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A Veteran's Review of GTH

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  • A Veteran's Review of GTH

    Allow me to preface this review by saying that I have been playing the ND games for fourteen years. Over those years, I have probably played each game well over twenty times--the older ones probably over fifty--and I do at least one full marathon of all 33 games (i.e., all 32 and SCK Remastered) annually. As I have gotten older, I have found myself ranking the games, characters, music, etc., in my spare time during marathons, and this year I thought I would write--and subsequently post--reviews of each game while I go through my 2018/2019 marathon. I have lost access to/forgotten about my previous accounts on here, including my very first one, so I made a new one solely for this purpose. Since the forum maintenance and multiple trips out-of-town caused serious delays in my production schedule, my new goal is to try and finish my 2018/2019 Nancy Drew Marathon before Christmas Day, which is the anniversary of me first playing the games. My plan is to play MID that day and get a review up before the end of the year. That being said, I hope you enjoy my review!

    Be ready with bells and drums because today is the day we have all been waiting for, or at least the day I have been waiting for, since I began this review series two years ago. It is finally, finally time for me to share my review of my absolute favorite Nancy Drew game: Ghost of Thornton Hall. Now, I have to admit that this game was not always my favorite, and I do not think it is the best game, objectively speaking. There are some pretty significant flaws, but, to me, they pale in comparison to this game's strengths. Do I wish it was literally the most flawless creation in existence? Oh, for sure, but I still have an undying love for it that has only grown stronger over time. So, grab a chair and get ready because this is going to be a long one. With this preamble out of the way, let's get down to business!

    Plot: Fire so red, night so black, dear, sweet Charlotte, please come back. It was a silly rhyme, a little sad considering the source, but Jessalyn had come to Blackrock Island for a night of terror and fun, also known as a bachelorette party. She was determined to meet her dreaded cousin, Charlotte Thornton, before the night was out, and she had already scared herself silly more than once traipsing through the graveyard and moonlit hallways of Thornton Hall. At least she could follow up on some of the strange clues she found, clues that had to come from Charlotte, to entertain herself in the meantime. Plus, there was always Addison, who screamed and jumped two feet in the air if so much as a draft hit her neck. So far she had only cried twenty-nine times since they landed, which was a personal best. Still, Jessalyn couldn't shake the feeling that someone else--someone living--was nearby, and it only heightened this bizarre urgency she felt to follow up on the little note someone had left with her name on it. How had they known she was coming? Why did they leave something for her, and how long had it been there? As she pondered over these questions, entirely tuning out Addison's panicked shrieks and pleas to go home, she realized that she understood the clue she had been boring a hole into while lost in her reverie. "I think I know what this is about!" she told Addison, rushing off without a care in the world beyond that small slip of paper. Little did she know that life as she knew it was about to be over.

    For the first time since FIN, and partially TRN, Nancy is tasked with investigating the disappearance of a young woman named Jessalyn, the bride-to-be of the wealthiest and most unfortunate family ever to grace Chatham County: the Thorntons. Savannah Woodham calls her up in the middle of the night begging her to go in her stead because Blackrock Island is not a place for any who truly believes in ghosts. As steadfast and resolute as ever, Nancy pledges to find out what happened to Jessalyn regardless of how fearsome Charlotte Thornton seems. Upon her arrival, she learns that she has much more to worry about than the island's resident ghost. As Savannah warns, the living Thorntons are just as scary as the dead ones. Through meeting the remaining family members and Jessalyn's fiancé, it becomes quite clear that there are some complicated power dynamics and family histories at play here. Wade Thornton reveals that the family tree has always been split in two, those on the side of the good and those on the side of the greedy and wicked, and that he is concerned that Jessalyn's disappearance may have been part of the generational curse that takes out those good, honorable family members, like Charlotte Thornton herself. Indeed, it appears that Charlotte's death and what she was trying to hide may be at the center of Jessalyn's disappearance. It's up to Nancy to unravel the Thornton family's best kept secrets in order to find Jessalyn before its too late.

    Let me just start by saying that I adored the premise of this game since I saw the first teaser trailer. It was immediately clear that this game was going to try and be the scariest entry in the series, and, seeing as how the scary games are my favorites, I was thrilled. What I did not expect, however, was the rich, dark plot involving Charlotte Thornton, her death, and the aftermath. The plot involving Jessalyn's disappearance is good, and I never feel like we entirely lose sight of it, since we are constantly exploring and opening up new areas. Still, it becomes clear pretty quickly that Jessalyn's disappearance has something to do with Charlotte, so the plot shifts to investigating her death and what she did. The nice thing is that the game never tells you that the focus has shifted. Nancy follows up on the little clues Harper leaves for her, many of which help progress the game by (immediately or eventually) giving Nancy access to new areas. Thus, you feel like you are hunting for Jessalyn the entire time, but you are really hunting for Charlotte's clues about what she hid. It's expertly done, in my opinion.

    What I love most about this plot is how scary it is for older players. It has plenty of traditional scares for the young players, but Charlotte's death, Harper's mental state (and what was done to her), the factory accident, and Charlotte's obsession with Jackson are truly upsetting and disturbing for older players. There have certainly been some plots that left me reflecting on things and feeling some serious remorse (e.g., Dirk and Frances from SHA and Jake Hurley from TRN), but this one takes the cake on exemplifying human tragedy. Unfortunately, the nature of these topics leads to some plot holes, particularly concerning how Charlotte died, what the Thornton family business is, why Charlotte was obsessed with Jackson, and why the game repeatedly talked about Clara's missing father, but they leave a decent amount of clues for us to figure things out on our own or at least come up with decent theories. (Note: I will be talking about this more in an upcoming post in the game discussions board, so head on over there once I have that post up. It's much easier to talk about the plot of this game and why I love it when I can spoil things.) I do wish, however, that Nic had been allowed to fully explore and realize the darkest parts of the game. I need to know if what we have collectively been thinking about these topics in particular is true, even if we could not get answers in the game.

    Another thing that I cannot praise enough is how well this game brings Charlotte to life. I know I talked about this in The Deadly Device, too, but I am just so thankful that we get a good sense of who Charlotte was prior to her death. I wish we got to see a little more, like actually seeing a glimpse of her and the other characters on the birthday party film reel or seeing the night she died like how she did in her encounter with Savannah, but I still think the game does a great job of setting up the contrast between her as a woman and who she became as a ghost. I do wish we had a better sense of what the other characters were like prior to her death, besides happier, but that is a minor complaint at best. Anyway, I could spend hours just gushing about the plot of this game and complaining about how much I want to know the truth, but I will spare you. All you need to know is that I love this game.

    Setting: Well, it should not come as a surprise that I adore the setting in this game. Is there anything better than an abandoned Southern mansion on a fictional island outside of Savannah, Georgia? Yes, a haunted one. Honestly, they could not have chosen a more perfect location for this game. Savannah and Charleston are both renowned for being haunted, which is unsurprising given how old the cities are and what took place in and around them (i.e., slavery and wars). Not only does the haunted reputation and rich history of Savannah provide an excellent backdrop for Thornhall and the Thornton family, but the environment itself perfectly suits the spooky atmosphere of the game. Now, as one who finds the Lowcountry to be exceptionally beautiful and who lived in Charleston for a while, I can tell you that I do not find live oaks with Spanish moss to be anything but gorgeous, but there is definitely something about them at night that hits differently. They feel older at night. Anyway, the mist-shrouded rows of live oak trees with Spanish moss that surround Thornton Hall are still beautiful, but they come across quite eerily. It's fabulous! If you're wondering whether the Lowcountry really has rows of Spanish moss-covered live oaks like that everywhere, I am happy to inform you that it does. Many "backroads" will have you feeling like you're in a movie. (Also, I feel compelled to tell you that Spanish moss is neither moss nor Spanish. It is actually a relative of the pineapple. Now, go and impress all your friends with that random bit of knowledge.)

    Besides the general outdoor aesthetic of Blackrock Island, we have several locations, and I love them all. The true star of the show is, naturally, Thornton Hall itself. On the outside, it is the white, colonial-style plantation house one would expect to find in the South, Doric columns and all. The wrap-around porch, second-floor balcony/porch, and widow's walk are even better. It's clearly a derelict building in need of some serious TLC and more than a few buckets of paint, but it still has that imposing grandeur that only comes with old houses. The interior seems a little small for the exterior shot--I actually am bothered by this, as there is no door to explain where the entire left side of the house is once inside--but it is certainly atmospheric. The front parlor still has hints that it was once a lovely room. There's a stunning chandelier dangling from the ceiling, damaged paintings crookedly hanging in ornate frames along the walls, a plain fireplace, and tattered curtains on the windows. The only furniture left in the room is an exquisitely carved chair, a desk with an oil lamp on top, as well as a serving table outfitted with a silver tea set, porcelain china, linen napkins, a lace doily, and a silver fruit bowl. Nice. I should also mention that tragically destroyed grand piano. The Thorntons must really have a lot of money to let a perfectly good piano like that literally fall apart. Oh well.

    The entryway has some gorgeous wood paneling and an appropriately narrow stairway. (Seriously, the stairways in plantation houses are death traps. The stairs are so narrow and the length of the stairs is tiny because they all had smaller feet than we do now.) Again, this is where the anatomy of the house gets really confusing because it seems like we are at the exterior wall of the house, especially with their being a corner window in the upstairs hallway. That kind of stuff really bothers me. If they wanted to make the house smaller, then at least don't make it a giant colonial-style house on the exterior. Anyway, there is damaged furniture, dirty carpet, peeling wallpaper, broken mirrors, and holes in the ceiling in the hallway and entryway. Cobwebs are EVERYWHERE too. Definitely aids in making the house feel abandoned, decrepit, and haunted. Still, you can tell what the place might have looked like when it was lived in and imagine life in it. Charlotte's room is at the end of the hallway, and it is easily my favorite room in the house. It is the most well-preserved space in the house--the sheets covering the furniture and the room being locked up probably helped--and the huge paintings on the walls are so gorgeous. Her bed is also really pretty; I adore those red velvet pillows and the intricate carvings on the frame. Her jewelry box, hand mirror, and HARP are also beautiful. (Please, will someone explain to me why these instruments were not rescued from this place? I know Charlotte's room was locked, but that still does not explain the neglected piano.)

    There is not much to say about the cellar/basement. It definitely look appropriately rugged and cluttered (and warm), but I do not have much to say about it. My reason for going to it is to visit my queen. The one room I have not mentioned, however, is worth discussing. First of all, I have to say that this room TERRIFIES me. I mean, TERRIFIES me. For one, I have absolutely no earthly idea what those weird bags are that are hanging from the ceiling and perpetually moving, but the outline/shadow in them looks like the shape of a human body. I DO NOT LIKE THAT. AT ALL. It is legitimately the scariest thing in the game to me. On top of it all, there are weird hooks, scythes, chains, and other farm equipment hanging up there too. If any one of them fell on you, you would probably become a ghost of Thornton Hall yourself. It is an incredibly unsafe room to be in. I do not like it or its swinging bags. (It also has that weird animal that someone said might be a naked mole rat. Uh. Only if it found some kind of food to make it grow four times larger than usually and got diced into ribbons and stitched back together by a madman.) Anyway, I still do not understand why there is a workshop in the house, or at least so close to the living spaces, but it definitely does its job of being really scary and uncomfortable.

