash of eras and tastes. The areas that Nancy discovers beyond the main area are appropriately dark and terrifying (though don’t get me started on the glowstick filter), or warm and intriguing, depending on which one we’re talking about.

    The last remaining location, I’d like to discuss in just a little more detail because I feel it deserves it. The Great Hall. This may look deceivingly like a big empty room with some pillars and some pictures. But let me tell you, there is so much more going on here. If we first look to the walls, we will find portraits of each and every Penvellyn who owned Blackmoor at one time or another, dating back to Randulf the Red himself. These portraits aren’t just generic, but truly capture the essence of each and every person involved. We see Elinor shrouded in black. We see Brigitte with her telescope. There’s Mrs. Drake’s grandfather with Lou Lou sitting upon his shoulder, probably right after he brought her back from the Amazon. If we inquire upon the family tree in Jane’s room, she’ll tell us about each and every one of them, and the point is that these aren’t just random portraits but PEOPLE, each and every one of them. Each is accompanied by his or her crest and phrase, and there is just so much information to be gleaned here if only we pay attention. Below us, the floor intertwines in a geometric mishmash of colors, which perhaps signify that this room doesn’t belong to any one Penvellyn, but all of them.

    EXPLORATION: Exceeds Expectations (7/10)
    When I think of good exploration in a game I typically think of LOTS of different areas with a lot to look at, a lot to DO in each area and plenty of hidden locations. And as everyone knows by now, exploration is my favorite part of a good Nancy Drew game, and it’s somewhat difficult to impress me in this area. Did Blackmoor Manor impress me, you ask? Yes. And no. In all honesty, I think that what Blackmoor suffers from most in this category is coming right after SHA, because that really set the precedent for this era of games in my opinion, and while Blackmoor is a joy to explore, it just didn’t really hit that top-tier mark that I was looking for after exploring Shadow Ranch and the surrounding area. I’m sure I’ll get plenty of disagreement here, but allow me to explain.

    Don’t get me wrong. This game boasts a fairly large space to wander. We get the Great Hall, the Library, the Conservatory, Nancy’s Room, Jane’s Room, Linda’s Room, the East Wing, and two or three secret locations that Nancy discovers along the way. Technically, that’s seven to nine “areas” that we get to explore - more than we had to explore in SHA. It really does feel BIG. The problem is that it just doesn’t feel FULL. In most of them, there’s very little to do and even less to look at in detail. The conservatory is mostly a vessel for chatting to Mrs. Drake. Linda’s room is exactly the same. The Library lets you ask Nigel about the time eras on the shelves but doesn’t let you read any books. Nancy’s room is only marginally better because I can slurp down a nice bowl of loop de loop, or chow on some pinky and perky while I’m in there. Jane’s room is by far the most interesting - it’s here that we get most of our information, our equipment (hello glowsticks) and our fun. We can ask her about the Penvellyns - every single one - and it is here that we get our single, only book until nearly the end of the game. Yes, theres the one with the pictures, but that doesn’t count.

    Perhaps it’s counterproductive to continually compare this game to SHA, but this is my review and I can do what I want. I can’t help but feel that, exploration-wise, the ranch house and tack-room in SHA were as exploration heavy as all of Blackmoor Manor combined. There was so much to look at in those small spaces. There were books to read in the living area, we could turn on the radio. We picked vegetables for Shorty and fought a chicken for eggs, and tacked up Bob and found our way into several locked cabinets and desks. We even found a whole secret area there. And that was just ONE location of several in SHA, because that was a map travel game. So although there’s a LOT to look at visually in Blackmoor, I can’t help feeling that there isn’t a lot to do as far as the spaces are concerned.

    And last but not least before I move on - WHERE EXACTLY IS THE REST OF THE HOUSE? You are telling me that Blackmoor Manor has a gigantic conservatory, a gorgeous library, a bazillion secret passages and… only three bedrooms? WHERE DO THESE PEOPLE USE THE RESTROOM? Where do they eat? Where do they hang out with each other when they aren’t being reclusive hermits. HER, give me another door or something that I can pretend connects to a huge expansive estate. Please. Oh and also, the reason Nancy can’t go outside is because Mrs. Drake doesn’t want her tracking mud all over the carpet. If I were Nancy, I would have been long gone after night one. So perhaps we could have been given a more urgent reason that we aren’t allowed outside. Just saying.
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    CHARACTERS: Acceptable (5/10)
    I’ll be honest, this is just all over the place. This bunch was really difficult to score. HER made some unusual choices here that were a bit out of the norm for them. And while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it means that there are more characters than usual but we got way less face time with some characters than we did with others. At the risk of the whole world massively disagreeing with me, I’m going to say that these really aren’t among the best characters that we’re given, but its a mixed bag and some are better than others. I have very weak feelings all around for all of them. Would I play this game just for these characters alone? No. I cared more for learning about the Penvellyns of the past than I did for any of the ones that are still alive.




