Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

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

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

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

    DANGER ON DECEPTION ISLAND (DDI)
    Release Date: October 3, 2003
    Difficulty: Senior Detective


    FINAL SCORE: Acceptable (5/10)


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

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

    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 27 and have completed every game in the series at least once. However, it's been several years since I've played my last ND game (Sea of Darkness in 2015), 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!!

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

    PLOT: Good (6/10)
    To wind down after all that sleuthing, Nancy makes her way to Deception Island - part of the San Juans off the coast of Washington state. Katie Firestone, a friend of George’s, runs a whale watching tour there and has arranged to host Nancy during her stay. However, when Nancy arrives she and Katie discover that Katie’s boat has been vandalized. Apparently, an Orca recently turned up all alone in the channel and the town has mixed feelings about what to do with it. After a heated meeting about the whale, a few people could be responsible for the vandalism. Furthermore, Nancy keeps finding strange messages floating around in glass bottles in the channel and we learn (as usual) that the town’s history may hold a few secrets. So much for a relaxing vacation, because true to form Nancy can’t possibly resist a mystery when it presents itself.

    I think HER has managed to produce a decent plot in this entry, though the story relies heavily on a series of plot conveniences to work properly - we’ll get to that later. We’ve returned once again to the “Nancy goes on vacation and discovers a mystery” setup. While I don’t understand why Nancy, a teenage girl, would even want to go on vacation alone (or why George, a teenage girl, would be “friends” with an adult marine biologist who lives across the country), I’m glad we returned to this formula. I like that HER rotates in and out of this equation in a way that makes it feel welcome without it ever getting old.

    After my playthrough of this game, I was left feeling as though the plot was well done - yet also, that it could have been done better. There are a lot of good things happening here. The plot is intricate and brings a lot of different things into the picture to create its story. The orca and people’s thoughts about her are at the forefront, but along the way we find that the town’s history, a past resident, a shipwreck and more are all parts of the story, too. The most commendable thing about this plot is that you think you’re solving one mystery, only to find out you’re actually solving another, and THEN only to find out you’re solving yet another. This happens pretty dynamically, and while we get hints throughout the game, it isn’t really until the endgame that we figure out what the REAL mystery is.

    That being said, this is where the plot conveniences we talked about earlier come into play. Because the crime Nancy is looking into - the vandalism - is NOT really what the story is ultimately about, the game has to work REALLY hard to get her from point A to point B. It does this in the form of plot conveniences. Nancy just happens to find a piece of driftwood, and just HAPPENS to care about it and think it’s related to what’s going on in Snake Harbor. Nevermind the fact that as far as she knows, NOTHING is going on in Snake Harbor except that somebody vandalized Katie’s boat, which has NOTHING to do with a piece of driftwood. Even our phone contacts tell Nancy so, and the game has to rely on Nancy basically saying “it’s just a hunch” to get us to follow up on this piece of evidence. While this is a glaring example, this sort of thing turns up all over the game. (Like when the three people we find out we need for a task are the exact three people we’ve been talking to all game. How CONVENIENT that this is the case. I can’t help but feel like a bit of rearranging within this plot could have fixed, or at least helped, this issue.

    Still, the plot isn’t bad and is even good depending on the way you look at it. I thought HER did a great job of making everything connect well in the end, and I did thoroughly enjoy finding out what was actually going on. There are a few plot holes, particularly toward the endgame, but only if you think pretty hard about what’s going on. This game’s use of the Orca was particularly well done, and we get one or two good plot twists along the way. For that reason I’m left feeling more positive about this plot than negative, despite its flaws..

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

    SETTING: Acceptable (5.5/10)
    Our setting for this game is Snake Harbor, a small town on Deception Island in Washington State. I have to admit that I really LOVE the idea of this setting. My husband and I recently vacationed in Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest in general is pretty much my favorite type of outdoor location. Cold and a little dreary, but with beautiful rocky beaches and mountains and wildlife. I think HER did a decent job with this setting, but I was left wanting more of what the pacific northwest REALLY is.