    Besides Thornton Hall itself, there is also another house on Blackrock Island, though it barely justifies that word, and that is the ruins in which Charlotte died. Some people might be wondering why there are two houses on the island, which is certainly understandable, but it was quite common for wealthy families on the coast to build multiple houses in relatively close proximity to each other. For one, many grand houses were attacked, seized, or burned during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, though most of the damage in the Civil War was done by Sherman's troops and he did not burn Savannah. If I remember correctly, smaller, less grand (by their standard) houses were built for the family to dwell in while constructing the "big house," as construction took a long time and materials were usually gathered from the estate's land. So, I just assume that the first Thorntons to live on Blackrock Island built the first house to live in while waiting or later Thorntons decided to build the antebellum house. Purpose aside, I honestly love that we get to see the ruins where Charlotte died, as morbid as it is. You can tell the house must have been quite beautiful, especially with that spiral staircase, but the fact that all that remains is burnt, paint-stripped wood is really chilling. The decrepit arbor and small stone fountain really add to the strange beauty of this place. I honestly wish it wasn't so barren inside besides some (maybe) candlesticks--a fire would have left piles of ash and charred wood everywhere--and that we could explore more of it (i.e., upstairs and downstairs), but it still manages to be insanely creepy.

    The last area is, naturally, morbid like the rest of the locations on Blackrock Island. Rather than burying their dead in a cemetery or graveyard (there is, in fact, a difference) on the mainland, the Thornton clan decided to bury all of their dead in a family cemetery right on the island. Considering how much death occurred in their family, I supposed that saves them a trip across the channel, but I still cannot really imagine burying my loved ones within eyeshot of my bedroom window. Alright, maybe it isn't that close, but it's still really strange to me. That being said, I think the cemetery is as beautiful as it is creepy. The headstones are all a bit different, which is cool, and I love that Wade tells you a little bit about most of the dead buried there. My favorites, as weird as that is to say, are Charlotte's stone, Harper's stone, the Gray Lady's stone, and Marianna and Dodge's stones. The crypt is also beautiful--I'm just realizing how many times Nancy has been in a crypt over the course of these games and how I have literally been in one maybe one time--though a little disturbing with how the coffins are on display, unprotected, and unmarked. Yikes. The roses and rose window definitely make the space more beautiful and solemn, but that wheeled coffin cart freaks me out. How long has that been there? Why is it still there? Did they purchase one to make things easier for them? YIKES.

    All in all, I really love the different environments in this game and Blackrock as a whole. There is never really any place that feels safe and warm at any time, though some certainly seem marginally less creepy than others. Even SAW has places you can retreat to temporarily if you find yourself getting too spooked, and this game does not provide that luxury. It wants you to feel oppressed by Blackrock Island the way everyone else does, which is really effective, especially on a first playthrough.

    Characters: The Thornton clan is a truly old-fashioned Southern family. They're old money and have all the quirks, problems, and crazy family dynamics that come with that, especially down here in the South. Thus, it goes without saying that this game features some of the most fascinating characters in the series, and should be even less of a surprise when I say that two of my all-time favorite characters in the games--and in general--come from this game, namely: Harper Thornton and Wade Thornton. Harper is the reigning queen of my heart among all Nancy Drew characters--she even beat out my beloved, eccentric Professor Beatrice Gertrude Winifred Hotchkiss--and Wade is either second behind Mason or tied with him as favorite male character (Dexter Egan, Frank Hardy, and Josiah Crowley are way up there too). I will get into the details below, but I thought it was worth saying up here that this game really has a great cast of characters and honestly might be my favorite cast as a whole.

    Clara Thornton - Jessalyn's mother, owner of Thornton Industrial Group, first cousins with Charlotte, Harper, and Wade

    1) Seems to really care about Jessalyn

    2) Actively pushing for Jessalyn's search and rescue

    1) Overbearing

    2) Manipulative and controlling

    3) A bit of a revisionist when it comes to her family's past

    4) Very cold, severe personality

    Reasons for Suspicion:
    1) Implied dark family secret involving Clara

    2) Knocks anyone who stands up against her down

    3) Charlotte's ghost seems to really dislike her

    4) Believes that she is closer to "whatever took Jessalyn" by staying in the house

    Other notes:
    1) The head of the Thornton clan, Clara Thornton, is the kind of woman who expects to get exactly what she wants, exactly when she wants it. Something tells me that she usually does. She is staunchly on the side of the family tree that, as Wade puts it, is unapologetic for their past misdeeds and likes to profit off of others, even at the cost of their health, well-being, and lives. A real capitalist, if you will. She has everyone under her thumb, including her own daughter, and wants everything to be done her way. Her morals are questionable at best. Strangely enough, she falls to pieces over her father, Harper, and Charlotte--and is far more reluctant to talk about her or sensitive to mention of her than anyone else--more than she does her own daughter's disappearance. As many issues as Clara has, I still find her to be a delightful character. She's just so interesting! What I find most intriguing about her is her character arc. In the game, we first meet her in Thornton Hall's front parlor staring out of a window. She looks tired and concerned, but as soon as we talk to her, that whole motherly concern seems to go out the window. She calls Nancy "hun," uses some of those Southern phrases that sound sweet (but are the actually equivalent of telling you to go jump in a lake), welcomes her to "what's left of her roof," and then throws some shade at her cousin, Wade, to immediately discredit everything he says. You know, even though he is the one who hired Savannah (and thus, Nancy) to come out here. Interesting.

    She then tells Nancy that Jessalyn would never disappear on her own accord and put the family through such a nightmare, and instead hopes that it was someone who kidnapped her to "punish" the Thornton family, since paying a ransom is a much faster way of getting things taken care of quickly when you're loaded. Alright, I know I'm being unfair, but I can't really imagine being in the place where I pray for a ransom note to show up because I have the funds to pay exorbitant amounts of money for the safe return of my loved one. I don't think that thought (i.e., hoping for a ransom note) would cross my mind even if I did have that kind of money. Furthermore, she tells Nancy that she thinks whoever took Jessalyn wanted the family to have to sit and wait in that "broken down old house." She also gives a little anecdote about how beautiful it used to be, how the greed and tragedy the family heaped on the halls made it crumble, and how she wanted to fix it up and make it hers. Another incredibly unusual thing to bring up at this time, but you do you, Clara. (Additionally, notice that Clara is the only one in the house at all.) So, we get this initial portrait of her that basically leads to assume that she is quite different from everyone else here. She is the only one willing to set foot in Thornton Hall itself, she obviously has bad blood with a good deal of her remaining family members, and she is not uncomfortable mentioning her family's power and wealth. Well then.

    The game does not take long in establishing Clara's past, which is quite drastically different from her present circumstances. She lost her mother at a young age--though there is an age discrepancy between what Wade tells us and the dates listed on the family tree--and never knew who her father was, which left her feeling unsure of her place in a family that was so concerned with lineage. Following her mother's death and subsequent orphaning, she came to live with Charlotte, Harper, and their parents, Marianna and Dodge, at none other than Thornton Hall. Suffice to say, it does not seem that she had much that was her own anymore. When Marianna and Dodge died in a tragic plane crash, Charlotte was bequeathed full ownership of all of the Thornton family's estate, and when Charlotte died in a tragic fire accident on the night of her twenty-first birthday, Clara inherited the estate. What an insanely morbid way to have your "rags to riches" story pan out, but pan out it did.

    One would think that Clara's childhood struggles and success at the literal death of her cousin would make her a more considerate, humble, and overall decent person, but it seems to have created a monster out of her instead. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why she is such a good character. Of course, there are plenty of other things we learn about her as the story progress that I do not want to spoil, but she really is captivating.

    2) Best Quotes:

    "She had this weird belief that Thornton ghosts aren't around forever. They got a short time to make their peace. If they don't, they get bitter--real mean and nasty--until they forget everything that made them human. And then they slip into the cracks of the world to live with the others. The lost souls from an accident that happened here years back. Momma always called them 'hungry shadows.' I don't want to know. She said they were all tangled together, lost and scared and mean."

    "My momma was a good woman, but dang if she didn't scare me half to death with a regularity."

    Colton Birchfield - Jessalyn's best friend and fiancé
    1) Sassy

    2) Sarcastic

    1) Kind of rude

    2) Unenthused about his own wedding

    3) Kind of a terrible friend (at least now)

    Reasons for Suspicion:
    1) Does not seem to be as concerned about Jessalyn's disappearance as one would expect

    2) Refers to Jessalyn in the past tense

    3) Has a suspicious relationship

    Other notes:
    1) You know how nearly every game has that one character that is obviously inferior to the rest and basically only exists because HeR needed to meet the usual suspect quota? Colton is that character. Now, the gap of inferiority is wider than it might be in other games--he is still not a bad character--because the good characters in this game are basically god-tier; however, he is still that character. Jessalyn's best friend and fiancé, Colton comes out to Blackrock Island "to forget something" and, presumably, help search for his missing fiancée as well. Of all the characters, he is the one that appears to be the least concerned about Jessalyn based on what he says. He says that he is trying to keep himself from going to the dark place, but I never really get the sense that he is trying to keep a handle on his anxiety before he has a full-fledged anxiety attack. But that's just me. ​​​ Alright, I know I'm giving Colton a hard time, but he says and does some things that really irk me. I do genuinely think he is concerned about Jessalyn, but his concern seems a little less blatant than I would expect or hope if my (hypothetical) fiancé was looking for me. Part of why he comes across as blasé about the whole affair is probably because we never get to see him do anything but wistfully stare at the mist-shrouded live oaks that surround Thornton Hall. He doesn't look agitated or fretful, at least compared to Clara, and just kind of seems to be resigned about the whole situation. Talking about her in the past tense does not exactly help either.

    2) One thing I do appreciate about Colton is how he acknowledges that he struggles with his mental health (i.e., he very likely has depression and anxiety). The game, for understandable reasons, kind of dances around the issue a bit, but not in an unrealistic way. Unfortunately, many people down here in the South are reluctant to talk about or acknowledge the reality of mental health disorders at all, especially among the older generations. I won't get into what they say, but let's just say that the way the Thornton and Birchfield families try to sweep it under the rug is incredibly realistic and, unfortunately, what one would expect of a prominent family of good social standing. The game never comes right out and says what caused Colton to have issues as a child, but we can all gather that it had to do with the trauma he experienced on the night of Charlotte's death. (Plus, just getting an idea of what his family is like makes me think they were a major contributing factor too, and I am proud of him for realizing that it is time to stop pandering to them.)

    3) Can I just say that the relationship between him and Jessalyn is really strange? I mean, I have had several guy best friends across my life--including one current one that I've been friends with for seven years--and I cannot imagine any one of them treating me the way Colton does Jessalyn. For lifelong best friends and now a couple, their relationship seems really unhealthy, and not just the "romantic" part either (which is more understandable in the whole context of the game). The way he kind of...gets onto her about her family seems especially odd to me since he has to know what they are like and how it is impossible with deal with them, especially Clara. Apparently, he hung around them before Jessalyn was even born, so he ought to know how things go by now. You would think that he would be infinitely more understanding with her about her mom making crazy demands when he knows that she does not like how her mom acts. I get wedding planning is stressful, but there is no reason to take it out on Jessalyn when she is not the one orchestrating everything. Honestly, I think Jessalyn deserves way better.

    4) Colton's big plot twist is interesting. I don't want to say much for fear of spoiling things, but I will say that it makes his behavior make a little bit more sense. Only a little bit though. What he says about not considering Jessalyn's feelings and being conflicted is a BIG nope in my book. Also, the fact that he was even thinking about all of this while his BEST FRIEND/FIANCÉE WAS MISSING?!?!?! Gross. I feel bad for what was done to him, and I do think that situation needs to be dealt with in time, but literally doing that while on the search for his possibly dead best friend/fiancée?! How horrible can you get?! I'm...I'm just going to say it. I do not think Colton is a very good friend. There. I said it.

    5) Best Quotes:

    "I know. I remember it like it was just moments ago."

    "I saw her one day and thought, 'This is the girl I'm going to marry.' And then I threw a rock at her face."

