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A Longtime Fan's Review

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  • A Longtime Fan's Review

    Disclaimer/Intro: I wanted to say I started my replay-marathon with this game, but that's not true. I started replaying these games with CUR because quarantine is the worst thing in the universe. In this game, alongside others of this period, HER seems to be making the culprits relatable human beings with realistic and understandable motivations, rather than Disney villains with cheesy speeches and ludicrous motives. This is a definite improvement over the older games. This game is also great for teens/older preteens because it deals with some mature themes without being too over the top.

    Plot: Jessalyn Thornton, a bride-to-be, has gone missing while having a bachelorette party at the ruined manor on an island her family owns. Nancy Drew has joined the search party for Jessalyn at the behest of ghost hunter Savannah Woodham. Along the way, Nancy discovers that the ghost stories of the old manor, Thornton Hall, might not be as fictional as she imagined, and that the Thornton family has plenty of skeletons in its closet. The most notorious of these skeletons is the fire that tragically ended Charlotte Thornton’s (Jessalyn’s deceased aunt) life at twenty-one. Legends say Charlotte’s ghost still haunts the shadows of Thornton Hall.

    Characters: I love the cast for this game. Clara Thornton, Jessalyn’s mother, is worried about her daughter’s disappearance, but also concerned for the family’s reputation. Colton, Jessalyn’s longtime friend and current fiancée, seems a bit nervous about their upcoming wedding. Wade Thornton is the grumpy relative out in the cemetery with secrets of his own, including an interesting link to Savannah.

    I quite like Clara. She’s my favorite in this game. She’s very interesting, but very private and stern. She’s plainly worried for her daughter, yet she also fears for her family’s reputation because, with all their money, reputation is important. I know some people turn their noses up at this idea, but reputation really can be and often is everything. The one major con about her is that she’s a control freak, so she has to be involved in every bit of Jessalyn and Colton’s lives, alongside the rest of the family. However, I can’t fault Clara for that when it’s plain that she’s also sporting wounds from her childhood regarding her father. I wish we could’ve gotten to know her better as she is an amazing character, perhaps the best-written I’ve seen HER pull off (although Henry Bolet is a close second on that front for me).

    Setting: Nancy helps the search team scour the island during the day. At night, you’re exploring the ruined manor and the accompanying cemetery. There are plenty of passages and other places to explore. As with CRY, the setting here never feels stifling. Everything is detailed and nicely textured. I like that the colors are varied enough, for a ruined building (how structurally sound is this place? Should these people really be in here?), and the cemetery grounds are beautifully green and detailed. I also like that this cemetery seems more realistically constructed than ones in other games (it’s a believable size, given the family’s wealth).

    Mini-Games: There’s none. Oh, it’s so wonderful. I love the lack of mini-games! Nancy is focused wholly on finding Jessalyn (to the point sometimes of just dragging her feet back to her sleeping bag for some rest). If mini-games are wholly optional, I’m fine with them. What I can’t stand are the mandatory “beat this score to get this thing you need for this part of the game” antics HER sometimes pulls! You can make tea, but it’s wholly optional (I think there’s an award related to this mechanic).

    Puzzles: Nothing too difficult, just some that require you to pay attention. The puzzles here remind me of TRT, FIN, and the other older games where you had to notice certain details in the game and pay attention to them. I quite liked the puzzles here, except for the clocks. I cheat with the clocks every time… although I did beat them without a walkthrough the first time, I played the game.

    Problems: Jessalyn is one of my biggest problems with this game. We don’t get to know her well. What we know about her comes from those around her: Colton, Clara, and Jessalyn’s friend Addison (whom Nancy can call about the disappearance). Sadly, I was not drawn in by Jessalyn’s personality in this game. While she seems fun, up close the cracks are evident.

    The complaints and allegations Wade raises against the family company (it’s an agricultural business, and you can imply the sordid past the company has by the machine in the basement) are just not realistic in this day and age. OSHA would’ve shut the company down if Wade’s allegations had any truth to them (to say nothing of some nosy locals). I also don’t like the message this game possibly sends as to Wade’s ties with Savannah and Nancy’s meddling in that mess. You’ll maybe see what I mean if you play it.