    LOCATION: Acceptable (5/10)
    True to its name, Deception Island (part of the San Juans) is the location that this particular mystery takes place. More specifically, Snake Harbor - a small-town fishing village on the coast. My gut feeling about this location - similar to the plot - is that it was a great choice, but that I wish it had been done better. We’re given roughly five explorable locations in this entry: Katie’s Boat, the Hot Kettle Cafe, Whale World, The Lighthouse and also the channel itself which Nancy can explore via Kayak. While these areas are both nicely designed and fit that small fishing town feel, but they just aren’t enough for me.

    The lighthouse, in my opinion, does the best job of showcasing what this setting has to offer. The rocky beach, the run-down lighthouse, the water. HER does an awesome job of making this feel like a chilly, dreary coastline (as opposed to some sunny, tropical vacation spot). Katie’s boat and the water itself are great supporting locations that back this feeling up, though they’re underwhelming in and of themselves. The Hot Kettle Cafe has a really authentic feeling interior, and a really nice and warm design for what could have been really visually boring. I think it does a great job of being what it is - a coastal cafe that is frequently inhabited by locals and fishermen and that serves a really good bowl of clam chowder. The fact that we see not only Jenna Deblin running the place, but also Holt Scotto enjoying it as a customer helps support this feeling. Whale world is also well done, but in a different way. It feels clean and new, and to be honest when I first played this entry I thought it didn’t belong. Then, I visited Seward, AK and it turns out little fishing villages DO really have these types of Marine Centers so I stand corrected.

    All in all, these locations are really well designed for what they are, and they do belong in this world. It’s just that I don’t feel they showcase the FEEL of this type of town in the way they should. I wish they’d given us some sort of boardwalk or boat wharf (bigger than Katie’s) that really demonstrates the fishing culture of Snake Harbor. Or added an open-air element to the Cafe, with a balcony extending over the water. Or EVEN just ditch the map formula (crazy, right?) and let us walk around Snake Harbor to get from point A to point B. These types of towns are SMALL, so it would be quite realistic for everything to be close together. I can’t knock what HER has created here, I just wish we’d gotten more.

    All that being said, I feel this setting needs a bit of acknowledgement for the fact that it plays very nicely into the game’s plot. I love that Snake Harbor’s history and secrets (both old and new) play into all the aspects of this story.

    EXPLORATION: Good (6/10)
    This is the sort of game that doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of exploration, but it FEELS like it does while you’re playing it. I think HER did a good job with the space they had to work with here.

    Katie’s boat is small (it’s a boat), but there are quite a few things to look at our first time through it, and the game actually gives us a lot to DO here. We get a few puzzles, we can use the microscope, we can MAKE SANDWICHES, and Nancy’s laptop is here for us to use whenever we need it. We can also take Katie’s Kayak out on the water from this location, making it feel twice as bit as it is because it doesn’t limit us in the way the other locations do. The Hot Kettle Cafe has a similar feel to it, in that it isn’t big but we have a few different reasons to come back and they all feel organic, and we also get a few things to look at inside. The beach is pretty straightforward, but we have an unlockable area here and so it provides a rewarding sense of exploration.

    Whale World, on the other hand, is not a place the game sends us often (except to talk to Andy), but that’s sort of the beauty of it. There’s a bunch of information to look at and games to play, but we don’t actually have to look at any of it. This is a great example of good exploration, because the game doesn’t force you to interact with this area at all. Rather, it gives us a reward (the prize wheel) if we choose to do so. I wanted to spin that prize wheel, so you bet I finished all the games! I was sure the story would eventually require me to do this, and was really impressed when it didn’t.

    We do get a couple other “secret” areas that we can uncover throughout the course of the story, and I was overall happy with the level of exploration this game provided.
    ************************************************** ******************************************
    CHARACTERS: Poor (2/10)
    After giving us a decent plot and setting, you’d think this game would round itself out by giving us some decent characters to go along with it, right? WRONG. These are some of the flattest characters we’re given. The game kind of tricks us into thinking there’s more depth to them than there really is by telling us they all got into a really heated argument over their opinions about the Orca, but then never really follows up on this in our dialogue with them. This game generally lacks the level of dialogue some of its predecessors had, and toward the second half of the game basically nobody will have anything to say at all. It’s also hard to say that any of them have good motives, because really everyone has the SAME motive to vandalize Katie’s boat (their opinion on the Orca), and we don’t even know what the crime is beyond that.