    Wade Thornton - Jessalyn's first cousin once removed, first cousins with Charlotte, Harper, and Clara, Savannah Woodham's ex-boyfriend

    1) Acknowledges problems with the Thornton family

    2) Honest

    3) Hired Savannah/Nancy to find Jessalyn

    4) Uncomfortable with how the Thorntons made their money and treat(ed) their employees

    5) Has morals

    1) Clearly resents Clara (not that I blame him)

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) Despite loving Jessalyn, Wade hates Clara

    2) Has been to jail before

    Other notes:

    1) Wade is such a delightful character. He's got some sass, much like Colton, but he is way more straight-forward with Nancy and seems genuinely concerned that Jessalyn is missing. He even called in Savannah because he believes she was taken, or worse, by Charlotte or one of the other ghosts on Blackrock Island. Besides finding him hilarious, I really admire how he critiques his own family and is apologetic for and disgusted by how they have exploited others for greed. He even admits to Nancy that he is not sure what side he falls on anymore, but the fact that he even acknowledges his faults and those of his family is respectable. The fact that he went to jail because he was so angry at how his family was treating their employees is really admirable, to be honest. He wanted to destroy the business and draw attention to their horrible practices, and I don't think he entirely regrets it, despite how much it ended up costing him. Even with the prejudices and digs Nancy throws at him, he never gets disrespectful. You can tell that he has really reflected on his and his family's place in the world and has debated about morality and human character. His fascination with death is not morbid so much as a search for truth, authenticity, and meaning, which makes sense given the family dynamic he was raised in (both stated and implied) and the amount of tragedy in his life. I like him so much, and I like how he is sort of the secondary black sheep of the family (behind Harper). It's kind of ironic that I have less to say about him here than Clara or Colton, but he really is just a decent person and kind of a philosopher. ​ I hope he and Savannah were able to reconnect.

    2) Best quotes:

    "I fell for her like a Black Tuesday banker. In the end, the landing was just as rough." (one of the best lines period)

    "I don't speak ill of the dead, 'specially not when they're staring up at the soles of my boots. (That sounds like something a Southerner would really say. ​​)

    "Ugh, you scared me." (I try to do this every time.)

    "Life is a quest for truth, is it not? And death has a way of stripping away all pretensions."

    "Point is - I like ghosts because they show me what is, not what they want me to see, and wearing boots don't make ya stupid. Makes ya smart--if it's muddy." ​​

    "Good sweet nonsense, no."

    "Clara grew up pretty fast, but Harper--she got lost in that night and never got found."

    "Girl--" "Nancy." "Girl--"

    "That prickly feeling you get in that old house? That means something dark is whispering your name."

    Harper Thornton - Jessalyn's first cousin once removed, Charlotte's little sister, first cousins with Clara and Wade

    1) Hilarious

    2) Seems to genuinely want Jessalyn found

    3) Helpful to Nancy

    4) Brutally honest about her feelings for Nancy and the family

    5) Embraces her crazy

    1) A bit sadistic (not that I blame her)

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) Supposedly dangerous, violent, and mentally insane

    2) Knows how to navigate the island unseen

    3) UTTERLY DESPISES CLARA and would not be above doing something to hurt her tremendously

    4) Hates her family and what they did to her; easily could want revenge

    Other notes:

    1) Harper, Harper, Harper. Eccentric Southern queen, and queen of my heart, she makes this game. It would still be good without her, but her strange humor, dramatic characterization, and devastating backstory adds such richness to the story. She has a real flair for the dramatic from the moment we meet her, and her deadpan delivery makes it unclear whether she is being straight with you or not. Harper is the most tragic character in the game, besides Charlotte herself, and she honestly might be the most tragic character in the entire series. Not only did she lose her older sister in a fire when she was eighteen, but the trauma of it led her to develop (potentially serious) mental issues. Her certainty that the fire was not an accident and then having everyone call her crazy did not help anything. Honestly, I find her actions extremely relatable. If I were in her shoes and one of my siblings was killed under circumstances I found suspicious, I would probably react much the same way. Her outburst at the funeral is even more depressing to me. You can only imagine how much pain she must have been in. I can't help but think about how hard it must be for her to return to Thornton Hall. We know she came there for a purpose, but that place is the source of her lifelong agony and haunted by her vengeful dead sister. I don't know how their interactions go, but they don't sound good by what Harper implies about not wanting her closer. So sad.

    Furthermore, we have to acknowledge that she literally had no reason to reveal herself to Nancy at all. So, at some point, she must have decided that Nancy was trustworthy or was at least interested in her enough to see whether Nancy might be willing or able to help her achieve her goals. Honestly, that is biggest compliment she could give you, even if she never comes right out and says it. Given how often she has been called insane and discredited in her life, I imagine that reaching out to a literal stranger is not exactly easy for her, especially knowing that Nancy has probably already been warned about her. I feel really honored that she decides that Nancy is worthy of helping out. The way she gives Nancy hints is so quirky, and I love her little poems. She really is a lover of the written word and prefers to show rather than tell. She gives Nancy the tools to solve the mystery or at least points her in the right direction. Nancy might have as many cards up her sleeve as Harper, but we would have been at a loss without her nudging us along the way.

    Moreover, I really love the transformation we see from her across time. It is subtle, but she opens up to us more and takes some of our questions more seriously. As much as I love to hear her wisecracks, dark jokes, and insults, I'm gutted whenever she lets us in on how she really feels, especially when she talks about how much she misses Charlotte and loathes Clara. She obviously uses humor to deflect from her pain--ouch, that is relatable--so to see her outside of that "crazy lady" facade is as stunning as it is heartbreaking, and it shows that there is much more to her than we ever get to see. Obviously, the game portrays a lot of her non-eccentric personality as a"victim" because of her loss, how she was treated after Charlotte died, and how her family basically forced her to ostracized and isolate herself, but there is still more to her than that and for that I am thankful.

    However, I do wish we had a better sense of her character as she was before everything happened. We have a clearer sense of what Charlotte was like--she mentions that she is concerned about someone (unclear if it is Harper or Clara) becoming increasingly unstable--but not so much anything about Charlotte's childhood other than it may or may not have been troubled. It is also not known when she ever went to a sanitarium, since it strikes me as odd that Dodge, Marianna, or, especially, Charlotte would have ever allowed that to happen. Since she was eighteen when Charlotte died, it really backs up the idea that she was sent to a sanitarium instead of a boarding school, as she would have been too old to go for more than a few months at eighteen (it literally would have been for part of fall semester and spring semester before she graduated). Despite knowing how much she fit (or didn't fit) into the family at a young age, the game makes it extremely clear that she had the fate that Clara feared so much. Ugh. Her story is just so sad.

    2) Harper has the best quotes in the game. Honestly, I could quote every single line she says, but I will pick my absolute favorites instead:

    "Not ignoring, no. Elongating the moments between the asking and the hearing. Pausing for effect."

    "It's because I'm a grandly unbalanced sociopath, with delusions of grandeur and a history of erratic behavior and violent tendencies. My family resents me. They have publicly said that I am a freak. People in the town point and stare. The neighborhood children used to call me 'witchlady.' Until my dedication to the ironic led me to bake cookies for the sweet darlings. But it was my love of the dramatic reversal that won out in the end--and I threw the little runts down a well." (The well line is my favorite line in Nancy Drew history. I quote it all the time. ​)

    "Oh, I'd never do such a thing, but it would be funny. Not funny, haha. But funny, 'Aaaah, help I'm in a well.'"

    "So that's me. Tell me about you. I bet you're fascinating."

    "If you do, I'll...I'll just do something rotten."

    "The Wademan of Alcatraz. Don't trust him about a single thing in this living world. The world of the dead, he understands that."

    "Sounds like upstairs people problems to me. I'm downstairs people."

    "I could, but as a lover of the written word, I prefer show not tell."

    "You don't know who these people are. You think you know who to trust, but you don't!" (I just love her delivery here, honestly.)

    "I don't have your best interests at heart." (Thanks for the honesty, Harper.)

    "You do? Well then, gotta fly!" (I never got this one until this playthrough because I tell her I don't want her to be found.)

    "She almost died. I had to give her a paper bag for the breathing, to calm her down."

    "I'd been told all my life that Harper was crazy." "What a coincidence. Me too!" (I LOVE THIS EXCHANGE SO MUCH.)

    "Yeah, we was a regular Tom and Huck to start."

    "She could have been good to me. She could have been there when I needed someone. But she wasn't." (This line guts me.)

    "Not my fault she's a stickler for convention. She also says, 'Geeet Ooout.' Oh right, I almost forgot--she says she hates you and she wants you to leave."

    "She was my big sister. When Char died, that was the end of my family. I was left completely alone. All I have to call home are those memories. If I share them, they won't be mine anymore."

    "Oh, then you must be an expert on everything." (TELL HER, HARPER.)

    "You've seen her, what they made her into! You think I want her closer?" (So sad...)

    "And the hits keep coming. You're a doll, a real peach.'re not kidding, are you? Am I dressing up as my dead sister for kicks after the only family member everyone can agree on has gone missing? Is that what you're asking?"

    "Secrets don't make friends!"

    "She's not as nuts as she seems." "That, as they say, is debatable, my dear lamb."

    "Did she cry? And if she did, was it one stoic little tear like she was going for one of them movie awards? Or was it a big, snuffly, ugly cry? Oh, she is an ugly crier, hate to bring that to the table, but it is the truth."

    "Don't look at me like that. I'm bored down here and she's done worse to me."

    "Troubled? No, I was an angel. And, I must have been quite the genius charmer too because one day they shipped me off straight to the most elite private boarding school on the east coast. At least, that's what I believed was happening, until we were creeping up the long and whirly black driveway and I caught my first glimpse of the bars on the windows. I became the first Thornton to be admitted to the Millicent P. Krauthammer Sanitarium for Criminally Insane Girls and Women of Good Social Standing. I'm one of the few girls to graduate from that program. I got a little diploma that says 'Harper is no longer a danger to herself or others' and everything. And, just yesterday, the alumni association sent me of them dried macaroni pictures inviting me to speak at a function, but, as you can see, I am otherwise engaged."

    "Wouldn't you like to know? And wouldn't I like to know."

    "What answer do you want me to say, are you looking for a yes or a no? Or the, ah, the in-between one? Oh, now that I can't help you with. I don't function well in reality."

    "Spoil-sport. What was even the point then?"

    "No. No. No. Maybe. Because I want her to be sad. Every single day of her miserable little life." (The hate is strong in this one.)

    "Revisionist! I suppose next she'll say Wade spent a year earning merit badges at Camp Mandatory." (THE SHADE. ​)

    "If I didn't love her so much, I would hate her beyond the great beyond. Golden child, Charlotte. She was perfect in everyone's eyes. Even mine. I wanted to be her when I grew up. But then one day I was older than my older sister, and older still today." (The saddest line in ND history.)

    Jessalyn Thornton - missing bride-to-be, Colton's fiancée, Clara's daughter, first cousins once removed with Charlotte, Harper, and Wade

    1) Apologetic over Clara's behavior

    2) Similar to Charlotte

    3) Wondered about her family and its past

    4) Extremely kind

    5) Funny and quirky

    1) May have disappeared of her own accord

    Reasons for Suspicion:
    1) Disappeared for a while on the night she went missing and refused to explain why

    2) Acted really strangely following her first disappearance

    3) Evidence of her around the house

    Other notes:

    1) We don't get to know Jessalyn super well over the course of the game, but what we do learn makes me think she is a fun person to be around. (Her comment about questioning her mortality during her friend's sleepover bachelorette party cracks me up.) She realizes how ridiculous her family is, but she also loves them. She seems like a good friend to Addison and Colton, and she is a good daughter to Clara, despite how...difficult it must be to deal with Clara's demands. Since we don't get to know her well, I can't say too much about her without getting spoilery, but I really like her a lot.

