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Ransom of the Seven Ships: My 2016+ Reviews

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  • Ransom of the Seven Ships: My 2016+ Reviews

    Ransom of the Seven Ships: My 2016+ Reviews

    Hi! I'm disneygirl12, and this time, I'm jumping ahead to give a review for the twentieth installment of the ND Adventure series. As always, the review will be divided into categories, and each one will be discussed and evaluated using one of the following star ratings (or something in between):

    «««« = Excellent
    ««« = Good
    «« = Fair
    « = Poor

    These rankings, along with a few unrated categories at the end, will all be considered when determining the game's overall score. Here we go!

    Story: «
    Bess Marvin, one of Nancy's best friends, wins a sweepstakes for a vacation in the Bahamas. She invites Nancy and her own cousin, George Fayne, to go with her. By the time Nancy arrives, Bess has been kidnapped and held for ransom! With no way to call for help, all Nancy can do to ensure Bess' safe return is to find the treasure of El Toro, a Spanish captain who led his seven ships near Dread Isle in the 1600s. El Toro is rumored to have been in possession of a valuable treasure, but no one knows its whereabouts or what become of him and his crew. Can Nancy track down the treasure in time to save Bess?

    The plot is strong, but the story is not. This is the first time that a mystery has been forced onto Nancy, so finding the treasure is treated as something you have to do, like work. It isn't necessarily something you want to do. This could have been remedied if we learned more about El Toro as the game progressed, but most of the information about him is dumped on you at the beginning. Hence, there aren't any new developments about the treasure as you play and nothing to keep you engaged. The only developments come from the characters. Speaking of which, let's meet them:

    George Fayne is Bess' cousin and one of Nancy's best friends. She stays at the resort for most of the game to repair a satellite phone to call for help, but she helps Nancy out a couple times.

    Johnny Rolle is a fisherman from Jamaica. Although he claims to know nothing about the kidnappers, he admits he's seen other people on the island while fishing. He gets annoyed when Nancy asks too many questions, but is willing to help her out if she helps him in return.

    Coucou is a talking parrot and the granddaughter of Loulou from CUR. She'll perform tricks or help Nancy in exchange for guavas.

    The suspect list is obviously quite short, and to make matters worse, the few characters we have aren't very engaging. George is unfortunately sidelined in this game, only helping Nancy out when she's conveniently stranded somewhere. It's a shame because she's a driven character, yet even she can get a little paranoid about the situation. However, conversations with her are limited and she isn't utilized well in this game at all. You interact more with Johnny, but his personality isn't strong enough to make up for the lack of other human characters in the game. The parrot has more personality, but she can be annoying to deal with after a while.

    Part of the mystery is finding out who's behind Bess' kidnapping. Nancy doesn't really investigate this aside from speculating early on. There are a few observations in the game that will make you wonder, though. The answer is definitely the highlight of the story. (Not much else can be said here without spoilers. )

    As mentioned earlier, though, locating the treasure is the bulk of the story and mystery. There's only one major character revelation before the ending, but it doesn't make much sense in context. It feels like something HeR put in to make the character seem developed, without realizing that it was unnecessary and impractical. One would hope that the steps to find the treasure would at least make logical sense, but I can't say that, either! Considering the time period and El Toro's probable limited resources, some of the mechanisms to find this thing are ridiculous. Don't forget the last part of the climax, when things quiet down -- the setup there just should not be.

    Most fans of the series, including myself, expected more from this story. Even if you can get into the treasure hunt, there's no excusing the lack of logic for some of it.

    Environment: ««
    I'm a little torn discussing the environment of this game because it's both a strength and a weakness. I guess it's best to talk about it half-and-half.

    On one hand, this environment makes this game, flawed as it is, worth revisiting every once in a while. Set on a small, tropical island named Dread Isle, it's easy to get immersed in the warm, summery atmosphere if that's what you're in the mood for. The soundtrack reflects this and sounds mostly upbeat and tropical. If you weren't told where the game was set, you could take one look or listen and have a pretty good idea where you're at. You also have the opportunity to check out several spots on the island. You can even explore neighboring islands and reefs via sailing and scuba diving.