    KATIE FIRESTONE: Dreadful (1/10)
    Katie is a Marine Biologist who runs a Whale Watching Tour in Snake Harbor. She’s a friend of George’s and agrees to host Nancy during her stay. She has one of my least favorite character models and barely has anything to say most of the time. She thinks that there should be a no-boat zone around the Orca, which we later learn is good for her whale watching business because she is the ONLY person allowed to get close to the whale to “monitor her condition.” Uh-huh, Katie, that isn’t shady at all. Still, the game tries to convince us she had reason to vandalize her own boat to “make herself look like a victim” when she really has nothing to gain from doing so.

    HOLT SCOTTO: Mediocre (3/10)
    This guy is probably the least terrible of the characters in this entry, in that we know more about his personality and motivations than the others. Holt is an old fisherman who has decided to run for Harbormaster because he wants the fishermen to be represented properly. He’s a little gruff, but is also endearing enough (he lets a complete stranger borrow his GPS which is pretty nice). He disagrees with the no-boat zone around the Orca because it forces the fishing boats to take the long way out of the chanel, which makes their jobs harder, and fishing is the way they make their living and feed their families. We interact with him a little more than the others over the course of our playthrough, though not by much. I also think he’s designed and animated better than the others.

    JENNA DEBLIN: Poor (2/10)
    Jenna Deblin owns and runs the Hot Kettle Cafe, and at least she has a backstory. The Cafe has been a part of her family for generations. We learn that she doesn’t get along with Katie and thinks the Orca should promptly be returned to her pod. Beyond that, we know she’s a nice person with terrible business sense - she gave Nancy approximately 17 free bowls of clam chowder for goodness sakes! How on earth does this woman make any money?! Despite how good her Clam Chowder apparently is, she sadly doesn’t have much of a personality and although we get a teeny tiny plot twist with her, it isn’t great.

    ANDY JASON: Poor (2/10)
    Andy Jason owns Whale World and runs his own whale watching tours on the channel, making him a direct competitor of Katie’s. He thinks the Orca should just be left alone, and we learn that he’s been trying to buy out Katie’s business for a long time (though she won’t sell.) He also thinks it’s unfair that Katie is allowed to get close to the whale while he has to stay away, considering they both run whale watching businesses. We know very little about him beyond this, and he really doesn’t ever have much to say to Nancy when she checks in.


    PHONE CONTACTS: Acceptable (5/10)
    While I normally love the phone contacts, I felt as though even they suffered a bit in this entry. We have very few phone contacts first of all, and even our typically solid contacts are pretty average this time around. I don’t feel as though any of them put in good enough of a performance to raise the score on the overall character rating in this case.

    Bess and George: Acceptable (5/10)
    Bess and George are solid as always, but less so than usual in this game. First off, I think we may have gotten a new voice actress for George this time around? (I’m playing through these so fast due to MIDs release date that I really am not doing any research at all). I wasn’t a fan of her voice acting in this game, in any case. I do enjoy Bess, as always, and I really enjoyed their side-story this time around. Mostly because it revolves around cooking and I LOVE to cook, and honestly when one of the first things Bess said was “I burnt my roux” I felt SUPER bad for her. For those of you who don’t know, the roux Bess was making is a mixture of flour and grease that thickens Gumbo. The thing about this roux is that you have to whisk it CONSTANTLY without stopping for a good twenty minutes, and if you burn it then it is ruined and you have to start ALL OVER. I have been there, and it is awful. So the fact that Bess burned hers is more tragic than you realized.

    Frank and Joe: Acceptable (5/10)
    Frank and Joe put in a good performance, per usual, but are also less than stellar in this entry. I was underwhelmed by them and I didn’t find their side-story interesting - in fact, I found it less than endearing because they were constantly complaining about a dog. DOGS ARE PERFECT. They should have been ECSTATIC to have Goldie the destructive Great Dane in their possession for a few fleeting moments. Additionally, I was SUPER annoyed with the way Nancy hangs up on them as though she doesn’t have time to talk if you call them right before the endgame. She most certainly did have time to talk. Not cool.