    Honestly, this is a game where I need to talk about the phone contacts as well. I will not do the same breakdown format as I do with the primary characters; however, I will discuss each phone contact. Anyway, here goes:

    Addison Hammond - Jessalyn's best friend, accompanied her on bachelorette party to Thornton Hall

    1) Not too much to say about Addison. She obviously cares a great deal about Jessalyn, and it is evident that she is extremely concerned over her well-being. We do not really get to know much about her beyond that she does not like being scared, but she willingly joined Jessalyn on this excursion anyway. Sounds like a good friend.

    Bess Marvin and Ned Nickerson - Nancy's best friend and boyfriend, respectively

    1) I am not super keen on Ned and Bess in this game. I actually exhausted all my conversations with them this time around, but I find their commentary to be really annoying. I get that they were supposed to be keeping things light, but it was just really jarring against the rest of the game. I think the humorous moments with the other characters were more fitting in keeping a lighter tone in such a dark game. Also, things got super meta in her conversations with them, and I am not sure breaking the fourth-wall worked here.

    Savannah Woodham - (former) ghost hunter, Wade's ex-girlfriend

    1) Talking to Savannah is always a delight. I love how she is constantly warning Nancy not to open the door to the spirit world, which is such a tonal shift for her after the last game. You can tell that something scared her bad, and she wants Nancy to avoid making the same mistake she did. She tells Nancy that it is real, but she tells her to remain a skeptic and close her mind to it all. Given that Nancy is in an insanely dangerous place, regardless of what she believes or doesn't, Savannah's advice seems fitting and really helps make the situation more terrifying. Her connection to Wade is even better!

    2) Best Quotes:

    I would quote that entire story she tells about the wallpaper and the tree, but that seems excessive. Just know that I LOVE IT. Sounds like something born from Flannery O'Connor and Donna Tartt.

    "Dear sweet Charlotte, the terror of Blackrock Island."

    "Oh that. It's cute, but I wasn't looking for my daddy's brain-dead bloodhound." (I LOVE the way she says this line.)

    "They've dug so many graves on that rock that Death himself is on the Christmas card list. "

    "I can't help but wonder if they are misfortunate fools, or just addicted to Sunday clothes and the sound of a spade takin' a bite out of cold clay." (The way she says this line, especially the spade part, is DIVINE. The rhythm of it is everything.)

    Lastly, I feel compelled to discuss Charlotte Thornton, who is another one of my favorite characters in the game, despite our way of "knowing" her being a little unconventional. Still, she is one of my favorite characters period, and she is easily my favorite ghost in the whole series.

    Charlotte Thornton - deceased, terror of Blackrock Island, former owner of Thornton Industrial Group, older sister to Harper, first cousin to Wade and Clara, first cousin once removed to Jessalyn
    1) I know I will be limited in what I can say about Charlotte without getting deep into spoiler territory, but I have to talk about her. For one, I find the contrast between her in life and death is exemplary writing. From what we learn about her, she was an incredibly loving person who could brighten a room by walking into it. She had a beautiful singing voice and cared deeply for her sister. Though she couldn't have run the business for long, I believe she would have turned it into something incredible and tried to atone for the family's mistakes in the past. She clearly wanted the best for everyone, and I do not think she was mean spirited at all. Her interest in Jackson is something that I wish we could explore further in the game, but I feel like it had to have been motivated by a sense of helpfulness and curiosity. Unfortunately, I will have to restrict my comments there; however, believe me when I say this is something I have read and theorized about for years.

    Thus, I believe her transformation into the literal terror of Blackrock Island is deeply fascinating. It is unclear whether her ghost immediately became the (presumably) vengeful, hateful spirit we are led to believe she now is, but Wade makes it very clear that the family left Blackrock Island because of her. Whatever Charlotte was doing was enough to make the family abandon Thornton Hall permanently. If that doesn't say something, I don't know what does. Yet, whenever Nancy encounters her, she never seems to be up to something horrible. We don't even know if she caused the incidents mentioned in the book Savannah sent, but we're still led to believe that she has entirely forgotten everything except the sadness and anger she felt when she died. Can you imagine feeling nothing but sadness and anger or remembering nothing but your own death for all eternity? That is so sad.

    Whether we can take what Harper said with more than a grain of salt remains to be unknown, but if Charlotte actually does talk to her, you have to wonder what those encounters must be like. Is that part of why Harper is the way she is (beyond the things we know contributed on that front)? I imagine having your beloved sister contact you in ghost form, but be so thoroughly unlike herself and cold towards you, is pretty damaging. Did Charlotte orchestrate the events of the game? Did Jessalyn make more direct contact with her? Since the game wanted to walk the line about whether ghosts are real or not, so as not to offend some of their fans or psychologically scar children, we do not know a lot about how Charlotte operates, but it seems to me that she would be willing to talk to Jessalyn or Harper. Considering that she may or may not have approached Clara and told her something only Clara could possibly know (and I have theories about that too), it seems like she is capable of communicating with others. That raises a lot of questions, many of which I cannot voice here, but it also makes me sad that she is alone in that place.

    Anyway, there is a lot more I will have to say somewhere else since her story involves lots of spoilers, but I find her to be so beautifully tragic and I love her. I wish we could learn more about her.

    Music: Those of you coming from my DED review should already know that I am going to give a glowing review to this game's soundtrack, as it is one of the three soundtracks in the series in which I love every single composition. Naturally, there are very few soundtracks I don't love, but this is one that really stands out to me. As such, I must discuss the soundtrack's merits as a whole and speak at length about all of the tracks individually, so let's get started!

    Previously, I have talked about how important atmosphere is in a game and how the music and soundscape of a game, in my opinion, is the most effective tool for creating atmosphere. I find this to be particularly true in the stealth and horror genres. Some of the games that thrill and terrify most among these genres provide unparalleled sound design that can send shivers up my spine, make my hair stand on end, and even make me scream when I hear them or listen to them by choice outside of the game. That is a pretty powerful way to create fear. Unfortunately, I cannot talk about those games here, but I hope that I have conveyed to you just how much I pay attention to and appreciate the music and sound design that goes into making games, especially scary ones.

    Before working on this review, I decided to read through several in-depth reviews of this game and see how people responded to certain aspects of it. I'm always interested to learn what other fans think about the soundtracks, as I find I am usually alone in talking about them extensively, but I did find a good bit of commentary both critical of and praising Ghost of Thornton Hall's soundtrack. One comment that really struck me across a variety of different reviews was the overall feeling that the soundtrack was "distracting" (i.e., because it is constantly scary and loud) or "over-the-top" to the point of being annoying. Naturally, I do not agree, though I respect those fans' opinions, and I believe that the soundtrack is exactly as it should be for this game and what they were going for across the board. As aforementioned in several sections, HeR wanted this game to be the scariest of them all, for players young and "old" alike. They gave us a greater number and variety of thrills and scares, they gave us an incredibly dark story with plot points that older fans would find deeply disturbing, and they gave us a setting that has absolute no "safe zone" to be found. So, to me, it seems only fitting that they would give us a soundtrack that (almost) never lets us relax. The pieces are, largely, not as unsettling and unpalatable as, say, "Wolf" from CUR, "Curse" from SHA, or "Ghost" from SAW, in my opinion, but they are certainly eerie. (I am a strange person who tends to find music other people believe to be "eerie" to be beautiful and relaxing, so maybe I am not the most reliable judge of what counts as scary music. Then again, if I think it is scary, it is highly likely to make anyone freak out. Just keep that in mind as we move forward. ​​​)

    Despite the overall eeriness found throughout the soundtrack, I believe this game still manages to give us a nice range in tone. For instance, the pieces "Wander," "Rhyme," and "Creep" are what I would describe as tense and unsettling."Wander" starts out rather nicely, but I always have goosebumps by the end of it. A whistle--very wooden in timbre--cries out and a lone bell chimes in the background. This bell rings throughout the first half of the piece, but it is barely noticeable. Still, that alone is haunting and makes me think of funeral bells. How appropriate. The whistle continues to play its lonely tune, one I could easily envision being carried by the wind across vast distances (like an English moor), but is soon accompanied by muted percussion and a various well-timed shaker instruments (they almost sound like cicadas, which is perfect). It's honestly a really pleasant rhythm that gives the piece the structure and rhythm that it needs to feel a bit more urgent. Some nice sustained strings, especially cello and/or bass and occasionally violins, join in to create a distinct misty nighttime vibe. Not long afterward, the star of the piece, and what I believe makes it most memorable, shows up: that cracking, moaning sound effect. Man, is that a delectable sound or what?! So chilly, so Gothic! I cannot help but think of the sound strong winds make when they blow against and around the walls of a house. I love that sound as much as I fear it. And, so, it is insanely effective at making this a very visual piece that perfectly suits the misty forest around Thornton Hall.

    "Rhyme" is one of the more uncomfortable compositions, but I still love it. Compared to the rest of the soundtrack, it is quite warm in tone. The brassy gong at the beginning and shuttering, whining trumpets accompanied by the high squeaks of a violin and hissing sound effects suits the basement perfectly. The whole piece just sound like the whines and groans of a steam room, and I love it, except that it makes me feel nervous. You can almost feel the heat, which is even more gruesome considering Charlotte's fate."Creep" is much more driven, despite having a slow tempo, than most pieces in this soundtrack, and it prominently features drums. There is not much a melody to it beyond some bass strings playing the same measure over and over. It feels very urgent and suggests movement, despite the piece having next to no movement melodically. Those screeching breathy sound effects and hollow whooshing ones (that sound like something rolling around the inside of a barrel and give a distinct watery feeling) are definitely uncomfortable as well.

    "Past" is a bit of standalone piece in the soundtrack. It is such a somber piece, which really suits Charlotte's backstory nicely. It is the only one that I do not find creepy or unsettling at all. It's just...sad. I love how quietly the piece begins, with the piano and the faintest hint of violins in the background, and how things slowly crescendo until the cello is practically wailing the melody near the middle. Then, everything becomes more resigned again and the melody is handed back to the piano as the strings fade away. The solo cello and soft piano are absolutely brilliant choices to carry the melody, and the backing strings add to the overall grandeur of the piece. You can really feel the devastation and loss across the piece. So good! "Danger" is a bit of a standalone composition on the soundtrack, too, as it is the most driven, upbeat track by far, but it perfectly fits the scenes where it is meant to play. I find it to be a little off-putting on the chance that it plays outside of that context, like when I am just running around Thornton Hall, but I suppose there is still a sense of urgency in those moments, too, despite not being quite as intense as the endgame.

    Ah, we have arrived at the most controversial composition of the bunch, namely: "Ghost." I ADORE this composition, but I can understand why some fans might not be too keen on it. First of all, I must give all praise to the glorious vocal performance we hear from Hanna Wåhlin. Her dramatic soprano (based solely on this sample of her voice; not an expert on her voice) voice is absolutely perfect for this composition with its thick, full sound and dark timbre. It's haunting and a little bit terrifying, honestly. Given how Charlotte loves to sing, I think this kind of piece really works, even if it is highly unlikely that this is supposed to be Charlotte singing or sound anything like how she would sing. Regardless, it is a piece that immediately makes you feel uncomfortable, despite how beautiful it is. It's such a GRAND composition too. It features piano, ORGAN (be still my heart), strings, glockenspiel, low brass, and synth sound effects. It is phenomenal. The bellows of the low brass are haunting and the organ is sensational. Honestly, I could go on and on, but just know that I think this piece is a gold star on a perfect soundtrack.