    LINDA PENVELLYN: Strong (8/10)
    Linda is the reason that we’re at Blackmoor Manor in the first place. Some believe she is just an unhappy bride who can’t adjust to moving across the world, spiraling her into the throes of depression and anxiety. Her mother is convinced it’s something in the house that’s gotten to her. Linda is unique because this is the first time that HER has given us the victim as a character to interact with. Technically, Rick Arlen in STD was also a victim, but it wasn’t presented in this way. Unlike in STD, we’re never given any reason to believe that Linda is behind her own illness for some nefarious reason. She has no motive. She has no reason to lie. Which means she’s truly feeling the way she says. And that makes all of her dialogue incredibly chilling. Every discussion we have with her feels ominous (LIKE THAT CREEPY LAUGH), and we not only hear about what’s plaguing her from others but get to experience it for ourselves. One minute, she’ll be talking somewhat normally to Nancy, and the next her voice takes on a suddenly sinister tone, or she’s screaming for us to get out.

    I personally thought the voice acting for Linda was superb, and I feel that her character is perhaps the most well done out of everyone. As we talk to her and she opens up, we can really picture her as just a normal, curious young woman wandering around a peculiar, interesting new house. It makes her current state seem so much more contrary to what we know she should be. I also find her whole plot-line particularly intriguing, and I feel it hits a bit harder as an adult because it really shows off what a person is able to convince themselves of. It’s a deep, scary sort of theme that leaves the player - and even Nancy - wondering what the human mind is truly capable of when it is so inclined. In any case, it’s slightly horrific to think of what she must have endured, all alone, shrouded from the world on her bed.

    LETICIA DRAKE: Not Bad (4/10)
    Mrs. Drake is Hugh’s aunt who lives at Blackmoor Manor with her nephew. Now this woman is prim and proper as they come. She sips her tea with her pinky up. We get it. Although there are some small moments where she displays that she does indeed have a sense of fun, such as when she recalls moments from her childhood with Alan. She’s… good. To be honest, I’m mostly left wishing we could ask her more questions. She’s lived in Blackmoor Manor for her whole life, and its a shame that we get so little information from her about the Penvellyns and the manor. I’m left feeling as though her personality and voice acting are good enough that, were there more dialogue with her, I would find her quite interesting. Unfortunately, there isn’t and she comes of as just okay. Her motive is fairly straightforward it’s good in its simplicity. TOO BAD WE CAN’T EVER QUESTION HER ABOUT IT.

    She still manages to come off on my good side though, because she tells Nancy to “Feel free to order whatever she’d like.” Apparently, Mrs. Drake is unaware that Nancy will order sixteen meals from Tommy a day, all on the Penvellyn tab.

    JANE PENVELLYN: Good (6/10)
    Jane is Hugh’s twelve year old daughter, and Linda’s step-daughter. We learn that Hugh divorced Jane’s “real mum,” an opera singer living in France. (Why Jane is spending all her time at Blackmoor Manor when her dad is all the way in Rome, rather than living with her actual mother, is beyond me. I doubt her mom approved that.) Jane is your typical twelve year old girl, constantly chattering and pestering Nancy to play games in exchange for information or glowsticks. As a Penvellyn, she’s expected to have an extensive education and spends much of her day locked in her room with her private tutor studying. No wonder she’s so desperate for fun.

    In my opinion, Jane is the most interesting character to chat with by far. Her voice acting is good, she has a lot to say, and it’s enjoyable to listen to her. She can rattle off fun facts about dozens of her ancestors, and call me crazy but I actually enjoy playing games with her. Though she always seems in good spirits, it’s fairly obvious that she misses her real mother and feels quite lonely at Blackmoor with her father gone. By the end of the game, her arc feels complete and we can look back at her in a slightly different light.

    Still, despite all of that good, I can’t help but come away from the game feeling as though I didn’t care about her as much as I should have. Also, her character model is a little scary. And I won’t even ASK why she has literal parrot poison mixed in with the ingredients that she LITERALLY uses specifically and only to bake cakes for Lou Lou the PARROT. No wonder her guinea pig didn’t make it. Remind me never to hire Jane as a dog sitter.

    NIGEL MOOKERJEE: Poor (2/10)
    Nigel is a historian who is staying at Blackmoor Manor so that he can do research for a book he plans to write about the Penvellyn family. Or at least I think he’s a historian, and I THINK he’s staying there. But honestly, he’s so uninteresting that I just didn’t pay that much attention. He’s definitely writing a book though. He sits at his desk all day typing, and while he seems nice and stuff (he lets Nancy use his laptop when he’s not there), he’s horribly boring. The most interesting thing about him is his laptop background, which features him standing in Wickford Castle! Also, it’s amusing when he screams. Other than that, I found him pretty useless. He has virtually no connection to the people or the history of Blackmoor. He’s a weak character with no real motive, until the VERY end of the game. And you only discover it if you bother to read his laptop AGAIN, which you probably won’t. And why exactly does he leave his personal laptop with his actual motive in writing in the Blackmoor Library overnight, when he can very easily just take it home with him? Laptops are portable, and it clearly belongs to him. Unimpressive, overall.