    On the other hand, the location and feel of this game are a complete mismatch for this plot. Bess has been kidnapped, yet the sunny skies, playful monkeys and upbeat soundtrack strip away any urgency this game had. How can you feel that Bess' life is in danger when it's so stinking happy all the time? Ok...most of the time. Underwater, the music is softer and even kind of sad, while at other times, the music is tense. But still, the treasure itself gets more focus than Bess, so the environment reflects the former more than the latter.

    That's not the only weakness, though. While we can visit many spots on and around the island, they're all very limited. Most consist of a parking lot and a small area, like a beach. Some of the technically larger areas, like the rock cliff or the underwater maps, are mostly seen in third person, which makes it tougher to get immersed.

    The setting is in some ways appealing, but it isn't as elaborate as it looks and does not fit with the more serious side of the story.

    Gameplay: «
    Easily the most annoying part of this game is the gameplay. It feels like this game has it out for you because nothing can be simple and straightforward; there's always something in your way.

    Here's an obvious fact: There are a lot of puzzles in this game. This makes sense given it's a treasure hunt (though again, that doesn't justify the lack of logic in the puzzles themselves), but did some of them need to be this complicated? More annoying, though, is that you often have to accomplish something else before doing what you need to do. Want to climb the monolith? You have to dodge the falling rocks each and every time. Need to solve that puzzle underwater? Well, you also have to keep an eye on your air tank; it doesn't last more than five minutes. Oh, and careful on the way up. Want to recover a stolen item? Gotta win a game against a monkey to get it back! Speaking of which...

    There are several mini-games and activities to talk about. The most notable ones are the games that you can play with the monkeys (yes, you read that right!) at the research center. There are three choices, and they can be tedious, especially the one that's pure chance. However, they may be fun for some players.

    Another frequent activity is navigation, and this consumes SO MUCH of this game because the map is so spread out. Anytime you want to check out another spot on the island, you have to drive using the golf cart. It's a chore to get around, and a pain to have to do so so often. Sailing isn't much better. For effective sailing, you must travel in the direction of the wind. You're out of luck though if the wind isn't in your favor. Climbing and scuba diving are a hassle when you're trying to locate something or reach a certain spot because you have to dodge rocks or because your air tank is emptying every other second. Perhaps the worst part is that all of these are in third person, which can really take you out of the experience.

    In addition, you have the option to play as George. The control to switch characters is simple and works like in other ND games; simply call the other using a walkie talkie. As stated though, this is almost a pointless feature. There are only two instances when it's needed and may as well have been scrapped. If you're going to include this option, why not give George more to do?

    This was touched on before, but there's minimal investigating of the Bess subplot. Again, this is a real shame! It comes across as Nancy not being a good detective. She should have had the chance to explore certain areas or gather more information somehow. The game would have ended sooner if this constraint wasn't in place.

    I think it's pretty telling when the puzzles aren't even the biggest problem in a puzzle-driven treasure hunt game. Although needlessly complicated at times, the other little things mentioned above are far less necessary and far more annoying.

    Technical: «««
    Once again, there's some bad and there's some good, but it's necessary to give credit to this game for the mostly good visuals and sound.

    Let's tackle the graphics first. In first person, they're quite good! The character animation is more fluid and detailed, such as the fact that you can see George moving around at the desk even from a distance. Things in the environment are often moving, too, like the palm trees swaying in the lobby. The water is pretty to look at too, in my opinion. It is a very rich blue and looks kind of globby like jello sometimes, but for the most part, it's a good visual. It's improved some since CRE, where the water looked a little pixely. The only really distracting thing for me is when they use a stock photo for the water at a distance, when it should obviously be animated.

    The third person graphics are...less good, but allow me to clarify. The animation on Nancy (and George) is good from this perspective. The character models look good and have a nice subtle blur. The maps, though, are unimpressive, especially the ones on the beach and when driving. They look bland and hastily done. I don't know if color is just difficult to do, but why does it sometimes look like the sand was spray-painted?