    The alternative version, "Ghost Song," without Hanna singing is also insanely delightful, and I honestly think I love it even more. The simple explanation is that it allows me to hear all the different layers of the song better, but the real reason I love it most is that the climactic moment in the song is done by the organ instead and it makes it sound so ominous! BRILLIANT! The climactic moment is the best part in the original version, too, but it feels much bigger in this one because the music preceding it is much more stripped down (naturally to give room for Hanna's voice). The beginning had those altered bells ringing out, this beautifully creepy glockenspiel/vibraphone, and ghostly singing. It is all very soft, which makes it more unsettling. Obviously, something is coming. Eventually, it does when some nice low brass comes blaring in every one-and-a-half to two measures. This small change alone would be effective, but the melody changes as well (and adds some nice piano). The only conclusion you could possible reach is that this is all building to some explosive moment, which is exactly what happens when the organ finally takes over the melody. It sounds more like organ synth to me, or maybe they added an muted effect to it, but the darker tone to it really suits this piece so well. Either way, the organ makes this piece. After the climax, the glockenspiel/vibraphone takes over the melody again and the organ bellows some nice chords in the background, and it sounds so mystical and ethereal. Ugh. I cannot give this one enough praise!

    "Dark" is, without question, my favorite composition on the entire soundtrack ("Ghost" and "Ghost Song" are a close second though). The first word that comes to mind when I think of it or listen to it is "big." The low brass in particular gives the piece this big, lush sound that gives me goosebumps every time. Such incredible power! The repeating phrase that the piano plays creates this sense of urgency and anxiety, but it is also quite beautiful. To contrast to the low brass, the piece features a small chorus, which is especially haunting in the second half of the piece when the low brass sustains one note (from a dark chord) and the piano plays a chilling melody. There's something about the second half of the piece that really gets to me, even though I like the prominent low brass at the beginning more. The beginning has such power, but then it fades away to this simple yet cold, mysterious melody. For whatever reason, I associate this song with Charlotte a lot (and think about A Series of Unfortunate Events). Its almost like my brain associates the beginning part with a raging fire, and then the second part is discovering the aftermath when things are just smoldering. Really dark and depressing, like you can't quite take in what you're seeing. Or maybe being terrified and running around searching for something and then finding it, only it is not an exciting find. I don't know if that makes any sense at all, but there are a lot of emotions in this piece and I think they fit the game perfectly.

    As strange as this may sound, I believe there are compositions in this soundtrack that are a bit whimsical. Darkly whimsical, certainly, but still whimsical, such as "Ghost Walk," "Appearance," "Uneasiness," and "Scare." I find "Appearance" in particular to be so delightful! Those chirpy, stuttered sounds running up and down the scale as they crescendo and decrescendo are so playful, and then there are bright bells (or a triangle) singing at almost imperceptibly high pitches, dark bells bellowing notes so low you could feel them if they were played in person, and cold, somber bells ringing at mid-level pitches that all give these sense of other-worldliness. You may not even notice the cacophony if you don't listen closely, and yet it still manages to convey that what accompanies it is truly ethereal. "Ghost Walk" is bit darker than "Appearance" because of the sustained low brass humming the bass line, but its incredibly simple melody on the (admittedly very 80s-sounding) synth gives it this shimmering quality that I love. I have no idea if that makes sense to anyone else. "Uneasiness" is a bit like the combination of these two. It has this swirling, magical tone to it that I can only assume, minus the sound effects, came from telling a bunch of percussionists to ring their chimes, sleigh bells, cymbals, and gongs all at the same time. There's a brassiness and brightness to the sound that makes it not as dark as "Ghost Walk," but it still has that same shimmering sound. "Scare," on the other hand, achieves a similar feat to "Appearance," "Uneasiness," and "Ghost Walk," but in a way that creates much more anxiety. Rather than chirps and trills, we get a mess of synth all blaring the same wavering note with the hiss of a cymbal and stutter of low brass to create a confusing and mystical tangle of sound. It is alarming and hypnotizing all at once.

    The appropriately named, "Panic," is part of rather unique group of pieces in the soundtrack. It is a minimal and understated piece, since it is accompanied by the crackle of flames in the game. Still, I find it extremely effective at inducing panic all by itself with those melodic metallic whines and the sound of a rapidly accelerating heartbeat, which has always made me uncomfortable and very much aware of my own mortality. "Blindfold" is similar in terms of being rather simple, as it plays during dialogue and needs to allow the dialogue to come through. There really is not much to say about it, except that it gives an incredibly tense, spooky atmosphere for such a small piece. However, "Dwelling," which is the last in this trio of simple, atmospheric pieces, is the star of the three. It's bone-chillingly terrifying. Those stuttering groans almost sound like someone is opening a really old door, which is an uncomfortable idea in itself at Thornton Hall, but paired with that harsh whine slowly moving downward in pitch, it's not a pleasant sensation at all. You just know that something makes that sound in the dark and that you absolutely do not want to find it.

    "Ambience" is one of those that I find to be strangely relaxing. There's definitely a grave, mysterious undercurrent, but it's so peaceful at the same time. There's all of these dark, whooshing sound effects, which fits the aesthetic of Blackrock Island perfectly, but they are paired with the sustained harmonizing of a choir and what I believe to be strings and/or flutes (probably synth; it is really hard to tell the timbre of the instrument, especially with the airy effects added in). It's so lovely. Things get a little more ominous, though lightly, when that high reverb toy piano (at least, it sounds like that to me; I'm picking up on a hammered string quality to the sound) gives its plucky notes to contrast the languid background sounds. Something about that little piano ringing out over that sound makes me deliciously uncomfortable, like I know something bad happened here and that I should not feel safe but do not know what or why.

    In contrast, we have songs like "Sweet Charlotte," which is just 10/10 on the spooky meter and tends to make me jump every time it comes on. The editing in this one is phenomenal. I honestly prefer the version in the credits/outtakes more, but the in-game version does its job of making your palms clammy and your hair stand on end. I knew the ladybug rhyme prior to playing this game--it always disturbed me--but it is even more upsetting and grim in the context of this game. Charlotte, of all...ghosts, singing a song about a fire is deeply disturbing. Not sure if there was ever a tune attached to the rhyme, but I think what they did here was fantastic. I believe the song is in D minor (please correct me if I am wrong), but the credits version makes it quite clear that the melody has accidentals, specifically changing C to C#/Db when she sings "are," the second syllable of "except," and the second syllable of "Charlotte." It is unexpected and quite dissonant, which I like a lot.

    Puzzles: At long last, we have arrived at a game that restores things to their natural order. No more puzzles for the sake of puzzles, no more tasks, no more chores, and no more indelible favors that will never be returned (unless you count Nancy going there in the first place ​​​​). This game, oddly enough, feels reminiscent of the strong early entries on this front, but modernized and sensible within the context of the story. Rather than digging through someone's black man-purse or stacks of papers on their desk, she snoops through text messages. We have find (or are given) all kinds of little clues that have nothing to do with puzzle-solving and, instead, are plot-driven, which I love. The puzzles and passageways have a historical basis (i.e., the family matriarch was a spy in the Civil War) and many were devised by Charlotte Thornton herself to protect her secret; one that she took with her to the grave. I love when the game gives us an actual legitimate reason for puzzles existing in our environment, so I am especially pleased with how things were handled in this game. All that being said, I am quite fond of the style of puzzles in this game as well. There aren't as many as in previous games, but they are all quite logical and require a deep understanding of the Thornton family's background and the environment. Even the "filler" puzzles reused from other games involve some kind of riddle-solving and serious legwork to achieve, which makes them feel more important to the story and provides a nice counterweight to the heftier, more challenging puzzles.

    Great: Colored tile fountain puzzle, Charlotte's bedroom door puzzle, briefcase puzzle, locket puzzle, safe lever puzzle (and slider puzzle on amateur)

    These are my personal favorite puzzles, but they are also the ones I believe are the most creative, difficult (the fun kind), and well-integrated into the plot. I absolutely love the two colored tile puzzles we get to solve. While I am not sure how they could exist in that space, I am willing to suspend my disbelief because of how much fun they are to solve. Plus, it stands to reason that Charlotte to use such measures to safeguard important things and lock up her room.

    The briefcase puzzle is not incredibly difficult, but it does require the player to have paid attention to a lot of seemingly random information throughout the entire course of the game. For someone like me, this is an absolute treat. The locket puzzle is much the same, except more difficult in my opinion. It also requires remembering details from a specific document, but considering how much time I spend studying said document and trying to get more information out of it than I know is there, it is not too difficult to solve. Still, the solution makes perfect sense in the context of the game.

    The safe puzzle, especially the lever part, is also really fun and incredibly original. I cannot think of another puzzle I have encountered that mirrors this one, which is exciting! Given that it is "final" puzzle of the game and is protecting something really important, it makes sense that it would be so complicated (way more sense than the ungodly puzzle at the end of SAW), so I like that about it. (The slider portion is excessive on master sleuth though.)

    Good: Gravestone epitaph, makeshift phone charger, color-coded letter, EMF meter, portrait riddle, cotton seed scale puzzle, bottle puzzle, stained glass puzzle, bird tangram coffin puzzle, flower tangram coffin puzzle, snake tangram coffin puzzle, star tangram coffin puzzle, jewelry box puzzle, grave date puzzle, tunnel door puzzle, missing symbol puzzle

    The puzzles I listed in this section are really good, but there are a few that outshine them. Thus, I put all of them in "good" instead of "great." My favorite thing about the puzzles listed in this section is how many of them come paired with riddles and poems that aid in solving them. It's really fun and clever! For instance, the tangram puzzles, which I usually put in the "mediocre" category, are genuinely good in this game, despite how many times you have to solve them. The extra component of searching for the right puzzle and having to hunt down both the plate and sketch for the tangrams makes them super fun and original!
    The game doesn't really follow the long-term puzzle formula as obviously as MHM, SHA, or TMB, for example, but there is still an element of that to this game with a series of puzzles unlocking clues or solutions for further puzzles. The color-coded letter puzzle leads us to a hint for solving the grave date puzzle much later in the game, and the portrait riddle puzzle precedes the cotton gin and cotton seed puzzles. Many of the puzzles work out this way, and I love how they all connect to each other and to important information in the game. Really, really well-integrated!

    Mediocre: Cotton gin puzzle, ruins stacking puzzle, generator puzzle

    The cotton gin puzzle is pretty enjoyable, but I feel like it is reused from another game (or reused later). I cannot remember what game it is for the life of me. Anyway, in another game it probably wouldn't fall into the mediocre category, but I think it is weaker and less creative than the other puzzles. Plus, it barely fits into the story besides the whole Old South = slavery = cotton = cotton gin = faster production = increased demand for slaves = Civil War thing. (Let me just say that I have lived in the South my whole life, and I have yet to see a cotton gin outside of maybe two museums. It seems surprising that they would have one, much less one that looks that old, right inside their house. However, it does serve a nice purpose of subtly implying what the Thornton business really is, so I approve of it being there, as odd as it is.)

    I'll just say I am never a fan of a stacking puzzle 99.9% of the time. This one is no different. It really a bit of a shame given the build-up and event that precedes this puzzle. It's also insanely easy, hence why it is going firmly in the mediocre pile.

    The generator puzzle is not the worst, but not the best. Ah, so it is mediocre. ​​​​ In all seriousness, I think having a puzzle involving a piece of machinery that is this...bizarre and unrealistic is especially "meh" coming hot off the heels of DED. Not everything they did was realistic either, obviously, but something a little more scientific would have been better. Then again, it might have felt out of place given the overall style of puzzles in this game. It's a fine puzzle, just not the strongest.

    Bad: Safe slider puzzle (master sleuth only)

    I have never been massively into slider puzzles, but this one on master sleuth is something special. I do not mean that as a compliment. If there was a picture or something, that might make me feel more inclined to try it on my own, but with it being a sixteen-grid slider puzzle with crazy similar pieces that have grooves on all four sides (many of which are not used at all), I do not like it at all. Even using an online solution is a headache and a half because of how incredibly long it is. If you miss one single number, the entire thing is messed up and you have to start over. No, thank you.