    Hilda Swenson: Acceptable (5/10)
    According to the residents of the town, Hilda Swenson used to be the mayor of Snake Harbor, until her husband died, causing her to go crazy, move to a neighboring island and become a hermit. When Nancy makes contact with her, we learn that there’s more to her story than meets the eye. I have mixed feelings about her. While I love her voice acting and the way her character fits into the story, there are just things that I don’t understand about her that I can’t go into detail about due to potential spoilers. I can’t help but feel as though Nancy making contact with her is the biggest plot convenience of them all.
    ************************************************** ******************************************
    PUZZLES AND TASKS: Exceeds Expectations (7/10)
    Please note that this score is primarily for PUZZLES. I will also mention TASKS in this section, but they may not have any bearing on the score. It just makes the most sense to discuss them here. For reference, I consider puzzles to be anything that requires “solving”, while tasks are things that simply require “doing.”

    I don’t remember this as a very puzzle heavy entry, but according to my notes there were close to fifteen puzzles in this game! That’s quite a few, making this game more puzzle-oriented than I originally thought. This game not only provides us with a wide variety of puzzles, but incorporates them really well into the plot and setting. Nancy is completing puzzles for a reason. After Katie’s boat has been vandalized, we have to re-connect her pipes and rearrange her books in a drawer - a classic “fit everything in” puzzle. In order to acquire a GPS we have to pass Holt’s seamanship quiz. I particularly loved that in order to see Jenna’s necklace we had to unlock a colorful box via a matching puzzle because her niece had locked it inside. These are great examples of puzzles making sense within the story. We do get a longterm puzzle as well, dealing with a variety of coordinates and locations. While I didn’t enjoy every aspect of this process (looking at you, cairns and buoys), it has a classic “scavenger hunt” feel where one clue leads to the next leads to the next.

    In general, I enjoyed the majority of the puzzles we had to solve in this entry. I don’t know that I’m the best judge of whether or not they were difficult, because I actually had a lot of base knowledge about several of them. For example, I know the basic strategies for check-mating in chess, so the chess puzzle was a cakewalk for me. I feel as though most people would find several of the puzzles in this game challenging enough. Additionally, the Anagram puzzle is hard, or at least I thought so (if you’re playing on senior detective that is.) There were only a few that I felt were actually badly done or too tedious - specifically, the lightbulbs. There IS a way to tell which lightbulb is the correct one, but I promise you will miss it and will just run back and forth seven or eight times until you happen to grab the right one.

    The only real “task” that we’re assigned in this game is when we’re asked to gather clams for Jenna. This is as annoying as it sounds, and is harder than it should be. Rather than simply finding all the hotspots and getting a clam for each, whether or not we actually GET a clam from a hotspot seems random. This means you may be running around for a long time digging up nothing before you get the required fifteen clams. Yes, this is irritating. Thankfully, it’s the only instance of this sort of thing in this game.

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

    ENDGAME: Not Bad (4/10)
    The truth is, I SOOO wanted to give this endgame a higher score because it’s just so DIFFERENT. The way the endgame takes place is rather unique, and the way it pieces the story together is both nicely done and feels organic. In fact, the most positive thing about this endgame is the way our story is finally pieced together. It’s rewarding to finally understand what’s going on, and I enjoyed the way the plot wrapped up. Unfortunately, we already scored the plot.

    The endame itself is, in my opinion, just okay. The culprit was fine (though a sadly obvious choice), and I enjoyed navigating the final location. The problem is that there really wasn’t much to DO here besides walk from point A to point B, and then deal with the culprit directly (a confrontation that I felt was not well done). The “Puzzle” to unlock the endgame was far too easy, and I didn’t feel as though our culprit acted realistically from that point forward. The game sets up a plot twist for us that’s supposed to feel big, but it really just feels predictable. Also, I’m left feeling frustrated for several reasons with the final moments of this story. Why did the culprit let Nancy get as far as she did? Why doesn’t Nancy help that person that needs help before the culprit catches up? Most importantly, why was the final “puzzle” (if you can call it that) even necessary? If I’m ever face to face with a criminal and I have one of those things in my grasp, believe me said criminal is not just shaking off the level of injury I would inflict upon him or her. The way the game wants you to deal with the culprit is just so much less likely to work than the alternative. Additionally, like with several other entries, if you paid even a sliver of attention throughout your playthrough the solution in the end is pretty obvious.