    ETHEL BOSSINY: Troll (0/10)
    Honestly, I have no idea what this woman’s character is like or what her motive is. How can I possibly be expected to pay attention to what she has to say when my heart is racing every time her terrifying face pops up on my screen? I just hate her. The end.

    LOU LOU: Outstanding (10/10)
    Lou Lou is a very very smart and beautiful bird. She is more helpful than half of the humans in the game, she knows several languages, and she is just a joy to talk to. Ten out of ten!

    PHONE CONTACTS: Acceptable (5/10)
    Our phone cast in this entry is unfortunately just okay. Some of the more primary contacts aren’t nearly as good as they should be. On the bright side, some of the smaller ones are better than they need to be. Sadly, it’s not enough to make me feel as though I got quality phone-time in this game.

    Ned Nickerson: Not Bad (4/10)
    Is this the first game that we get Ned as a phone contact all the way since FIN? It is!! Which is why this rating makes me sad. Because after five games apart, we get a very mediocre Ned reunion. He just doesn’t really have all that much to say this time around. Of course, as always, if you play on Junior detective he’ll give you hints. On senior, he’s virtually silent. Except for that ONE time that he actually calls Nancy to check in on her! That was sweet of him. Ned is always sweet. But that alone won’t earn him a good score. He’s just underwhelmingly solid in this entry.

    Mrs. Petrov: Mediocre (3/10)
    Mrs. Petrov is Linda’s mother, and unfortunately after the beginning of the game she really doesn’t have much to say. We can update her on Linda’s condition here and there, and she comes off as very concerned for her daughter, but most of the time when I called her there were no new dialogue options. Still, her voice acting was pretty well done, and I enjoyed the small conversations I did have with her.

    Hugh Penvellyn: Good (6/10)
    Hugh is Linda’s new husband. Unfortunately, he is a super important British Diplomat, and when Nancy arrives he’s all the way in Rome on work business. But that’s okay, because that means we get him as a phone contact. And that’s a good thing, because Hugh is what I would consider the quintessential “secondary” phone contact (that is, not Bess and George, the Hardy Boys, or Ned). While conversations with him weren’t extensive, he has good voice acting, a lot to say, and you can call him multiple times throughout the game about various topics. I think he was a phone contact that made sense and was also pretty solid.

    Paliki Vadas Acceptable (5/10)
    Paliki is an expert that you can contact to discuss Linda’s condition. I enjoyed her voice and particularly enjoyed the interaction we get to have when one of her patients “escapes”!! We don’t get a lot of dialogue with her, but she makes sense within the plot and she was enjoyable to talk to.

    Mr. Tucker: Exceeds Expectations (7/10)
    This man and his lovely cockney voice are perhaps one of my favorite things about this game. What a stellar voice acting performance. Plus, this man always answers the phone and every time we call him we get food shortly after. Basically, he is a gem. The end.
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    PUZZLES AND TASKS: Outstanding (10/10)
    For reference, I consider puzzles to be anything that requires “solving”, while tasks are things that simply require “doing.”

    This is perhaps one of the most puzzle heavy games in the series. While I’ve played this entry many times before and already knew my way through a lot of the puzzles, know that the first few playthroughs literally took me FOREVER because I got stuck so many times! This game is literally FULL of puzzles. What this game lacks in exploration, it makes up for in the sheer number and quality of puzzles we’re provided. That being said, if you hate puzzles you will hate this game because there are like twenty, though it’s hard to count them because some are interwoven with others. I personally love puzzles, and enjoy being challenged, so for me this is a positive.

    Now, obviously, the question is whether or not this is a matter of quantity over quality? The answer is no. The quality is there. Everywhere you turn, a puzzle is literally staring you in the face - even if you don’t know it. But each and every one of them is there for a perfectly good reason. Some, Nancy will tinker with before she even knows why she’s doing it - like the cube in her bedroom. But while I typically don’t like doing things “just for the sake of it” in games, in this instance it makes sense. I can picture Nancy relaxing in her room after unpacking her things, and being distracted by this funny little cube that seems to have something to do with that poster on the wall. While wandering the great hall, she notices pieces are missing from the columns, so when she finds one she obviously has to see if it fits. Nancy is a naturally curious soul. The fact that all of these puzzles are wrapped up into the plot so nicely at the end of the day is just icing on the cake.