    The audio is mostly good. No real complaints there except for some of the voice acting. Coucou's voice is a bit grading, though sometimes she sounds cute. Johnny's voice though... Here's the thing. The guy voicing Johnny is talented; we've heard him voice several characters in the games before, most notably Frank since CRE. The accent is justified. This just wasn't the correct voice for this character, for reasons you probably understand if you've finished the game.

    As much as I bash the third person navigation, the controls for it, at least, are fine. Simply hold down the mouse button to travel in a certain direction. It's interesting though that you can wreck the sailboat and not the golf cart.

    Overall, the visuals and sound are quite good, especially compared to earlier games'. There are just a few gripes, and hopefully, third person maps will improve as the games go on if they stay in use.



    The Sense of Mystery: Fairly Poor
    This is something that is talked about in the story and gameplay categories, but for some games it just needs to be explicitly stated how much it feels like there's a mystery. Do you just know there's a mystery because the game's music, plot and setting suggest it, or are you forced into believing there's a mystery? Are there common qualities of a mystery present, like snooping or exploring? If not, what other qualities add to the game and make it feel like something's up?

    I guess with Ransom of the Seven Ships, the mystery does get good focus -- it's just not the right one. Finding the treasure is treated as the prominent mystery, not finding Bess or figuring out who the kidnapper(s) is/are. If the treasure subplot is interesting to you, then the mystery should be pretty fulfilling. If the other part of the plot is more interesting, you'll be disappointed in the lack of investigation.

    Replay Value: Fair
    I don't think I'm the best person to talk about RAN's replay value because I can usually just barely sit through this game, let alone care to do anything extra. I'll try to be objective, though.

    There is a fair amount of content to make this game worth several replays, though I think this content only appeals to so many people. As with games 17 and up, there are several awards to try and win. You're rewarded if you achieve them all in one game. I've tried this a couple times, but for some awards, it's more trouble than it's worth. Regardless, there are a few things you may be encouraged to accomplish on your own merits, like earning all of the prizes, finding the bottled messages, optional conversations, etc.

    However, a problem with replaying is that the game is just so long! There are a lot of puzzles and activities that you may not want to sit through. If so, you might not replay as much as you think if you only consider the content described above.

    The Game's Overall Persona: Looks Can Be Deceiving
    This category is admittedly more subjective, but it's something I've enjoyed discussing in these reviews. Here's where I talk about what this game feels like to me and what it feels like compared to other games in the series.

    This category was the trickiest to think about because there are a lot of ways to describe this game relative to the others. I remembered what inspired me to replay this game recently, and that was this thought: "The cover art of this game looks really good! Why isn't the game like that?" Even though the cover art and information is pretty honest to what's in the game, it just doesn't come together as neatly as the art on the box. Puzzles are separated by lengthy trips across the island or the sea; the plot and environment don't go together; the mystery, again, is forced upon the player; and it's tiresome. I find that this game requires a lot of patience and forgiveness for the travel time, constant obstacles, and running back and forth, making it a lot less fun than I once thought.



    Recommendation
    This is where I use the above categories to determine the game's final score out of five stars. I take the average of the star categories from before, and then use the last few non-star categories to adjust that score to what I feel is fair. :)

    Let's check out RAN's final score:
    Final Score: «½ = 1.5 out of 4 = Subpar

    Overall, RAN does not rank too favorably. It's just kind of a mess. I can see why HeR went for this kind of story, but there isn't enough tension for it to work as a mystery adventure game. If you're a Nancy Drew fan, I wouldn't particularly recommend this one unless the premise and setting really interest you. It's good to have experience with other ND games beforehand. However, if you're up for a strict adventure game, this might be better suited for you, especially if you're looking for something challenging.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to read the review! I hope you enjoyed reading. Feel free to leave a comment; they're always welcome.




    Other Reviews:
    | SCK | STFD | MHM | TRT | FIN | SSH |
    Last edited by disneygirl12; December 19, 2018, 03:44 PM.
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