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

    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: Acceptable (5/10)
    While this isn’t an incredibly difficult game, there is enough here to keep your mind busy - ESPECIALLY on a first playthrough of it. As mentioned in the puzzle section, I feel as though the puzzles are challenging if you don’t know a lot about the material in this game. Furthermore, there are very few moments where you’ll struggle to find a path forward. Thankfully, we don’t get any weird glitches or issues in this entry that make it difficult to trigger plot events. If you’re new to the series and are looking for something challenging with a lot of puzzles, but not overly difficult, this is a good option.

    SCARE FACTOR: Dreadful (1/10)
    This isn’t a scary game. There are no hauntings or curses, it takes place during the day and there are no jumpscares of any sort. The feel of this game is a little gloomy, but not at all spooky. This is a good option if you’re easily frightened and prefer to avoid that in a game (like me).

    EDUCATION/LOCATION HISTORY: Exceeds Expectations (7/10)
    This game provides the player with a pretty good amount of educational material, all without throwing it obnoxiously in the player’s face. Much of it is optional, though it’s interesting enough that I spent time looking through it anyway. We get a pretty sizeable chunk of general boating knowledge (such as knots, navigation, nautical terms, etc.), as well as a whole location dedicated to whales. We also get to learn about a few other minor things such as classifying wood, shipwrecks, sea monsters, chess and poker. Furthermore, we get some nice background about the location’s history that really meshes well with the plot.

    IMMERSION: Poor (2/10)
    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?

    Good immersion is one of the most important qualities in a game (in my opinion) and this game just did not do it for me. There are so many things that broke immersion for me in this entry. First and foremost, WHY was Nancy even there to begin with? I know I said it once but I will say it again - WHAT KIND OF TEENAGER GOES ON VACATION ALONE?!?! And even worse, what kind of teenager goes on Vacation alone MORE THAN ONCE?! I was willing to look past it the first time (in TRT) because it was the first time. But now, Nancy is vacationing alone for a second time and I just can’t brush it under the rug this time. And this is only the beginning of the issues here. There are so many more, trust me. Like, why does Jenna give Nancy unlimited free bowls of clam chowder? Why did the perfectly good sandwich I made give Katie food poisoning? Why can’t we take the puzzle box with us? Why does Nancy react to Hilda so positively even after being warned by her friends that it is bad to trust random strangers - Nancy is smart, she should be much more skeptical of this woman. Why are all of the plot conveniences SO CONVENIENT?! And just so many more things that I can’t talk about here due to spoilers and such. Overall, they missed the mark here for me.

    MUSIC: Good (6/10)
    While I wasn’t hyper-aware of most of the music in this game, there were a few pieces that really stood out to me this time around. I particularly loved the music we get in both the Hot Kettle Cafe and the Lighthouse area. The two pieces that I enjoyed I believe were called “Jig” and “Discovery 1”. Both are very lighthearted and upbeat, and very Gaelic sounding with piccolos or flutes or something of that sort. I’m not surprised these stood up to me as I generally LOVEEEE this type of music in pretty much anything, and there are so many great movie scores that utilize this to some extent (Lord of the Rings and How to Train your Dragon for example).

    GRAPHICS: Not Bad (4/10)
    I’m just gonna leave this at a steady “not bad” for the moment. I feel like HER managed to somehow make their graphics BOTH better and worse in this entry. Katie, for example, is one of my least favorite character models ever. At the same time, their character animation during the “cutscenes” (especially during the endgame) is actually improving rapidly. We know eventually they’ll tie it all together, it just hasn’t happened yet.

    EXTRA STUFF/NOTES:
    We do get a bit of extra fun in this entry! First and foremost, we get Jenna Deblin’s famous clam chowder. In my playthrough, Nancy probably gained five pounds from the amount of clam chowder she ingested. Furthermore, we can make sandwiches!! While the game does require us to do this once, we can actually make and eat as many sandwiches as we want. I appreciate that. We also get a fun side activity in this game - we can build SANDCASTLES!!! There is absolutely no reason we have to do this, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s just for fun!!