    Additionally, there were very few puzzles that I felt were frustrating in the annoying sense, rather than the difficult sense. The only one that comes to mind is the word game we play with Lou Lou, because there is so much running back and forth involved. Additionally, I can see the ghost game being quite annoying if you haven’t played it before. But most of the puzzles in this game are just plain old difficult, rather than tedious. Of course, there are some that are fairly easy or straightforward, like the puzzle cube, Mrs. Drake’s plants, and the singing stairs. But there are plenty of others that, if you haven’t ever played this game before, will take some serious thinking and observation to get right - the final puzzle of the game, for example.

    Oh, and then there are the rotating rooms. You should probably set aside several hours, because until you know how they work that is how long you’ll be wandering around them. Good luck.

    As far as tasks, there really aren’t any in this game. At all. Perhaps the typing game could be considered a task? And baking Lou Lou cakes? There was absolutely no chore doing or errand running to be had here. Everything is puzzle after puzzle after puzzle. Perhaps another reason why this game is slightly less enjoyable than I want it to be - there’s nothing like picking some ripe vegetables for shorty, or baking a cake for Tex’s birthday!

    ************************************************** ******************************************
    ENDGAME: Mediocre (3/10)
    I wish I could tell you that the endgame is marvelous and perfectly finishes off this game in the absolute best way possible. But unfortunately, I can’t. I can’t even tell you that it’s average, because in my personal opinion it’s pretty bad. The culprit is not only who I thought it was, but we have no opportunity to ask them any questions at all. Also, the events and location of the endgame didn’t even require the culprit to fess up about what is happening to Linda, because we’re both there for an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT REASON. Looking back on it, while I feel the endgame wraps up the PENVELLYN’S story fantastically, it unfortunately only wraps up Linda’s because the culprit decided to spontaneously spill the beans. If he or she just hadn’t said anything, Nancy would still have no clue what was going on. Which basically means that all of the work we did after the curse door was basically useless as far as our actual goal was concerned.

    Also, the what we have to actually DO in the endgame isn’t the slightest bit tricky at all - especially if you’ve done it before. And finally, WHAT IS WITH PEOPLE IN NANCY DREW GAMES RUNNING OUT OF AIR LITERALLY THIRTY SECONDS AFTER ENTERING A SMALL SPACE.

    Overall, disappointing. Especially after such a great plot.

    ************************************************** ******************************************

    MISCELLANEOUS:
    This category may not affect the game’s overall score in any particular way, as low scores in the categories presented here shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as a bad thing. These are highly subjective to personal taste and are included primarily for informative purposes.




    DIFFICULTY: Outstanding (10/10)
    If you want a relaxing, walk in the park kind of game, this one isn’t for you. As mentioned in the puzzles section, this game is DIFFICULT. It’s probably one of the most difficult of the series, along with titles like SAW. If you don’t like puzzles or lots of thinking, I would avoid this. If you want a challenge, definitely give this a go!

    SCARE FACTOR: Outstanding (10/10)
    This game is terrifying. Even after playing it dozens of times, I still find walking through the halls anxiety inducing and shudder every time I have to set my alarm overnight. Granted, I’m a self admitted wimp when it comes to all things scary. But yet again, it’s up there with SAW in my opinion as far as the scare-factor goes. You will most definitely feel unnerved while playing this game.

    EDUCATION/LOCATION HISTORY: Outstanding (10/10)
    While there is no real “education” as we see in other games (like learning about horses in SHA or whales in DDI), this game is literally OVERFLOWING with history about Blackmoor Manor and the Penvellyns who lived there. It is so pervasive in the plot and setting of this game that I don’t feel the need to add more here. Just know that this is a history-rich game, and not in the “its there if you want to read it sense.” More in the “you can’t even get away from it if you tried” kind of sense.

    IMMERSION: Exceeds Expectations (7/10)
    This concerns how realistic the game feels. Does it feel like Nancy is really there for the reason she is supposed to be? Is her reason for being there realistic? Are the things that happen throughout the game realistic?

    Well, technically I should give this game a zero out of ten for immersion because Nancy should have just left before she even reached the door. Has she never seen a scary movie before? This is how all bad things start!! Also, glow sticks are just not that bright.

    Okay, but that thought aside, this is actually an pretty immersive game! The reason Nancy is at the Manor makes sense, and everything that takes place from the beginning to the end of the game happens naturally and organically and all makes sense by the end. I particularly love that even though Nancy has disproven multiple hauntings in the past, this time around even she seems a little concerned that something paranormal might be afoot. That’s because this game, more than others, has a lot of events that are difficult to explain until the end of the game. LIKE THE PEEPHOLE THING, HOW DO YOU CONVINCE YOURSELF THERE’S NOTHING WRONG THERE.

    Still, the immersion isn’t the absolute best its ever been, particularly because there were multiple times I wanted to ask one of the Penvellyns a question but couldn’t. This is a big deal when you consider the stakes - Nancy would undoubtedly exhaust all of her options, she gained nothing from hiding the things she was discovering from Hugh or Mrs. Drake. Oh and also, if that’s what it took to turn the well on, I would hate to be the plumber that has to fix a toilet or something in Blackmoor Manor. Oh wait, that’s right. There are no toilets. Maybe that would explain why.