    Horrible: Clock puzzle

    This puzzle would be absolutely genius and worthy of the "great" rating if it wasn't so dang hard. Whenever I play a ND game for the first time (or any game, for that matter), I really try my absolute hardest to get through it completely unaided by walkthroughs, hints, cheats, etc. I love a good, challenging puzzle. Just read my review of CRY and you will see that I enjoy being stumped by insanely hard puzzles and the feelings of accomplishment that come from mastering them. However, this puzzle is brutal. I tried, I really did, but I could not force myself to keep counting and doing math and trying to watch five clock hands over and over and over. It's a brilliant puzzle, and the solution makes perfect sense, but it is not one that I enjoy solving at all, much less twice and possibly under time pressure. (Never confirmed whether you can actually run out of time the second time you solve it.)

    Graphics: The graphics in this game are exceptional! Unfortunately, you cannot tell quite as much as with its predecessors because of how dark the game is, but, to quote Clara, never you mind. As I hinted at in my section on the setting, I find the environmental graphics to be absolutely stunning in this game. The moments were we actually have light are gorgeous, especially the moonlight coming through wooden beams on the ceiling and the lamp flickering and lighting up half of Clara's face. The textures are so incredibly realistic too. The velvet pillows and cracked paint on the doors are ESPECIALLY good. Honestly, I could go on forever about specific examples where the textures blew me away, but I have to give praise to the character models in this game because they, for once, are the most impressive feat.

    Firstly, CHARLOTTE ANN THORNTON'S MODEL IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MODEL TO EVER EXIST IN A NANCY DREW GAME. The way the fabric of her dress moves, particularly when walking on the stairs, is incredible, especially for these games. Everything about her clothing, her locket, and her mask are so detailed. Plus, that transparent, glowing effect they put on her is pleasing. She is so pretty too. Actually, all of the Thornton women are actually gorgeous. Harper, even with her incredible and strange cloud of black hair, has the same features as her sister, as does Clara and Jessalyn (though Jessalyn is a bit more tan than Clara and Harper). I love how you can see the age on Clara's face with lines around her eyes; same with Wade. You can really tell that all of them, minus Colton, are related, but they all have a distinct look and facial appearance too, which I really like. The clothing is done nicely and helps establish personality too. Everyone has such great facial expressions and gestures too. None feel as repetitive as they do in TMB or even with some characters in DED (e.g., Ellie), and I find Harper's in particular to be utterly hilarious and delightful, especially that little hand waggle she does and the creepy claws with "goodbyeeee." Honestly, I think these are my favorite models in the games, except maybe the ones in SEA in terms of insanely impressive facial expressions, textures, and fluidity. SO GOOD.

    Ending: I have to admit that I love the ending of this game, though it definitely has some flaws. Ghost of Thornton Hall actually has the most unique ending of the series, in that it gives you three different options based on choices you make at the very end. It makes it clear that one is supposed to be canon, but it still allows you to choose what you want. Personally, I really like this feature, even though I had no idea that it was an option until later, as I got the third and true ending the first time I played the game. I will get into all of that in a bit later, as I first need to discuss the "beginning" of the ending and every that happens during the ending before the endgame letter.

    First of all, I think I have made it pretty clear that I am generally a fan of a long ending, especially when it is made quite clear that the ending is happening (looking at you TMB ​). Thankfully, this game makes it exceptionally clear that you have just begun the endgame. After a relieving discovery is made, one which I will not say explicitly, Nancy learns that her focus must now shift entirely to discovering what Charlotte hid, as it will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Charlotte's death was no accident. I don't know about you, but I find this twist and revelation to be thrilling! The game kind of hinted at this possibility the whole time, but it is at this point that it rewards you for any intuitive feelings or suspicions you may have had about Charlotte's death and who killed her. There is definitive line you can trace back through the culprit's dialogue that truly reveals how all of this may have been accomplished. Also, I just have to say that the culprit choice is PHENOMENAL. I was certainly shocked by it, but as soon as I was told, I knew it was true. Suddenly, everything made sense. I LOVE when that happens!

    So, Nancy learns the truth about what has really been going on at Thornton Hall and tasked with finishing her search for what Charlotte hid. We have been following her clues all along in our search for Jessalyn, so there is not much work left to be done on this front. We solve a few puzzles, even fewer if you have really been crossing off your mental to-do list, talk to another character who knows that Charlotte was murdered, and then it becomes clear that Charlotte knew that she was in danger. Armed with the last two clues, we set out to finding what Charlotte hid, which really does not take that long, in terms of searching. The puzzle ends up being quite long and involved, particularly on Master Sleuth, but that befits an ending puzzle, so I don't mind much that things come to a screeching halt. Once the puzzle is solved and the discovery is made, Nancy finally understands--to a degree anyway--why Charlotte went to such extraordinary lengths to keep this hidden and why the culprit had motive to kill her.

    It is at this point when the true endgame starts, as Nancy discovers smoke in the passageway and emerges to see that Thornton Hall is ablaze. Well, well, well, how the tables have turned. Nancy finds two characters, one quite injured, in need of rescue in the cellar and is given the choice to help them or save herself. Being the goodhearted person I try to be, I absolutely did not even consider the other option as a remote possibility and set about to finding a way for these characters to exit the house safely. However, choosing not to rescue these characters is a legitimate option and it will take you to the first ending of the game. Personally, I find this one to be the most lacking, but that is intentional, as the game has no desire to reward you for being selfish in the face of death. The ending letter is extremely grim and extremely brief, and no one gets the kind of resolution they deserve. However, you do not have to accept this ending and can go back and rescue the two characters.

    At this point, Nancy is presented with another choice: to try and save the culprit from the inferno or leave their fate in their own hands, regardless of how dark it might be. On my first playthrough, I did not consider not attempting to save this person to be an option, and I probably would have chosen to save them anyway, as much as I love poetic justice and the irony of the situation. Nevertheless, you can choose not to save them, which leads you to get the second ending. Honestly, this one is much better than the first, and I honestly really like it. This ending provides the possible explanation for the ghost sightings and other strange phenomena around the house: carbon monoxide from Harper's faulty furnace. (The furnace is actually the source of the fire as well, though I'd like to think that was Charlotte.) While it is true that many people theorize that Victorian ghosts were from the effects of being exposed to non-fatal levels of carbon monoxide, I can't say I love that explanation for this game. It feels like a bit of a cop out, seeing as how Nancy saw really strange things when she was far from the heater. I'm no doctor, but I do not believe she would still be having the hallucinatory effects while away from the house. The carbon monoxide explanation crops up again in the third ending, but the dialogue is slightly different. Still, I don't buy the whole characters dressing up as Charlotte deal either, unless that somehow gives them the power to walk through walls, disintegrate into ash, disappear, and kill Nancy by flying at her. ​​ The second ending still isn't my favorite, but I love the parts of it that are chilling and incredibly dark (i.e., the line about the culprit and Charlotte's ghostly figures hovering in the smoke above Blackrock Island). I do hate that it leaves the remaining characters without closure, and they all seem deeply unhappy too, which they don't deserve.

    Thankfully, however, the third ending leaves things faring much better for our cast. After Nancy decides to save the culprit, we find them in Charlotte's room, and they are clearly in a hysterical state of being and not thinking clearly. We hear them begging Charlotte to leave them alone and saying that they have suffered enough. Uh, okay then. I really don't think you have, culprit, but maybe that's just me. Nancy tells the culprit that it is time to go, but the bedroom door suddenly slams shut and is blocked by a raging inferno outside. There's goes our escape route. The good news is that we can still exit through the secret passage, but the bad news is that the clocks have been mysteriously reset. The culprit tells us that Charlotte will never let us leave (ominous much), but soon begins a monologue, directed at Charlotte, about how remorseful they are about what happened. They admit that they sat at Charlotte's grave every night for a year and apologized, and that the fire was not intended to kill Charlotte. The remorse ends pretty quickly though as the culprit admits that Charlotte wants their life--and then follows this up with Charlotte wanting them to go to prison, even though we all know that is probably not what Charlotte was aiming for here--and then resignedly says that they cannot keep running from Charlotte. Oh boy.

    Once you beat the (awful) clock puzzle, Nancy tells the culprit that it is time to go, but the culprit says that they deserve to stay. Nancy retorts that they need to pay for their mistakes--not getting out of it easy now--and the culprit, begrudgingly, exits the room through the passageway at the slowest pace known to man. (Can I just take a second to say how much this ending reminds me of Jane Eyre? It also reminds me of my favorite book, The Thirteenth Tale. I guess I just love stories that involve house fires!) With everyone safely out of the house, Nancy begins to read the ending letter. The culprit confesses their crime, reveals their true motive, and explains that they only wanted to scare Charlotte, not kill her. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether the culprit pays for their crimes, though it is certainly implied, but everyone else gets exactly what they deserve: happiness, hope, and a chance to make things better for everyone. The good side of the family tree finally gets SEVERAL wins!

    All in all, I find the third ending to be satisfying. There are definitely some loose threads and things that go answered, which has spurned a plethora of theories and follow-up questions from fans, including myself; however, I find that the game wraps up most things well and in a manner that is pleasing and realistic. I still am not crazy about the carbon monoxide theory, but I understand that it was probably added specifically to keep fans from getting upset that HeR implied a ghost was real in a completely fictional work that should be perceived as such. I cannot deny that I'm a little salty about it. Besides the underwhelming, half-baked carbon monoxide theory that serves as the only explanation in the third ending's letter, I really like the ending of this game and the feelings of hope that it leaves with you after such immense sadness.

    Other points of interest: There is so much to discuss this time that I am going to give this section subheadings for once! Here we go:

    Voice Acting

    Okay, I know I generally praise the voice acting in these games anyway, but this game, THIS GAME, might have the best voice acting of them all. I mean, I am obviously incredibly biased, but COME ON. We have my queen, Keri Healey, voicing HARPER THORNTON. She alone sends this game up to the top in terms of vocal performances, but we also have STELLAR, MEMORABLE performances from Jeff Allen Pierce (I love all of his characters) as Wade, Sharon Yamada-Heidner as Clara, AND Adrienne MacIain as Savannah Woodham. Dave Rivas and Julia Stockton are also phenomenal as Colton and Jessalyn, respectively, but I am only going to talk about my top four performers for the sake of time.

    First, I must discuss my queen, Keri Healey, because she just knocks this performance out of the park. As much as I adore Harper and the writing for her, I do not think she would be half as incredible without Keri Healey's vocal performance. I thought she could not possibly top herself with how stunningly she performed for Professor Beatrice Winifred Gertrude Hotchkiss, but I was proven WRONG. Her non-rhotic accent is DIVINE. It's so sweet I'm amazed I didn't get a cavity listening to her. ​​ (I never use these sayings in real life, but I'm really giving it to y'all right now.) Her voice is so incredibly dynamic and has such dramatic emotional range. (Her voice also reminds me of some of my great aunts for whatever reason.) I can feel her rage,, her suspicion, her sadness, her agitation, and her mirth so distinctly. Her personality comes more from how wild Keri Healey's performance is more than anything else. I believe she is wild when I listen to her. There is so much I could say, but I would just end up repeating myself over and over, so let me leave it with this: LET US ALL BOW DOWN TO THE QUEEN, KERI HEALEY, FOR BRINGING THE TWO BEST CHARACTERS IN THE SERIES TO LIFE WITH HER INSANE CHOPS AND TREMENDOUS ABILITY OF MAKING QUIRKY PEOPLE COME TO LIFE USING HER VOICE. I love you, Keri.

