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A Longtime Fan's Review- DOG

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  • A Longtime Fan's Review- DOG

    Disclaimer: I grew up on ND games, and this was the fourth game I played in the series (after CAR). I'm replaying the games because I'm doing remote temp work and searching for my first real legal job now that I'm finally licensed. They're quite good distractions, I've found, alongside my other hobbies. Some of the games hold up well, and others not so much. I was looking forward to this one, but it fell kind of flat for me. I wasn't smiling through this one the way I was with TRT or, more recently, TRN.

    Plot: Sally McDonald, a friend of Nancy’s, has recently bought an old house on Moon Lake that used to belong to a 1920s gangster named Mickey Malone. She’s begun feeling like someone doesn’t want her at the house, so she’s called Nancy up for help. By the time Nancy arrives, Sally is gone and it soon becomes clear why she’s apprehensive about the place: every night, four mysterious dogs surround the house, barking and clawing at the doors and windows. Locals claim the dogs are the ghosts of Mickey Malone’s four dogs, angry that someone other than their precious Mickey is up in his house.


    Setting: I’m from a state with quite a few rural, mountainous parts. They got the small town feel of Moon Lake down pat here, including the worries about tourists and increased media presence disrupting the wildlife and vibe of the town. Like any HER game, your options of travel are narrow here: you have Sally’s house plus the surrounding woods outback, then Emily’s general store, Red Knott’s bird watching platform, and Ranger Akers’ station. Emily and Akers are on the lake, so you use a motorboat to get there. Though the options are narrow, you don’t feel constrained at all in this game because of how vast the Malone house and its adjoining woods are.

    Cast:

    Ranger Jeff Akers: A helpful park ranger who is a tad zealous in his job, probably because he wants a transfer to a bigger park or at least enough funding for a fellow ranger to help him. I know some people said he was annoying, but I didn’t find him annoying. I thought he was just another exasperated guy who was overworked out in the middle of nowhere, trying to do his job while some eighteen year-old detective harangued him.

    Emily: She runs the general store. For some reason, she has a southern accent even though Moon Lake is in Pennsylvania. She was fine, if a tad irritating because she gave me a detestable task involving hunting for bugs under rocks in the woods, which entailed a lot of backtracking. I’ll forever despise her for that “critter” task.
    Oh, and her whole issue with Akers is that he’s cracked down on folks dragging the lake for valuables its famous denizens of the past may have misplaced or lost. Since she also sells antiques (apparently?), this ban has impacted her business.

    Red Knott: Oh, this guy… I swear. So, first of all: he’s trespassing on the Malone property, so Sally could and should evict him (which she can do). Next, he’s ridiculously demanding and petty regarding birds. I did laugh when he talked about his dog liking bird calls. He’s very brusque, and I get it, I’d be the same way toward someone like Nancy. But, there’s no reason for Red to be so uptight when he’s technically a trespasser. He cares more for birds than people, and is worried about tourists scaring off his precious birds.

    I mostly detest his “take pictures of the birds for me” task, as it involved so much backtracking between him and Emily and the house. You have to go to bed to meet with him, see, as he’s only out at night. I thought that was cool, as it does give you a reason to change the time, but it was also irritating because you have to do it constantly to talk to him.

    Dogs: I guess since there were animated animals in this one HER decided against a fourth human suspect? They’re all cute. 9/10 on the dogs, slight ding because they’re not cats.

    The real plot: Uncovering Malone’s past, the secrets of his house, and the whereabouts of the rest of his gang was far more interesting to me than Sally’s plight. The subplot does dovetail into the main one, of course, but it was a very shaky Scooby-Doo way of uniting the two.

    Things to note: Vivian, one of your phone friends, greets you with a threat to deafen you with an airhorn if you’re a telemarketer. Doing that could open her up to some serious civil liability if she ever did it, even if it was on a telemarketer (or, more likely, a phone banker). Don’t ever do this… you could seriously hurt someone and end up liable for the harm you caused. (That’s not legal advice and can’t be reasonably construed as such. I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer. This doesn’t make you my client or form any type of lawyer-client relationship between us.) That stunt also didn't make me want to talk to her more than I had to, which is a shame as I feel she has quite a lot of interesting things to say. But, that could be said for many characters in this game regarding their potential for conversation and depth.