    MUSIC: Exceeds Expectation (7/10)
    I did something new this time around. While writing the remainder of this review, I went ahead and played the playlist for this game on a loop so I could see which tracks in particular stood out to me!!

    First of all, I’d like to point out that in my notes, I wrote “Jarring / Random.” And what I mean by that is that the music tracks seem to switch randomly, depending on where you are. So I might be somewhere bright and happy in the middle of the day, and all of a sudden a “scary” track would switch on. One, I hate the scary tracks. And two, they just felt entirely out of place sometimes because where I was just didn’t call for it. With that said, let it be known that I actually really enjoy a lot of the music in this game! Or, should I say, I enjoy the relaxing music, and even some of the sort of suspenseful yet pretty music, and hate the scary music entirely. And I don’t hate ALL scary music always. I just hate it here.

    Some of the pieces that stood out to me were “Renaissance,” “Memoirs,” “Empire,” and “Recorder.” While I am a musician myself, I don’t prefer to get into the specifics of WHY I like specific pieces technically because gosh that would take all day. So I’m trying to judge music in the games by how they make me feel, and my general impression without digging too deeply into the musical theory behind them. The primary thing about these four is that they stand out to me as music that actually makes me THINK of Blackmoor Manor, even when listened to separately. They feel like the theme of the game, if that makes sense. Just like Hedwig’s Theme reminds me of Harry Potter, or Test Flight reminds me of How to Train Your Dragon.

    I hate “Danger” and “Wolf” because they scare the snot out of me and are uncalled for.

    GRAPHICS: Not Bad (3/10)
    Disclaimer here: I just started gaming on a new gaming computer which my brother built for me and my native resolution is like 2560x1440. I also just came from playing the Witcher 3, a visual masterpiece. So while I did set my resolution as low as it would go and tried to curb my expectations, I can’t help but feel disappointed with the character models here. I also feel like the character models in SHA were better than in this. The clothing in this game is particularly horrible, as it seems literally everyone is wearing incredibly plain, monochromatic sweaters, all of which seem shaped wrong and have too little detail for what they are. I don’t remember finding any of the SHA characters unpleasant to look at, and I felt these ones were.

    EXTRA STUFF/NOTES:
    WE CAN EAT FOOD!!!! That’s really all that matters, isn’t it? And we have four choices! Nancy can slurp down some Loop de Loop, gobble up some Pinky and Perky, enjoy a nice Dog’s Eye, and chow down on some Bangers and Mash. Uncle Fred and Johnny Rutter? YOU BET MR. TUCKER, GIVE ME IT ALL!!! We can also cook for Lou Lou, which I enjoyed!

    Furthermore, we get an easter egg which leads to a rather erm… unique… phone call. A highlight of my game!! And we get a few callbacks to previous games, such as Nigel’s computer wallpaper. Oh, and try asking Jane about Obadiah Pen - that one had me chuckling! There were also a few references to Beech Hill Museum, but I try to ignore those. If you don’t know how I feel about SSH, take a look at my review. I promise it’s entertaining at the very least!
    ************************************************** ******************************************

    FINAL SCORE: Strong (8/10)

    While I’m sure many will disagree with a less than perfect rating for this game, it simply didn’t fulfill my personal checklist to earn a perfect score. However, this game is considered a classic for a reason. While it falls short in its character development, its plot absolutely shines as one of the best the series has to offer. I would recommend this game to pretty much anyone, but especially those who care about a good story and want to feel challenged.

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    THROWBACK REVIEW SERIES - ALL REVIEWS


    SCK | STFD | MHM | TRT | FIN | SSH | DOG | CAR | DDI | SHA| CUR | CLK

    ************************************************** ******************************************
    Last edited by Jett; November 24, 2021, 01:23 PM.

  • #2
    Fantastic review!!! When I saw it had gone live, I immediately stopped what I was doing to sit down and read it! I found myself laughing a lot while reading it, and you made excellent points across the board!

    We’re immediately greeted with an ornate yet somehow cozy feeling space. The color scheme is all blues and purples, but the WARM kind, along with some red to really reinforce that this room is deceivingly warm-toned. We see a gorgeous, ornate fireplace that I would sell my soul for, with a crest above it. We see a probably very expensive, very old grandfather clock on the wall near the bed. Nancy’s digital alarm clock looks out of place on the nightstand, probably because the room feels a bit like it belongs in Hogwarts and electronics just don’t work there. The walls are adorned with tapestries. And perhaps most importantly, the theme is beautifully celestial. There are star charts on the walls, a telescope near the window and a constellations are referenced here and there.
    Brigitte's room is divine, and you're right that, despite it featuring jewel toned-blues and purples, it's a warm-toned room. That's honestly probably why it isn't my absolute favorite because I would normally fall head-over-heels for a celestial room. I would have died to see it lean more heavily into those cool tones and brighten things up a tiny bit without warming the room up with the mahogany furniture and deep burgundy upholstery. The fireplace is incredible though--can you imagine having a fireplace in your bedroom --and you're right that the room gives major Ravenclaw dormitory energy.