    ************************************************** ******************************************
    FINAL SCORE: Acceptable (5/10)

    Overall, this was a solid entry to the series. It has a lot of good going for it in the form of plot and puzzles, but desperately lacks quality characters. If you don’t care tremendously about character development or dialogue and want a game that provides an interesting plot with moderately challenging puzzles, I would actually recommend this game. If well done characters and an immersive experience are important to you, I would steer clear of this entry unless you’re trying to play the entire series.

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

    THROWBACK REVIEW SERIES - ALL REVIEWS

    SCK | STFD | MHM | TRT | FIN | SSH | DOG | CAR | DDI | SHA
    ************************************************** ******************************************
    Last edited by Jett; December 4, 2019, 12:35 PM.

  • #2
    I finally had time to get back on the boards and comment on your review! I’ve really been looking forward to your thoughts on this one, as my opinion of it seems to be quite controversial. While we both didn’t love it, it seems that I hate it much more than you and for different reasons, which allows for exciting discussion!

    That being said, this is where the plot conveniences we talked about earlier come into play. Because the crime Nancy is looking into - the vandalism - is NOT really what the story is ultimately about, the game has to work REALLY hard to get her from point A to point B. It does this in the form of plot conveniences. Nancy just happens to find a piece of driftwood, and just HAPPENS to care about it and think it’s related to what’s going on in Snake Harbor. Nevermind the fact that as far as she knows, NOTHING is going on in Snake Harbor except that somebody vandalized Katie’s boat, which has NOTHING to do with a piece of driftwood. Even our phone contacts tell Nancy so, and the game has to rely on Nancy basically saying “it’s just a hunch” to get us to follow up on this piece of evidence. While this is a glaring example, this sort of thing turns up all over the game. (Like when the three people we find out we need for a task are the exact three people we’ve been talking to all game. How CONVENIENT that this is the case. I can’t help but feel like a bit of rearranging within this plot could have fixed, or at least helped, this issue.
    Spot on, as usual. I’m not a huge fan of the plot, largely for this reason. I’m certain I could find contrived moments in nearly every ND plot, but the way this game handles the plot is ridiculous. I never feel like these events happened because Nancy asked the right question or snooped in the right place. Maybe if we had even an inkling of what might be going on in Snake Horse Harbor (or that something was going on beyond orca sightings and vandalism) prior to or around the same time as we found certain clues (e.g., the driftwood), it would have seemed less like a chain of plot conveniences. I can’t recall if anyone mentions Hilda before Nancy gets in touch with her—I think Jenna or Andy does—but even something like that or mentioning a shipwreck would have helped. (It might have been too dark, but if the writers had included something in the plot like Jamaica Inn with the whole Benjamin Hawkins subplot, that would have been a great way to tie things up.) Anyway, I definitely believe the plot would have benefited from better pacing and stronger connections between the plot and subplots. Relying on conveniences so many times made the story feel forced and inorganic.

    Or EVEN just ditch the map formula (crazy, right?) and let us walk around Snake Harbor to get from point A to point B. These types of towns are SMALL, so it would be quite realistic for everything to be close together. I can’t knock what HER has created here, I just wish we’d gotten more.
    Agreed. I would have loved to see the little fishing village! Besides, that whole bicycle helmet thing is so annoying. I wrecked a hundred times in my first playthrough (and still do) because I’m in a hurry and don’t think to pick up the helmet. I don’t know why Nancy can’t carry it in her insanely large inventory with the other objects that are impossible to fit into any pocket. At least they rectified that situation in SHA with the hat.

    KATIE FIRESTONE: Dreadful (1/10)
    Katie is a Marine Biologist who runs a Whale Watching Tour in Snake Harbor. She’s a friend of George’s and agrees to host Nancy during her stay. She has one of my least favorite character models and barely has anything to say most of the time. She thinks that there should be a no-boat zone around the Orca, which we later learn is good for her whale watching business because she is the ONLY person allowed to get close to the whale to “monitor her condition.” Uh-huh, Katie, that isn’t shady at all. Still, the game tries to convince us she had reason to vandalize her own boat to “make herself look like a victim” when she really has nothing to gain from doing so.
    I agree with basically everything you said about all of the characters in the game. It’s almost the worst cast we’re ever given, now that I think about it. Definitely rivaling CRE and TOT. That being said, your feelings for Katie in particular are mutual. In my review, I believe I said she lived up to her name because she has the personality of a stone. Moreover, she never says anything to indicate that she is actually a marine biologist, and she is a HORRIBLE host to Nancy, especially as someone who’s supposed to be George’s friend.