    Furthermore, Jeff Allen Pierce as Wade is just fantastic. FANTASTIC. To start, his accent is very convincing. As one who was born in the South and have lived here forever, I feel especially qualified to talk about his accent. Now, everyone in the game--besides Wade Thornton--has varying degrees of a non-rhotic Southern accent, which is commonly associated with Savannah, Georgia, until more recently (sadly). However, his rhotic accent makes sense if Wade grew up in other parts of Georgia, and it is not an especially strong rhotic accent either (i.e., not hyper-rhotic). I appreciate that he glides his vowels just enough to sound Southern without throwing in the full drawl. (No, we do not all sound like that. I certainly don't, but I can put it on "real thick" if I'm asked.) It's a thoroughly solid effort, but it definitely made my ears perk up when I heard him say "Colton" without a glottal stop and pronounce a hard "g" at the end of words ending in -ing (i.e., not fronting). (Even Nancy, who lives in ILLINOIS, uses a glottal stop for Colton's name. She's a Midwestern gal. Come on, now.) If he had not enunciated the "g" so much in the "ng" phoneme, I doubt I would have even noticed (i.e., if I say "singing" or "reading" without thinking, I still pronounce the "g" through my nose and do not add the "guh" part at the end), but I definitely picked up on that one. Anyway, I could probably sit here for hours and pick apart tiny little things I noticed, but the point is that he did a really solid job to have only a few things that you might not even notice unless you are really listening. What I appreciate most about his performance though is not accent attempt, but rather his inflections and the emotion in his voice. I genuinely feels like I am having a conversation with a real person, with consistent vocal patterns and genuine emotion in his voice. Literally every single line comes across exactly how it should, and I love how natural all of his Southernisms sound.

    Sharon Yamada-Heiner also does a convincing accent, and I find it much nicer to listen to than Wade's (I have a preference for non-rhotic accents). She does not sound entirely non-rhotic, but her "r" is much softer and more open than Wade's. She definitely has a stronger drawl too and really wide, glideless vowels (especially her "i"), but it sounds really pleasant. I don't have anything specific to talk about with her except how beautiful her delivery is. There is just so much emotion in her voice and the intonation is quite pretty, and it suits her just perfectly. I honestly cannot imagine any other voice suiting Clara more.

    Now, I have already talked about how much I love Adrienne MacIain as Savannah Woodham. That woman's voice is sweeter than stolen honey, as they say. Her non-rhotic accent is insanely good and is beautifully lilting. There are a few times where I can hear it slipping a little, but if you told me she was from Savannah, Georgia, or anywhere in the Lowcountry/along the coast, I would believe you. Listening to her talk is just delicious to my ears; I feel like I'm hanging on every word.

    Also, I just need to say right now that the voice actress for Addison drives me slightly insane. Her voice acting is fine, but the girl sounds like she is about to have an asthma attack every time we talk to her. She's way better on the audio recordings we hear on Jessalyn's phone, but I cannot stand calling her because of how slowly she talks and how she always breathes like she just climbed up a flight of stairs. You don't sound sad or upset; you sound like you have emphysema! Get an inhaler, girl!


    Naturally, I have to take a minute or thirty to talk about the scares in this game, seeing as how it is one of the two top contenders for scariest game (some people say SAW and others say GTH). I will certainly provide commentary about how I recall experiencing the scares the first time, as well as provide my thoughts about them now (and which ones still scare me). For one, I have to talk about how many different scares there are in this game because there are a lot. I will not list them out since I do not want to spoil them all, but if you are interested in knowing whether you have seen them all, there are plenty of videos floating around that have them compiled for your convenience. I have managed to see them all at this point, and I do have a few favorites. Minus the Charlotte ones, which I will discuss separately, my favorite scares are what I call the "Slenderman" scare and what I can only assume to be "hungry shadows." Keep in mind that absolutely every single scary event got the first time because I was not expecting it, but in terms of creepy shadows moving, I honestly think the ones in MHM make me more uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the scares are (mostly) visual, minus Charlotte ones, which tends to not scare me as much. They are also in predictable locations (i.e., they always show up in the same places), so it is easy to avoid them or not see them once you know where they are. Still, that is not really something I can fault the game on, and I firmly believe it delivers on its scares in a much better and more effective way (at least as an adult player).

    Thus, the reason that these two are my favorite is because they can still freak me out. The "Slenderman" one is alarming because of how rarely it is seen, and the white head/black body appearance is so unlike everything else we see in the game that I can only assume this spooky gentleman is supposed to be a reference. The hungry shadows ones, on the other hand, are just plain terrifying. The last thing I expect to see when I enter a room or turn around are a bunch of grey bodies from another dimension or the spiritual plane coming towards me. That's a big NOPE from me. Sometimes they are accompanied by that godawful violin sound from SAW that I absolutely DO NOT LIKE, which only makes things worse for me. The fact that they show up in more than one place does not help anything. The worst thing about them though is that they are either supposed to be the fifty-four souls who died in the factory accident (i.e., hungry shadows), or they are the remaining Thorntons who did not make their peace, according to Rosalie Thornton's stories. I do not like that. I do not.

    Besides these haunts, we have the beautiful Charlotte Thornton, who is certainly the prettiest ghost I've ever seen in a game. That gorgeous red dress and her LOCKET and that mask? *swoons* Her design is flawless. I only wish we could see the model for more than a few seconds at a time from a distance. I kind of love that her modus operandi is to look at me and then walk towards me every time (or occasionally fly at me), but I suppose that would make me extremely unhappy if I were in Nancy's shoes. I still wish we had a closer encounter with her like those we read about in the book Savannah gave us or even got to experience something like what Savannah described. Clearly, Charlotte does other things besides turn and walk at people, so why are we so unlucky?! All that being said, I was terrified of her the first time, but I also always hoped I would see her and wanted to see her way more than we did. (Can you imagine if we had seen her floating above Thornton Hall like they described in the second ending? Amazing.)

    Our first sighting of Charlotte is one of my favorites because it really does seem like we caught her off-guard compared to the other times we see her turn and walk. She is singing to herself (and I LOVE when she sings) while possibly looking at that painting of her and Clara, and then notices that we are looking at her. stops singing, decides to approach us, and starts singing again. It's so well done; I only wish the other instances felt as poignant as this one. The next sighting, depending on how you play the game, is at the ruins, and it has her walking down the stairs. It is beautifully animated and really quite sad when you think about how she may have walked down those stairs the night she died. My other favorite Charlotte sightings are definitely when she walks to you all strangely with her arm outstretched--I still want to know what that was about--and then when she gets super close to you in the passageway (you get the best look at her model then).

    The haunting when Nancy enters the ruins might be my absolute favorite though, and it must be Nancy's, too, considering how she legitimately faints. To be fair, I would faint too if I saw someone burn up like that, ghost or otherwise. (I was actually so scared of the ruins when I first played that I think I ran away and came back to be scared again. If you happened to get the double-whammy on your first playthrough, I imagine you screamed a little. Seeing her stumble and then writhe as she disintegrates into ash that comes flying at you while cinders float in air is bleak. The animation is gorgeous, but it is so dark and gruesome; I cannot help but love it in a really sad sort of way. Thinking about her fate and how we do not know the extent of her injuries only makes it darker...

    Most the Charlotte scares do not scare me now--in fact, I look forward to them and actively seek them all out--but they definitely did the first time. The only one that bothers me is when her bedroom door is open and she is singing the absurdly terrifying "Sweet Charlotte" song before the door slams shut. I remember that moment paralyzing me the first time, and it still gets a good jump out of me now. I'm sure you can imagine how horrified I was when I entered her room for the first time and was greeted by the full version of that song. That definitely made me feel unwelcome, Charlotte.


    This is going to be a really small point, but I felt the need to say that I find it really immersion breaking that this era of games features pictures of fans in the most random places. I didn't mention it in the other games, but I think it is most noticeable in this game anyway. I've never really been too keen on it, as there are rarely place where a real picture of someone wouldn't look odd in a Nancy Drew game, but having awkward pictures of random people in the RUINS WHERE CHARLOTTE DIED is a horrible, horrible choice. HORRIBLE. Why would literally nothing else be intact but some pictures of random people who have no bearing on the game and would probably not even be in that location in someone's else house anyway? I hate it so much. It absolutely ruins the immersion in that location, and it is the most important location in the game in terms of emotional weight and significance. UGH. This is not the game's fault!

    More Commentary on GTH

    Since there are many more things I want to discuss about this game that I cannot talk about here, I have decided to write a post over in the Game Discussion boards, which I will link here (once it is done). I may end up turning that into my next series, assuming I feel the need to do another one once this review series is done, for my next marathon, but right now, I absolutely have to talk about some things in this game. So head on over there if you are interested in hearing even more of my thoughts about this game. For now, I have linked a post that I commented on a while back relating to unanswered questions in GTH here. (Warning, there are and will be major spoilers in these posts, so view at your own risk.)

    The Takeaway: Like its predecessor, Ghost of Thornton Hall is another stellar game in this mixed-bag era. Despite being plagued by some plotholes, many of which were directly caused by trying to keep the rating from jumping up to T, and a mildly frustrating ending, it delivers an exemplary plot with Southern Gothic features that make my heart soar. It has a remarkable cast of characters, an atmospheric setting, a top-notch soundtrack, creative puzzles, stupendous vocal talent, and next-level scares. As a gem of a game in the series, and my personal favorite, I must admit that it is difficult for me to be unbiased when it comes to rating this game, especially knowing that its flaws are not the work of poor writing so much as pandering to a subset of the fanbase (i.e., people who would be offended by a fictional work having real ghosts and the presumed children playing the games). (I mean that in the most unoffensive manner possible, but it is quite obvious that HeR messed up a perfectly good plot in order to minimize alienation of the fans who fall into these categories.) For that reason, I feel it is only fair to rate the game with those limitations in mind. Thus, I give it the much deserved rating of ten out of ten stars. If I rated it without giving pardon to the plot's faults, I would give it somewhere between eight and nine stars.

    So the final question is obviously whether I think you should play this game. WITHOUT A DOUBT IN MY MIND, I CAN ASK YOU TO DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND PLAY THIS GAME. If you are a dedicated fan who wants to play all of the games, I think you will really enjoy this one, especially if you are a fan of Southern Gothic, spookiness, and insanely dark plots. Even if it doesn't end up being your favorite, it is easily one of the most memorable stories in the series. If you've got a good many games under your belt and you're looking for another game to play, I cannot recommend this one enough. If you're a new fan trying to decide what game to play first, I think this game a great contender, but your age, penchant (or lack thereof) for really dark games, and preference for scary games will definitely need to be considered. If you're an adult, I say go right ahead. Play it. You will not regret it, and if you do, I am sorry. If you're a child, my advice would be to give it a few years, and then you can really appreciate this one for what it is. If you are not sold on this game, then please check out the other games in my top ten, including Treasure in the Royal Tower, The Final Scene, The Secret of Shadow Ranch, Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, Shadow at the Water's Edge, Curse of Blackmoor Manor, The Deadly Device, and The Silent Spy.

    Thank you for reading my review! I hope that my perspectives and ramblings inspire you to play this game, replay this game, look at it through fresh eyes, or try it for the first time. I will hopefully be posting a review of The Silent Spy early next week, if everything goes according to plan. If I do not have it up by next week, it might be that I have decided to write all of the remaining reviews at the same time and post them all once they are finished. I would like to play the last few games before reviewing them, but it might come down to me playing them after writing, since writing the reviews takes substantially longer. The remaining reviews should not be nearly as lengthy or detailed as this one, so I am hoping to crank them out faster and allow me to meet my deadline of Christmas Day. Then again, that may be too ambitious, so just know that I am going to do my best, but I don't want to drive myself crazy either. Given that Christmas is upon us, I have a lot of things to get done outside of the forgive me if I go silent for a little while. ​​​​​​​​​​

    Previous review:
    The Deadly Device
    Next review: Coming soon!

    Last edited by yukixiaomeimei; November 19, 2021, 01:59 PM.