    The last remaining location, I’d like to discuss in just a little more detail because I feel it deserves it. The Great Hall. This may look deceivingly like a big empty room with some pillars and some pictures. But let me tell you, there is so much more going on here. If we first look to the walls, we will find portraits of each and every Penvellyn who owned Blackmoor at one time or another, dating back to Randulf the Red himself. These portraits aren’t just generic, but truly capture the essence of each and every person involved. We see Elinor shrouded in black. We see Brigitte with her telescope. There’s Mrs. Drake’s grandfather with Lou Lou sitting upon his shoulder, probably right after he brought her back from the Amazon. If we inquire upon the family tree in Jane’s room, she’ll tell us about each and every one of them, and the point is that these aren’t just random portraits but PEOPLE, each and every one of them. Each is accompanied by his or her crest and phrase, and there is just so much information to be gleaned here if only we pay attention. Below us, the floor intertwines in a geometric mishmash of colors, which perhaps signify that this room doesn’t belong to any one Penvellyn, but all of them.
    This is an excellent and oft-overlooked point. Even I neglected to mention the level of detail that went into each portrait, but it really shows just how much effort was put into fleshing out the Penvellyn family as a whole. I've never been able to get over Nancy being able to ask about the entire family tree. I can't think of anything I've ever played that created a family history or backstory that spanned that many generations. It feels like a genuine historical family that was plucked from our reality and inserted into the game, and the tie-ins to actual British history is fantastic.

    Don’t get me wrong. This game boasts a fairly large space to wander. We get the Great Hall, the Library, the Conservatory, Nancy’s Room, Jane’s Room, Linda’s Room, the East Wing, and two or three secret locations that Nancy discovers along the way. Technically, that’s seven to nine “areas” that we get to explore - more than we had to explore in SHA. It really does feel BIG. The problem is that it just doesn’t feel FULL. In most of them, there’s very little to do and even less to look at in detail. The conservatory is mostly a vessel for chatting to Mrs. Drake. Linda’s room is exactly the same. The Library lets you ask Nigel about the time eras on the shelves but doesn’t let you read any books. Nancy’s room is only marginally better because I can slurp down a nice bowl of loop de loop, or chow on some pinky and perky while I’m in there. Jane’s room is by far the most interesting - it’s here that we get most of our information, our equipment (hello glowsticks) and our fun. We can ask her about the Penvellyns - every single one - and it is here that we get our single, only book until nearly the end of the game. Yes, theres the one with the pictures, but that doesn’t count.

    Perhaps it’s counterproductive to continually compare this game to SHA, but this is my review and I can do what I want. I can’t help but feel that, exploration-wise, the ranch house and tack-room in SHA were as exploration heavy as all of Blackmoor Manor combined. There was so much to look at in those small spaces. There were books to read in the living area, we could turn on the radio. We picked vegetables for Shorty and fought a chicken for eggs, and tacked up Bob and found our way into several locked cabinets and desks. We even found a whole secret area there. And that was just ONE location of several in SHA, because that was a map travel game. So although there’s a LOT to look at visually in Blackmoor, I can’t help feeling that there isn’t a lot to do as far as the spaces are concerned.


    I think that's a fair point actually. Now, in the grand scheme, there is a lot to look at and interact with in the mansion as compared to some locales in other games, but there is a fair amount of dead space that merely acts as decor for decor's sake. Do I think that's a bad thing? Not necessarily. I like richly detailed environments, and one of the quirks of the early games is having a bunch of random stuff to look at and interact with that serves no purpose. This game kind of meets that idea halfway with less random interactions but still plenty to look at and flesh out the environment. The unfortunate thing is that some later Nancy Drew games skimp out on this level of detail and/or make to resolve it by creating smaller, less detailed, less realistic locations to explore (e.g., think of Blackmoor Manor compared to Bruno Bolet's house compared to Thornton Hall). Those later houses have no rooms that don't serve a purpose and don't even try to resemble a normal house layout (i.e., Thornton Hall has literally three rooms above ground and a hallway because those are the only rooms the game needed). At least Blackmoor tries to look more like a grand estate, even if some of the rooms have little to no purpose besides acting as conduits to a character interaction. Still, I agree with you that SHA feels more "complete" and realistic in its use of its spaces, though the ranch house also has no bedrooms or bathrooms to speak of.