    HOLT SCOTTO: Mediocre (3/10)
    This guy is probably the least terrible of the characters in this entry, in that we know more about his personality and motivations than the others. Holt is an old fisherman who has decided to run for Harbormaster because he wants the fishermen to be represented properly. He’s a little gruff, but is also endearing enough (he lets a complete stranger borrow his GPS which is pretty nice). He disagrees with the no-boat zone around the Orca because it forces the fishing boats to take the long way out of the chanel, which makes their jobs harder, and fishing is the way they make their living and feed their families. We interact with him a little more than the others over the course of our playthrough, though not by much. I also think he’s designed and animated better than the others.
    In retrospect, he is probably the least awful character in the game, but we barely get to interact with him at all. My review of him was a little scathing based on this fact more than anything else, but I do think he is easily the most decent and interesting person we meet.

    In general, I enjoyed the majority of the puzzles we had to solve in this entry. I don’t know that I’m the best judge of whether or not they were difficult, because I actually had a lot of base knowledge about several of them. For example, I know the basic strategies for check-mating in chess, so the chess puzzle was a cakewalk for me. I feel as though most people would find several of the puzzles in this game challenging enough. Additionally, the Anagram puzzle is hard, or at least I thought so (if you’re playing on senior detective that is.) There were only a few that I felt were actually badly done or too tedious - specifically, the lightbulbs. There IS a way to tell which lightbulb is the correct one, but I promise you will miss it and will just run back and forth seven or eight times until you happen to grab the right one.
    This is definitely where we disagree. I cannot stand most of the puzzles in this game. Not all of them are awful, but I could do without most. I’ve never been particularly fond of the puzzle-heavy games, but I can overlook it more if the puzzles are actually pleasant and well-integrated into the plot. As you said, there are some that fit perfectly and are quite charming (e.g., the fisherman’s quiz and Port/Starboard puzzle), but most are either long and tedious OR boring and tedious (e.g., gathering clams, navigating the harbor, navigating the tunnels, building the Caddy display). I also despise that I can’t actually exit the tunnels in a different place than I entered. That drives me insane.

    The game sets up a plot twist for us that’s supposed to feel big, but it really just feels predictable. Also, I’m left feeling frustrated for several reasons with the final moments of this story. Why did the culprit let Nancy get as far as she did? Why doesn’t Nancy help that person that needs help before the culprit catches up? Most importantly, why was the final “puzzle” (if you can call it that) even necessary? If I’m ever face to face with a criminal and I have one of those things in my grasp, believe me said criminal is not just shaking off the level of injury I would inflict upon him or her. The way the game wants you to deal with the culprit is just so much less likely to work than the alternative. Additionally, like with several other entries, if you paid even a sliver of attention throughout your playthrough the solution in the end is pretty obvious.
    Hahaha, I like the ending because it’s something different and feels incredibly cinematic. It’s definitely the most memorable thing for me, and I still recall how shocked I was by that whole sequence the first time I played. However, I also wondered why Nancy couldn’t just help the person and team up with them instead. Plus, the way the culprit acts in that whole scenario is weird and doesn’t make sense in the context of the game (or character for that matter). YES. I knew immediately what I was supposed to do for the final puzzle, and I thought it was really silly. I don’t know about you, but I think I could do more damage with that item myself. Besides, what if it had missed?

    While I wasn’t hyper-aware of most of the music in this game, there were a few pieces that really stood out to me this time around. I particularly loved the music we get in both the Hot Kettle Cafe and the Lighthouse area. The two pieces that I enjoyed I believe were called “Jig” and “Discovery 1”. Both are very lighthearted and upbeat, and very Gaelic sounding with piccolos or flutes or something of that sort. I’m not surprised these stood up to me as I generally LOVEEEE this type of music in pretty much anything, and there are so many great movie scores that utilize this to some extent (Lord of the Rings and How to Train your Dragon for example).
    How ironic that the one area I would usually enthusiastically agree with, one way or the other, is the one that I disagree with most. I actually do not like the music in this game much, ESPECIALLY the pieces that sounded Gaelic. Now, as you will learn, I LOVEEEEE traditional Irish music and always have, but, to me, it doesn’t fit in this game at all. I know that sailor music/sea shanties tend to be reminiscent of, if not descended from, Irish folk music, but it’s not something I expected to hear in a game that takes place in the Pacific Northwest. Tonally those pieces stand out so much compared to the rest of the soundtrack, which I find off-putting. I’m not even sure how much I like them out of the context of the game, but they are definitely grating in game.