    Accents/Other Character Things: So, full disclaimer: I’ve been to Louisiana once, and I’m from a four-corners state, so sometimes I go full into a southern drawl when I’m mad. I loved most of the accents here (except Savannah, who sounds bad, but not as bad as she did in SAW). Clara in particular was amazing, and I also just loved the animation on her, her interactions with Nancy, how she’d close up sometimes and refuse to talk; she behaved like a real person would! Colton’s animations were stunning, as were those on Jessalyn. I like too how all the members of the Thornton family share facial features alongside hair and eye color because you believed they were humans related to each other, rather than just characters animated in a video game.

    Now, I’m going to say something very unpopular: I don’t like Harper. Her craziness got on my nerves, as did her general prickliness. The fact that some characters were inclined to trust her, given how little they knew about her, is really unbelievable to me. I know why she is the way she is, as she was Charlotte’s younger sister, and understandably what happened to Charlotte hurt Harper terribly. However, I just don’t care for Harper’s theatrics. If you’ve read my TRT review, you know I don’t mind quirky characters (Hotchkiss is my favorite character of all time in any Nancy Drew game); what I mind are the characters that pointlessly ramble on just to try and get a laugh out of the younger players (irritating the rest of us). Harper has a bit of the latter going on. Other than the rambling, Harper has some interesting bits of dialogue.

    The above notwithstanding, Harper’s mental state is well-explained and handled neatly. As someone who comes from a family rife with mental illness, I appreciate that, even if I don’t personally like the character much. I love that she has a softer side to her as well, and the voice actress really shines here on one particular line given after Nancy asks about Charlotte: “She was… my big sister.” There’s something hauntingly beautiful and heart wrenching in the tone Harper's VA uses when speaking those words.

    Oh, and one thing I went absolutely giddy over: the mention of the Civil War and female spies! Yes, a lot of women delved into espionage during the Civil War. The Thornton family gained their island because one of those women was awarded it for her service to the Union during the Civil War. I found that so awesome, particularly regarding the fun device you have to unlock as it’s fun to think about how something like that might work even if it is not very realistic. Women did put messages in their hair, or in their dresses, so this device isn’t too far off. I just like spy gadgets, I think, whether in the modern era or the 1860s. Is it unrealistic that a woman would have been given an island for her service (when Deborah Samson, who disguised herself as a man to fight the Redcoats in the Revolution, had to fight Congress for her pension after the war)? Yes, but I’m willing to overlook that here because this is historical fiction, and as long it doesn't veer off into hunting fantastic beasts, I'm fine with a bit of revisionism.

    Ghost: Charlotte’s ghost is essentially a character. The scares aren’t too bad, although I have jumped a few times at those I forgot about (this game is older than I remembered, apparently). I know some people hated the explanation for the ghost. I’m going to tell you right now, as someone who has had audio and visual hallucinations before: the explanation given is entirely plausible. However, the game leaves this open-ended enough for the believers out there. I’m just a skeptic and I don’t have any sort of religious beliefs, so this wasn’t a deal breaker for me one way or the other.

    Ending/Culprit: There isn’t necessarily a culprit per se in this game. There’s just a mistake that happened a while ago in a bout of anger over something that wouldn’t even be effective legally (with some caveats, of course). You have to solve a timed puzzle to get out, but if you wrote down the solution to this puzzle earlier in the game you’ll be fine as the rules are the same. Oh, and there are multiple endings, but I found the third ending to be the most complete as everything is resolved, and everyone gets an answer to their questions. I also liked that this game dealt with more mature themes and topics than some of the previous ND games. There’s an ambiguity here that is refreshing and mature for a game aimed at younger ages, but it also isn’t so mature that it’ll completely go over girls’ heads.

    Final Verdict: You should play this one. Yes, it is short, but it is also mature, rife with atmosphere, and has an intriguing, well-knit story line. I will say that there were some things where I truly thought Nancy should not be poking her head into, given how personal so much of this story is to the Thornton family. But, all in all, it’s good. That said, if you’re not into games which lack certainty in their endings, maybe try TRT or FIN first.

    Total Rating: 9/10, slight ding for a certain Second Chance you can get which both bothered me gameplay wise and plot wise.
    Last edited by lady_knight13; May 11, 2020, 05:50 PM.
    "Rock and roll, dear!" - Professor Hotchkiss, Treasure in the Royal Tower