    I personally thought the voice acting for Linda was superb, and I feel that her character is perhaps the most well done out of everyone. As we talk to her and she opens up, we can really picture her as just a normal, curious young woman wandering around a peculiar, interesting new house. It makes her current state seem so much more contrary to what we know she should be. I also find her whole plot-line particularly intriguing, and I feel it hits a bit harder as an adult because it really shows off what a person is able to convince themselves of. It’s a deep, scary sort of theme that leaves the player - and even Nancy - wondering what the human mind is truly capable of when it is so inclined. In any case, it’s slightly horrific to think of what she must have endured, all alone, shrouded from the world on her bed.
    I'm so pleased that we agree on Linda being the best and most interesting character in the game. I really wish we could know more about Linda prior to and following the incidents of this game. There aren't a lot of characters that I genuinely wish Nancy could revisit, but she is one of them. What an awful and traumatic experience for someone to go through. Her voice actor was phenomenal. No one outclasses Keri Healey in these games or in my heart, but she comes close with that performance.

    He’s a weak character with no real motive, until the VERY end of the game. And you only discover it if you bother to read his laptop AGAIN, which you probably won’t.
    I'm beginning to wonder if I actually know to what this refers. I've read his laptop and checked to see if he updated his notes before, but I honestly cannot recall if there was anything that changed or if I looked after he was scared off by the Mercury statue. How close to the end do you find this special thing on his laptop? This may call for a replay or at least some YouTube scouring.

    Mr. Tucker: Exceeds Expectations (7/10)
    This man and his lovely cockney voice are perhaps one of my favorite things about this game. What a stellar voice acting performance. Plus, this man always answers the phone and every time we call him we get food shortly after. Basically, he is a gem. The end.
    Tommy Tucker is honestly #goals. A man who answers every single time you call and will bring you food at all hours of the day or night? Sign me up! He's truly a delight!

    The only one that comes to mind is the word game we play with Lou Lou, because there is so much running back and forth involved.
    You actually don't have to run back and forth, or at least, I don't. Once I get to that puzzle, I go ask Lou Lou for the first clue because it's required, but after that I just input all the answers because I remember them from so many replays. Otherwise, yeah, running back and forth to talk to Lou Lou and running out of glowsticks is the actual worst.

    I wish I could tell you that the endgame is marvelous and perfectly finishes off this game in the absolute best way possible. But unfortunately, I can’t. I can’t even tell you that it’s average, because in my personal opinion it’s pretty bad. The culprit is not only who I thought it was, but we have no opportunity to ask them any questions at all. Also, the events and location of the endgame didn’t even require the culprit to fess up about what is happening to Linda, because we’re both there for an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT REASON. Looking back on it, while I feel the endgame wraps up the PENVELLYN’S story fantastically, it unfortunately only wraps up Linda’s because the culprit decided to spontaneously spill the beans. If he or she just hadn’t said anything, Nancy would still have no clue what was going on. Which basically means that all of the work we did after the curse door was basically useless as far as our actual goal was concerned.

    Also, the what we have to actually DO in the endgame isn’t the slightest bit tricky at all - especially if you’ve done it before. And finally, WHAT IS WITH PEOPLE IN NANCY DREW GAMES RUNNING OUT OF AIR LITERALLY THIRTY SECONDS AFTER ENTERING A SMALL SPACE.
    You know, that's something I've noticed in quite a few of the ND games, but it's quite characteristics of this period in the series. I mean, think about SHA. Nancy kind of forgets about the phantom horse, sans when it shows up, and plunges herself into solving Dirk's puzzles for Frances instead. CLK starts out with Nancy looking for Emily's mother's jewelry and she abandons it in a wild goose chase for Josiah Crowley's will. Of course, all of these "subplots" end up being related to the initial mystery somehow and are tied together neatly by the end, but the series as a whole has a reputation for setting up a mystery and then having Nancy get involved with something else entirely for the majority of the game. Anyway, you're still right that it seems a bit silly for the culprit to suddenly give Nancy the inside scoop on their role in Linda's perils when they were both in pursuit of something that had nothing to do with Linda at all. They could have just questioned why Nancy was there in the first place, maybe asked about how she was able to figure all of this stuff out, etc., but maybe they were simply too alarmed by the circumstances they found themselves stuck in and wanted to confess and atone in a plea for aid and mercy? Also, how did Nancy know--because she certainly implied she knew--who the culprit was when the culprit was making their confession?

    Ugh. Yes, it frustrates me to no end. I'm sorry, but you won't run out of oxygen that quickly and most of the time, the small spaces aren't even airtight. If a person can survive over five hours buried alive in a coffin, you could last several days if not nearly a month before succumbing to suffocation, specifically, in an airtight room.


    I hate “Danger” and “Wolf” because they scare the snot out of me and are uncalled for.
    I hate "Wolf" so much. I'm not even listening to it right now, but thinking about it made a shiver run up my spine and I tend to like scary music. "Danger" doesn't really bother me, though, besides being generally unpleasant to hear outside of the game. I love that we both had the same favorite pieces!