  • #2
    What a fantastic review. In fact, all of your Nancy Drew game reviews are terrific and I am going to print them all out so that I have them to refer to in the future. I have played all of the ND games and have replayed some of them. Reading your reviews has inspired me to go back and replay all of them in order. The amount of thought you put into them is truly amazing. I will look forward to your next review!
    Last edited by Tedbear2; December 18, 2019, 03:16 PM.


    • #3
      Wow, you really did an amazing job with this review! I have to agree with what you said about waiting to play this one until you’re older, as when I first went through it when I was much younger, I really didn’t think much of it, but after my replay, it’s now only second to Blackmoor Manor for me.


      • #4
        What a fantastic review. In fact, all of your Nancy Drew game reviews are terrific and I am going to print them all out so that I have them to refer to in the future. I have played all of the ND games and have replayed some of them. Reading your reviews has inspired me to go back and replay all of them in order. The amount of thought you put into them is truly amazing. I will look forward to your next review!
        Tedbear2 Wow, thank you so much for your kind words! I feel so honored that you want to keep hard copies of my reviews, and I’m really glad that I inspired you to replay them in order! It’s an interesting experience for sure. Thanks again for reading and for leaving a comment!

        Wow, you really did an amazing job with this review! I have to agree with what you said about waiting to play this one until you’re older, as when I first went through it when I was much younger, I really didn’t think much of it, but after my replay, it’s now only second to Blackmoor Manor for me.
        Dirk Valentine7 Thank you so much! I put a lot of time into this one since it’s my favorite; the review ended up being 18,525 words, which is at least double the size of most of my reviews. Yeah, I was literally just about to turn eighteen when it came out, and I didn’t even enjoy this game as much on my first playthrough, which I actually may have forgotten to say. I still liked it, but it wasn’t until several replays and two or so years had passed that I began to truly appreciate it.


        • #5
          I do wish, however, that Nic had been allowed to fully explore and realize the darkest parts of the game. I
          to know if what we have collectively been thinking about these topics in particular is true, even if we could not get answers in the game.

          I know exactly what you mean- loose ends aggravate me (looking at you, CAP )! At least this game answered most of the mysteries presented. I actually disagreed with most people about the conclusion of Clara's parentage (which threads were being closed over), thinking, "oh, come on, that would never be the answer in a E10+ game," until I read that someone from HeR said they left it purposely open ended to darker conclusions for the older players......oh, okay. Eww- creepy!
          I honestly think the ones in MHM make me more uncomfortable.
          This is true- I liked the haunting tidbits, but the ones from MHM frightened me more- but I think it is mostly to do with the age I was when I played MHM vs. GTH.

          The "Slenderman" one is alarming because of how rarely it is seen, and the white head/black body appearance is so unlike everything else we see in the game that I can only assume this spooky gentleman is supposed to be a reference

          Sorry, but which one is this, exactly? Is it the shadow when you leave the room with the cotton gin? Or when you enter the parlor? Or the one you see in the front foyer window? Or is it none of these.....maybe I missed this one?

          As one who was born in the South and have lived here forever, I feel especially qualified to talk about his accent.
          You are from the South? That's cool! I don't know why, but I thought you were from England. I think the assumption was based on something you said in another one of your reviews.

          Still, I don't buy the whole characters dressing up as Charlotte deal either, unless that somehow gives them the power to walk through walls,
          I'll admit, this confused me the most as well when Nancy included this in her letter. I tried really hard to think about a time when we saw 'Charlotte' that she didn't fade into nothing or disappear in a puff of smoke. Still thinking.....

          I'll just say I am never a fan of a stacking puzzle 99.9% of the time. This one is no different. It really a bit of a shame given the build-up and event that precedes this puzzle. It's also insanely easy, hence why it is going firmly in the mediocre pile.
          This puzzle made me laugh more than anything- its like "Be serious, we cannot actually stand on this stack!"

          This is an amazingly thorough review- definitely 18,000 words worth reading- thanks!
          Stay Tuned for Danger- Lights, Camera,CURSES! - MIDNIGHT IN SALEM

          find out what I think of these games, and 30 others,


          • #6
            Originally posted by Juliana+Walter View Post
            I know exactly what you mean- loose ends aggravate me (looking at you, CAP )! At least this game answered most of the mysteries presented. I actually disagreed with most people about the conclusion of Clara's parentage (which threads were being closed over), thinking, "oh, come on, that would never be the answer in a E10+ game," until I read that someone from HeR said they left it purposely open ended to darker conclusions for the older players......oh, okay. Eww- creepy!
            I feel the same way about CAP. Not knowing or having a hint of what happened with the girls or whether there is a basis for the monster in some truth is really frustrating and make the conclusion feel underwhelming. I think we can all guess what the true story is—and it is bleak—but I don’t think things are handled as well as they are in GTH in that respect.

            This is true- I liked the haunting tidbits, but the ones from MHM frightened me more- but I think it is mostly to do with the age I was when I played MHM vs. GTH.
            VERY valid point. I still end up getting jumpscared by the MHM ones at least, especially if my volume cranked to listen to that sweet, sweet soundtrack. I still love the hauntings in GTH; I just wish they were more varied or had any of the ghosts say stuff to us or make spooky noises. Even the “I see you” from MHM could give me goosebumps coming from those ghosts.

            Sorry, but which one is this, exactly? Is it the shadow when you leave the room with the cotton gin? Or when you enter the parlor? Or the one you see in the front foyer window? Or is it none of these.....maybe I missed this one?
            It’s outside the window Clara is always looking out of in the parlor. If she isn’t there, you can turn around over and over until he spawns. It’s an easy one to miss. Same for the handprints that show up on that window.

            You are from the South? That's cool! I don't know why, but I thought you were from England. I think the assumption was based on something you said in another one of your reviews.
            Haha, I wish! I would love to live in England. Hrmm, I will have to try to figure out what I said that gave off that impression, but, yeah, I’m from the South. Not usually something I talk about period or have particular pride in, but I had to use my firsthand experience to critique the Southern elements of the games.

            I'll admit, this confused me the most as well when Nancy included this in her letter. I tried really hard to think about a time when we saw 'Charlotte' that she didn't fade into nothing or disappear in a puff of smoke. Still thinking.....
            There is definitely not one. I guess you could say that the carbon monoxide messed with Nancy’s head so much that she thought those things happened, but I still don’t buy it. The only one I might could stretch enough to fit is when Charlotte is walking down the stairs in the ruins. Nic said that there were passageways all under the property, so it makes sense that someone dressed as Charlotte would be going down there to re-enter the passages.

            This puzzle made me laugh more than anything- its like "Be serious, we cannot actually stand on this stack!"
            Right?! I literally just stack the tiny squares over and over on top of the big pieces. If I need a little boost, I might put a triangle on the top of the already precarious tower, which is even more impossible to stand on. Then again, it might be slightly better than the stack of items in ASH in terms of sturdiness.

            This is an amazingly thorough review- definitely 18,000 words worth reading- thanks!
            Thanks so much, and thank you for the comment! I’m really glad you liked the review!


            • #7
              Originally posted by yukixiaomeimei View Post
              It’s outside the window Clara is always looking out of in the parlor. If she isn’t there, you can turn around over and over until he spawns. It’s an easy one to miss. Same for the handprints that show up on that window.
              Oh wow, creepy!! I haven't seen either one of these- I think I'm going to play the game tonight just to find them!

              There is definitely not one. I guess you could say that the carbon monoxide messed with Nancy’s head so much that she thought those things happened, but I still don’t buy it. The only one I might could stretch enough to fit is when Charlotte is walking down the stairs in the ruins. Nic said that there were passageways all under the property, so it makes sense that someone dressed as Charlotte would be going down there to re-enter the passages.
              Huh- it would have been nice to find evidence of underground passages to the ruins in the game. I really wanted to explore the lower level and upstairs of that place.

              Stay Tuned for Danger- Lights, Camera,CURSES! - MIDNIGHT IN SALEM

              find out what I think of these games, and 30 others,


              • #8
                Originally posted by Juliana+Walter View Post
                Oh wow, creepy!! I haven't seen either one of these- I think I'm going to play the game tonight just to find them!
                They are definitely creepy! Just wait until one of the times Clara leaves the room, and then you can find both.

                Huh- it would have been nice to find evidence of underground passages to the ruins in the game. I really wanted to explore the lower level and upstairs of that place.
                I’ve always wanted to explore the upper and lower level of the ruins too! I wish we had more evidence of tunnels around the property so it wouldn’t feel as much like a post hoc explanation, but I guess it isn’t too far-fetched. The only other time I might could buy the whole characters dressing up as Charlotte thing is when Clara says Charlotte approached her and told her something only she could possibly know. She said she came through the wall, which might immediately dispel the theory that it wasn’t Charlotte’s ghost, but it could have also been that someone slipped through that door to the passageway without her noticing. Thus, it would seem like she slipped through the wall. Again, that is a major stretch though, so I am just going to have to say we always saw the real Charlotte and anyone who dressed as Charlotte must have stayed off-screen the whole time.


                • #9
                  Hi, so sorry for this late message. Not sure if you will even read this but I totally loved your review. This is my absolute favourite game of the series and I recently re-played it. I didn't realise it much during first two playthroughs but after playing it recently, I felt terribly disappointed about the trail of Clara's parentage leading nowhere. I wished that was part of the mystery that we could solve. The other thing was that there were clearly more rooms in the mansion as seen from the outside. I just wish we could enter all or most of them so as to get a feel of the other Thornton members' personalities from the way their bedroom looked like (and get a few more spooks as well lol). Anyway, I still loved this game and I just wanted to know if you managed to post your thoughts on the discussion board as I would love to read it and get a few more insights on the things that I missed out on this game. Cheers and take care.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Saher26 View Post
                    Hi, so sorry for this late message. Not sure if you will even read this but I totally loved your review. This is my absolute favourite game of the series and I recently re-played it. I didn't realise it much during first two playthroughs but after playing it recently, I felt terribly disappointed about the trail of Clara's parentage leading nowhere. I wished that was part of the mystery that we could solve. The other thing was that there were clearly more rooms in the mansion as seen from the outside. I just wish we could enter all or most of them so as to get a feel of the other Thornton members' personalities from the way their bedroom looked like (and get a few more spooks as well lol). Anyway, I still loved this game and I just wanted to know if you managed to post your thoughts on the discussion board as I would love to read it and get a few more insights on the things that I missed out on this game. Cheers and take care.
                    No worries! I always get around to reading messages, even if I don't check the forums for several months at a time. 🙃 Thank you so much for your reply! Obviously, I share your love and enthusiasm for the game, even in its disappointments. I agree that it's frustrating that we never learn who Clara's father is, but there are some rather interesting fan theories out there about who he might be. Unfortunately, one is particular is rather dark and a sensitive (read: mature) topic, so I'm not even sure if we're allowed to explicitly talk about it on here. If you are interested, you can always find it on the web outside of these forums. I think what Nik achieves what he was trying to do with it from a storytelling standpoint, but, as always, he leaves enough little crumbs for adult players to drive us positively mad with curiosity. I think I mentioned this in my review or in the other post I linked, but Nik actually answered a fan's email with questions about the game a few years ago. He never gave any straightforward answers to bigger questions, but you might find something you're looking for there.

                    As for the house, I agree entirely. As far as game design goes, I get why the interior and exterior don't match, but even something as simple as closed doors or corridors leading other wings in the house would help flesh out that empty, imagined space. Of course, you have to remember that the rest of the Thornton clan no longer lived on Blackrock Island, and it's doubtful the rooms they occupied in the house had many, if any, personal effects left inside. I love the idea though! 😄

                    I haven't yet! Once I do, I'll definitely link it back to this post. If you want, you can become a subscriber and receive notifications whenever I post something new. I haven't finished writing or posted any new reviews since this one, but that GTH discussion post will be on the first things on the docket once I get back in the swing of things! Thanks again for your reply!