    Once again, fantastic review! Looking forward to your review on SHA!

    Comment


    • #3
      Well at least it sounds like our reviews are no longer carbon copies of each other We seem to have slightly different priorities in what makes a good game. I also think the amount of times we've played the games does/will make a huge difference. You've definitely played them wayyyy more times than I have. I have a few favorites that I've played a handful of times, but most of them (including this one), I played once YEARS ago. So although I remember playing them and they don't feel new, a lot of it feels really fresh to me. It also means that I may misremember things, which might be why I was so pleasantly surprised by the plot in a few of these not so great entries (like this, and DOG). I think there are a lot of games that I'm going into with slightly lower expectations than they deserve and then surprisingly NOT hating them by the time I'm done.

      The way this game handles the plot is ridiculous. I never feel like these events happened because Nancy asked the right question or snooped in the right place. Maybe if we had even an inkling of what might be going on in Snake Horse Harbor (or that something was going on beyond orca sightings and vandalism) prior to or around the same time as we found certain clues (e.g., the driftwood), it would have seemed less like a chain of plot conveniences. I can’t recall if anyone mentions Hilda before Nancy gets in touch with her—I think Jenna or Andy does—but even something like that or mentioning a shipwreck would have helped.
      EXACTLY. Any story should feel as though the ending has been earned, not handed over. That definitely didn't happen here. Jenna does talk about Hilda before we speak to her, but I just felt as though the entire thing was way too convenient to be realistic. Even just rearranging this aspect might have made the game better. For example, rather than Nancy hearing about this crazy lady Hilda only to find out she's sane, the game could have instead had Hilda contact Nancy first, and when Nancy inquires about her with the other residents she's told that Hilda is crazy. This, along with the random things Hilda has us doing, would keep the player in suspense as to Hilda's true nature, and putting it all together in the end would feel rewarding. Instead Nancy is just given all of the answers in boring succession until the game is over.

      This is definitely where we disagree. I cannot stand most of the puzzles in this game. Not all of them are awful, but I could do without most. I’ve never been particularly fond of the puzzle-heavy games, but I can overlook it more if the puzzles are actually pleasant and well-integrated into the plot. As you said, there are some that fit perfectly and are quite charming (e.g., the fisherman’s quiz and Port/Starboard puzzle), but most are either long and tedious OR boring and tedious (e.g., gathering clams, navigating the harbor, navigating the tunnels, building the Caddy display). I also despise that I can’t actually exit the tunnels in a different place than I entered. That drives me insane.
      I think I just really enjoy puzzles in general lol. I do hate when they feel tedious or unimportant, but I felt like even the tedious ones here (LIKE THAT HORRIBLE MATCHING GAME) made sense in that the reason we were doing them was clear. The only puzzle I HATED and felt was too long and boring was having to find that set of coordinates by running ALL OVER THE PLACE just to count things. I also hated gathering clams, but I actually don't consider that a "puzzle" so to speak. I try not to include things that don't require solving in my puzzle score because I feel they're kind of their own thing. Also, I TOO HATED NOT BEING ABLE TO EXIT THE TUNNELS SOMEWHERE ELSE. It was incredibly frustrating.

      I actually do not like the music in this game much, ESPECIALLY the pieces that sounded Gaelic. Now, as you will learn, I LOVEEEEE traditional Irish music and always have, but, to me, it doesn’t fit in this game at all.
      You're probably right that they don't belong in this game, but I'm a bit biased in that I LOVE gaelic pieces (even bad ones ). I have an entire movie score playlist that consists of JUST this type of music because I love it as background writing music and I feel like the genre can exemplify so many different emotions/themes. That being said, I get why you didn't like it in this instance lol.

      Thanks for the reply!!! I'm moving on to read your DOG review next!!

      Comment

      Working...
      X