    Another fantastic review! I loved hearing your thoughts about the game, and I'm really curious to see how you'll rate CLK after founding out you are too fond of it. Also, what is your favorite thing to order from Boar's Head? I'm quite partial to the bangers and mash myself. While I know English cuisine is known for being awful and tasteless, I must say that I'd really like to eat that food.
    Last edited by veja; November 23, 2021, 10:00 PM.

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    • #3
      Yay, thanks for the response!!! I'm always excited to see what you have to say

      The room gives major Ravenclaw dormitory energy.
      RAVENCLAW FOR SURE.

      I think that's a fair point actually. Now, in the grand scheme, there is a lot to look at and interact with in the mansion as compared to some locales in other games, but there is a fair amount of dead space that merely acts as decor for decor's sake. Do I think that's a bad thing? Not necessarily. I like richly detailed environments, and one of the quirks of the early games is having a bunch of random stuff to look at and interact with that serves no purpose. This game kind of meets that idea halfway with less random interactions but still plenty to look at and flesh out the environment. The unfortunate thing is that some later Nancy Drew games skimp out on this level of detail and/or make to resolve it by creating smaller, less detailed, less realistic locations to explore (e.g., think of Blackmoor Manor compared to Bruno Bolet's house compared to Thornton Hall). Those later houses have no rooms that don't serve a purpose and don't even try to resemble a normal house layout (i.e., Thornton Hall has literally three rooms above ground and a hallway because those are the only rooms the game needed). At least Blackmoor tries to look more like a grand estate, even if some of the rooms have little to no purpose besides acting as conduits to a character interaction. Still, I agree with you that SHA feels more "complete" and realistic in its use of its spaces, though the ranch house also has no bedrooms or bathrooms to speak of.
      Yeah, I think my problem is that I want no compromise whatsoever Give me a big expansive space with tons of doors I can open and lots of things I can do with absolutely no exceptions. Then I'll be happy. And yes, I'm aware that SHA too has no bathrooms, but since it's my favorite game it unfairly gets a pass lol. But in reality, you're right about the comparison between CUR, CRY and GTH. This game by far did the location the most justice. Personally though, I enjoy the games that actually DO give you a bathroom. They may not be the best objectively, but at last I can hear Nancy sing little jingles while washing her hands!! It's a trade off lol.

      I'm beginning to wonder if I actually know to what this refers. I've read his laptop and checked to see if he updated his notes before, but I honestly cannot recall if there was anything that changed or if I looked after he was scared off by the Mercury statue. How close to the end do you find this special thing on his laptop? This may call for a replay or at least some YouTube scouring.
      It was actually quite late! I think I checked it pretty much right before I triggered the endgame, but it does actually update one other time earlier on.

      It's the entry at the very end where he talks about needing to dig up dirt on Hugh. I don't remember it word for word but it's a pretty horrible excuse for a motive, and is so easily missable. They could have done something much more organic, like have Nancy overhear a phone conversation with his publisher or something talking about how his book is boring as it stands and needs something to spice it up. But no, they just did this lazy nonsense instead lol.

      You know, that's something I've noticed in quite a few of the ND games, but it's quite characteristics of this period in the series. I mean, think about SHA. Nancy kind of forgets about the phantom horse, sans when it shows up, and plunges herself into solving Dirk's puzzles for Frances instead. CLK starts out with Nancy looking for Emily's mother's jewelry and she abandons it in a wild goose chase for Josiah Crowley's will.
      I never noticed the correlation, but you're absolutely right! They were on a kick with this particular theme. That being said, and at risk of sounding biased, I feel as though it was done so much better in SHA. Because each time Nancy's focus changed, it led her to something important that allowed her to continue the other thread. But in this case, it's just so disjointed. Like, in SHA it all wove together because the horse had to do with the culprit looking for the treasure, which had to be found through the alternate part of the plot. Meanwhile, here, Linda is basically irrelevant aside from being the reason Nancy is looking in the first place. I think maybe I would feel different about it if she actually caught the culprit doing something that proved what was going on, so that it at least mattered that she made it that far in the first place. And I admittedly already started CLK and I noticed right away that they were doing this again! At least in CLK, Nancy has the option to say that she wants to stay to find the Jewels, OR she can say she wants to stay to find his will. In any case, she's accomplishing more in 24 hours than I could do in months in that game so good for her lol.

      I'm really curious to see how you'll rate CLK after founding out you are too fond of it. Also, what is your favorite thing to order from Boar's Head? I'm quite partial to the bangers and mash myself. While I know English cuisine is known for being awful and tasteless, I must say that I'd really like to eat that food.
      So I actually love to cook and Bangers and Mash is one of my absolute favorite things to make at home, so I'm always most excited about that one!! I actually love british food, though I've admittedly only had the kind that you get at soccer bars and the kind I make at my own house.

      I'm also curious about how I'm going to rate CLK because it has a lot of good but also I just cannot STAND the 1930s thing

      Anyway, till the next one!!
      Last edited by veja; November 23, 2021, 09:59 PM.

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