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The Ghost of Thornton Hall has some Thorns

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  • The Ghost of Thornton Hall has some Thorns

    When I first started playing this game and learned of its premise, I was a little taken aback by its resemblance to the Haunting of Castle Malloy. Similar to Castle Malloy, the plot revolves around finding a missing bride. Also like Castle Malloy, this mystery takes place at night in a decaying building and has a sub-plot involving supernatural phenomenon. From there the two games differ vastly, however I’m disappointed that some ideas were reused in the Ghost of Thornton Hall. The premise could have shifted a little bit to not be so parallel to another Nancy Drew game with the rest of the plot remaining close to intact.

    On the bright side, the Ghost of Thornton Hall said goodbye to an era of Nancy Drew games that I truly despised and resembled the worst decision that HerInteractive ever made with regards to “improving” the Nancy Drew games: the second chance dialogue. I absolutely detest how making a wrong move in Nancy Drew games 16 through 27 results in a message and pathetic attempt at a joke about Nancy’s error that takes forever to type across the screen and interrupts the entire playing experience. Finally, in the Ghost of Thornton Hall, HerInteractive has done away with the dialogue and instead simply has a fatal error message and a button to click back to the game. Not as classy as being booted out of the game entirely like in games 1-15, but better than its awful replacement.

    With that said, the Ghost of Thornton Hall reminded me a lot of the Tomb of the Lost Queen with regards to what it has and what it lacks. It has a surplus of fun puzzles that are well-integrated into the gameplay, however there were also dozens of plot holes and unanswered questions in this game that made me feel detached from the mystery.

    First off, the Thornton family runs a business, but there is no mention about what this business is about except that there’s a factory involved. Nancy also learns about Charlotte Thornton, whose ghost haunts the mansion. The details surrounding her death aren’t made obvious until the end of the game and the motive around it seems weak because there weren’t a lot of clues leading up to the end that completely filled in the story of the Thornton family. Lastly, an awful explanation is contrived to explain Charlotte’s ghost that seems very un-Nancy Drew. It also didn’t fit in with the fact that some of Nancy’s fetal errors result from being “attacked” by said ghost. Completing this game left me unfulfilled and dissatisfied.

    I was also bothered by the setting and the passage of time in this game. This game takes place at the Thornton estate which is on an island and is comprised of a cemetery and two houses. When I found out that this mystery took place on an island, I thought that meant that Nancy would be able to walk around the entire place, but only those three main locations are viewable. These locations wear out their welcome rather quickly as there isn’t a whole lot to look at within them. I was bothered by the layout of the main house as it did not match the actual house’s exterior and appeared to have some rooms missing. One perk about the setting is all of the ghostly encounters that Nancy has. They reminded me a lot of Message in a Haunted Mansion, and they helped maintain the mood of the game. This entire mystery also takes place at night with Nancy blacking out periodically. The first time it happens, Nancy mentions on the phone that she slept for a considerable amount of time, but none of the other characters acknowledge her being asleep at all. In fact, every time she blacks out, nothing changes about the rest of the setting to make it show for her time away from the mystery. This really bugged me as it’s never apparent how much time is passing, and it doesn’t make the mystery feel realistic.

    The characters in this game were also subpar. Three out of four of them seem to have their personalities completed dictated by their role in the Thornton family. Clara, Jessalyn’s mother keeps a proper composure throughout the entire mystery and doesn’t show any concern towards Jessalyn’s well-being because she cares more about the Thornton family image. Jessalyn’s fiancé Colton also appears unconcerned about Jessalyn and exhibits zero personality because he’s only marrying her to help the Thornton family image. His character develops a little during the mystery but he still remains uninteresting. Harper is Clara’s cousin and the sister of the deceased Charlotte Thornton. Since Charlotte’s death, Harper is said to have gone “crazy” and acts this way in all of her conversations with Nancy. Though she does say a few funny things, her craziness comes off as a bit overdramatic and turns annoying. Wade is the only enjoyable character in this game as he’s the only one not trying to uphold some sort of image. He’s even-tempered in all of his conversations with Nancy and provides honest information about the Thornton family. I especially love some of the things that he says to Nancy when she comes to talk to you (“You sure do like creeping around” and “Ugh, you scared me.”).

    As I said before, the puzzles in this game were all enjoyable. They were an attainable level of challenging and the majority of them tied in well with the mystery. There was one that kind of bugged me, though. There was a note that Nancy has to use to unlock a briefcase and all of the clues on the note relate to arbitrary facts that Nancy has to hunt down around the mansion. Realistically, no one would write this kind of reminder to themselves on how to open their briefcase, which made the puzzle seem ill-placed and too gamified. Also like Tomb of the Lost Queen, there weren’t any fun extra things to do in this game except drink tea. There weren’t any mini-games or other activities to act as in-game breaks from solving the mystery.

    I would not recommend playing the Ghost of Thornton Hall. Though it has strong game play, its confusing plot and time passage combined with its meager setting and characters does not make it worth the time. Instead, I would recommend Shadow at the Water’s Edge or Legend of the Crystal Skull.
    I discovered that Secrets can Kill. I Stayed Tuned for Danger. I read the Message in a Haunted Mansion. I uncovered the Treasure in a Royal Tower. I watched the Final Scene. I washed away the Secret of the Scarlet Hand. I pet the Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake. I rode the Haunted Carousel. I dodged the Danger on Deception Island. I lassoed the Secret of Shadow Ranch. I overcame the Curse of Blackmoor Manor. I unwound the Secret of the Old Clock. I traveled on the Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon. I unveiled the Danger by Design. I captured the Creature of Kapu Cave. I discussed politics with the White Wolf of Icicle Creek. I unearthed the Legend of the Crystal Skull. I unmasked the Phantom of Venice. I exposed the Haunting of Castle Malloy. I paid the Ransom of the Seven Ships. I heeded the Warnings of Waverly Academy. I chased the Trail of the Twister. I stood in the Shadow at the Water’s Edge. I shattered the Captive Curse. I upheld the Alibi in Ashes. I opened the Tomb of the Lost Queen. I condemned the Deadly Device. I sang to the Ghost of Thornton Hall. I did justice for the Silent Spy. I repaired the Shattered Medallion. I navigated the Labyrinth of Lies. I illuminated the Sea of Darkness. I was awake at Midnight in Salem.