    There are no scares in this game. The ghost dogs play a minimal role in the game, which is good for younger players or those who are easily frightened. However, looking back, I can’t believe my younger self was so scared of the dogs in this game (I was pretty pathetic at thirteen, to be frank). I think it’s because I just detest dogs, having been chased by them multiple times in my life due to neighbors thinking they’ll just leave Fido out on the front lawn while I’m taking a neighborhood stroll. I digress… it’s clear now that the dogs aren’t frightening. I can’t believe something like this would make a woman Sally’s age so scared she fled the place. I’d just call animal control, or the police.

    Speaking of that… there were multiple times in this game when I thought Sally should’ve made a formal appearance with the cops in tow because Nancy has a very close call in this game. Nancy’s very blasé about the whole thing, but I don’t know, if I was Sally, I’d have told Nancy I’m coming up to get her and that I’d called the police. I get that the rational response I have here isn’t the one that would make for an exciting game, but that was such a gaping plot hole that I couldn’t ignore it.

    I didn’t think Ranger Akers was treated badly in this game by either the NPC's or HER. People tend to dislike authority figures, especially those who strictly follow the rules as Akers does here. It stands to reason that some people would take issue with his methods. I did have a problem believing that he was more concerned about the burning of “refuse” in a way that endangered park property rather than the risk of life that incident caused, as I don’t think he would or should have acted that way. In that sense, I felt like HER was writing him the way they thought park rangers acted rather than from firsthand knowledge. (The whole point of forest fire prevention is to prevent damage to people’s lives and their property, but the first one tends to take priority.)

    Almost forgot: you travel by boat in this game, and you have to watch that boat crawl across a map of Moon Lake until you reach your destination. It's not fun. I can see navigating once to a location that way, but it was so exasperating having to do it every. Single. Time.


    Puzzles: There’s a lot of them. The ones involving the Malone house and his dogs are simple to follow and keep track of, so I had no qualms with those. Oh, no, my issue here is with that stupid Roman numeral envelope task Ranger Akers makes you do. No one sorts or archives things in Roman numerals, HER, no one! This was during a phase I like to call “HER loves Roman numerals,” wherein every ND game around this time had a Roman numerals puzzle of some stripe. They may have skipped a game, but oh, they were there. The envelope one was messy, as the source you’re given to translate the numbers is a bad one that is more confusing than helpful. I cheat every time on this one, and no regrets, because it’s awful and utterly pointless (the sole reason you have to sort those awful envelopes is because Akers got upset with you asking a certain question and Nancy can’t apologize like a normal person would).

    I’m also going to count here just for sheer tedium and backtracking to the point of my head spinning: Red’s bird pictures and Emily’s bug hunt. Both are unnecessary,
    tedious, and should never be used again in any other format ever.


    Oh, and for giggles: there’s a time when you have to change the batteries in Nancy’s flashlight because she leaves it on all the time and has managed to deplete two D batteries in the span of a few days (seriously, stop leaving it on!). Now, I don’t mind the idea of needing batteries once in a game, like at the start of it… but you open a crucial passage in the game and your light goes out, so you have to trudge your sneakers back through the forest to the boat to Emily’s shore to… organize her soda cans to match a picture so she’ll give you the batteries for free. Just give Nancy a debit card, HER! You can teach us about responsible spending or something, or have a plot-wallet that ND only uses when she needs to buy something. It’d be better than having to bang those cans around to make a smiling fish so you can get a couple of batteries for a flashlight your character keeps leaving on! Sorry, I feel very passionately about when those batteries run out as it is such a bummer.

    Ending/Culprit: The culprit reveal didn’t surprise me much as a kid, and it doesn’t now either. I don’t know why, but the culprit just stood out to me in this one. Not as obvious as TRT, but it is there.

    The ending is quite clever too, as far as Nancy’s escape goes. My time away from these games means I forgot everything about it, so I kept having to reroll with second chances. It’s quite suspenseful, but it’s not as heart-stopping as some ND games. It’s alright.

    Final Verdict: It is a classic, so I do recommend it, just be prepared to be mesmerized more by Malone and his speakeasy of secrets than Sally’s issues.

    Total score: 6/10, slight dings for the puzzles, plot holes, and Red Knott being Red Knott
    "Rock and roll, dear!" - Professor Hotchkiss, Treasure in the Royal Tower
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