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Message in a Mediocre Mansion

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  • Message in a Mediocre Mansion

    This was one of the first Nancy Drew games that I played, and I remember it scaring the crud out of me. It was one of those games where I would hesitantly click around for fear of something popping out at me. For this reason, I really enjoy playing this game. However, when I take a step back and examine the plot and the characters in this mystery, it becomes less exciting.

    The issues in the plot revolve in how Nancy “solves” this mystery and the endgame itself. The mystery takes place in a San Francisco mansion that’s being renovated but has encountered a lot of renovation accidents. Nancy’s job is to help with the renovation and investigate the accidents. She does the former but does none of the latter. What she ends up doing while renovating the house is learning about the house’s history and discovering its secret left behind by the previous owners. I’m not a big fan of these types of Nancy Drew games because the secret isn’t upfront related to the mystery that Nancy’s solving and doesn’t involve a lot of Nancy doing some actual sleuthing. What really irked me about the game is that the puzzle that triggers the end game is “given” to Nancy by one of the other characters. Essentially, only after doing everything possible in the mystery do you have access to the last puzzle of the game that could have been accessed any time throughout the entire game had Nancy known to where access it. If Nancy had known to access it at the beginning of the game, then the mystery could have ended before it even started (although there may have been some difficulty in figuring out how to solve the endgame puzzles). This is very frustrating and cheapens the feel of solving the mystery.

    The characters themselves are not that great either. Rose and Abby are the owners of the house who met each other while helping out at a play in River Heights. Other than that, there’s no backstory about them, which is disappointing because they could have been interesting characters. Louis is an antiques expert hired by Rose and Abby to advice on how to renovate the house to keep with period theme. He doesn’t do much but provides some historical information to Nancy. Charlie is the most interesting character. He’s the handyman hired by Rose and Abby and he’s the only one who develops throughout the game.

    There is an interesting history that pairs with the mansion, however it doesn’t feel very real. Usually when there’s history associated with a Nancy Drew mystery, Nancy will read up on it and then discuss it to great lengths with the other characters and people on the phone. Nancy does do a lot of reading about the mansion but she doesn’t discuss it a lot, so it feels unimportant and disconnected from the rest of the mystery.

    Message in a Haunted Mansion does have some great positives. There’s a lot of rooms to explore in the game, and more areas become accessible as the game progresses. There aren’t a lot of puzzles in the game because more of the story progresses from Nancy snooping and interacting with the items in her inventory. The puzzles that are in the game feel realistic. One of the puzzles is dictated by the tapestry in Nancy’s room. I love this puzzle especially because solving it requires completing a scavenger hunt of sorts within the house.

    The best part of this game are all the creepy ghost things that happen. There are so many weird noises and shadows that Nancy comes across—I estimate that something eerie happens in 1 out of every 10 screen clicks, depending on where Nancy is in the house.

    Playing Message in a Haunted Mansion is pretty fun, but if you are like me and enjoy something with a better plot that I would recommend a different Nancy Drew game like the Final Scene or Treasure in a Royal Tower. They both come from the same era as Message in a Haunted Mansion but are more engaging with regards to plot and gameplay.
    I discovered that Secrets can Kill. I Stayed Tuned for Danger. I read the Message in a Haunted Mansion. I uncovered the Treasure in a Royal Tower. I watched the Final Scene. I washed away the Secret of the Scarlet Hand. I pet the Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake. I rode the Haunted Carousel. I dodged the Danger on Deception Island. I lassoed the Secret of Shadow Ranch. I overcame the Curse of Blackmoor Manor. I unwound the Secret of the Old Clock. I traveled on the Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon. I unveiled the Danger by Design. I captured the Creature of Kapu Cave. I discussed politics with the White Wolf of Icicle Creek. I unearthed the Legend of the Crystal Skull. I unmasked the Phantom of Venice. I exposed the Haunting of Castle Malloy. I paid the Ransom of the Seven Ships. I heeded the Warnings of Waverly Academy. I chased the Trail of the Twister. I stood in the Shadow at the Water’s Edge. I shattered the Captive Curse. I upheld the Alibi in Ashes. I opened the Tomb of the Lost Queen. I condemned the Deadly Device. I sang to the Ghost of Thornton Hall. I did justice for the Silent Spy. I repaired the Shattered Medallion. I navigated the Labyrinth of Lies. I illuminated the Sea of Darkness. I was awake at Midnight in Salem.
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