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"Ransom" is a Sunken Ship - A Review by ConnectTheDots

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  • "Ransom" is a Sunken Ship - A Review by ConnectTheDots

    An opening note: Hello everyone, and welcome to my review of RAN! I’m starting things out a little differently this time with a brief note so you understand where I’m coming from when you read the review. I am one of the many people who had the game spoiled for me. Therefore, you could probably call this review a little biased because I wasn’t quite as happy with the ending or as excited for the game overall as I might have been if I hadn’t been spoiled.

    Another thing - I'm not using colors in this review just yet because the boards are in the process of changing.

    Also, this review is a little long. Please forgive me. =P Thanks so much for reading!
    - Em/ConnectTheDots


    ConnectTheDots' Review
    --Ransom of the Seven Ships--

    **Bottom line:** RAN has good graphics and a great ending, but the number of puzzles and amount of third person weigh this game down until it sinks to near the bottom of the list of HeR games.


    Bess won an all-expenses paid vacation to a resort on a remote island in the Bahamas and invited George and Nancy along with her. Before Nancy arrives, Bess is kidnapped and George receives a note from the kidnappers. It explains that in order to get Bess back, Nancy will have to find El Toro’s treasure.

    The plot sounds really cool, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, for most of the game, the main problem that Nancy and George are facing – Bess being kidnapped - is kind of put off to the side. All Nancy does is solve puzzle after puzzle after puzzle. As I was playing, I forgot about the kidnapping bit, honestly. It was all one big treasure hunt and I am oh so very tired of treasure hunts being the focus of Nancy Drew games.


    If this section was titled “Suspects” instead of Characters, it would be pretty short. Truth of the matter is, there is only one suspect in this game that you can actually question, and his name is Johnny Rolle. He’s not the nicest fellow, that’s for sure. For someone who seems to have such a laidback lifestyle, Johnny can be pretty crabby. He won’t answer the questions Nancy asks, so she ends up interacting with him mostly by doing some tasks for him. That’s about all that can be said about him, because Nancy doesn’t talk to him much.

    George really frustrates me. Nancy is out scuba diving, rock climbing, solving tons of puzzles and all that jazz, and George can’t figure out how to work a satellite phone during all that time? HeR even says on the RAN Character page that George is “the best with technology,” but man, her progress is slow as molasses in January when it comes to figuring out that tiny manual. It would have been nice if George had been more involved. The player becomes George only twice throughout the game for the purpose of solving one puzzle and finding information that Nancy could have found, but wasn’t able to at that particular moment. In other words, there was really only one puzzle/thing that she could do that Nancy couldn’t, unlike in other games where the players can switch viewpoints. Having her in the game was almost… pointless, and I mean no offense when I say that.

    CouCou the parrot is… well, annoying. Instead of creating an entirely new character with a new personality, HeR gives us CouCou. CouCou is exactly like LouLou from CUR except a little younger. The inclusion of CouCou may be a plus for some, but I would have rather been able to interact with a brand new suspect than LouLou reborn. I understand that CouCou is there because there is no phone and junior players need hints, but that’s pretty much the only purpose she serves. Since there are so few characters in this game, that’s a problem.

    Bess is right on personality-wise; she seems just like the Bess we’ve been talking to over the phone for the past 19 games! We don’t get to interact with her much, though, obviously.

    Overall, one suspect that players can interact with throughout the game isn’t satisfying enough. I know that HeR was trying to make the players really feel like they’re on a deserted island, but the island wasn’t even deserted to begin with. We could have met the person training the monkeys or the Gibsons. That would have been nice… but unfortunately, we don’t get to do that.

    Graphics and Setting

    I know that the graphics section of my reviews tends to be the longest section I write, but graphics actually don’t have that much of an impact on my overall impression of a game. For example – I thought that STFD had terrible graphics, but I still loved the game. HAU had amazing graphics, in my view, but I didn’t enjoy the game.

    I really like the environment graphics in RAN because there is so much movement. Within the lobby, the fan moves and the leaves of the palm tree shift back and forth gently. At the beach, the waves roll onto the sand (although they don't look very realistic, to be truthful). A bird soars around the cliffs overhead. All of this movement makes the player feel like they’re really there. I guess I’m in the minority, because I think that the water color is pretty much perfect for the Caribbean.

    The demo was a little misleading in terms of character movement. I was really impressed with George’s movements during the demo, but found out while playing that she repeats these same movements with every conversation, pretty much. One thing in particular that seems repetitive is when she leans across the table. She isn’t robotic, though, so that’s a positive!

    Johnny Rolle’s appearance and movements are not as impressive and are even a little fuzzy. His mouth doesn’t really move along with the words well, and he doesn’t look as angry in his facial expressions as he sounds in his dialogue.

    I’ve heard many people say that they aren’t happy with the way George and Bess looked and sounded. When I played the demo, I thought that George looked pretty good. She does look older than she is supposed to look, but her looks match her older-sounding voice, which kind of matches the age of Nancy's voice. Lani Minella has never sounded like a teenager to me, so if George sounded/looked like a teenager, it would be weird to imagine them as best friends.

    Then, I saw Bess in RAN.

    I like the way Bess looks in general. I've heard some people say that she isn't attractive, which kind of bothers me that they think that actually matters so much. I think she's cute! But she still looks and sounds younger than George to me. In fact, when they are together at one point in the game, George looks like she could be Bess’ mom. The graphics of George and Bess are a good effort, overall, but they don’t quite hit the mark.


    The music in this game is very good, very Caribbean-sounding. I would have liked more variety of music underwater and more suspenseful music on land. While I played the Sudoku puzzle over and over again, I found that the same song kept playing and I could actually hum along to that song after a time. What once was a great tune became very annoying, sadly.

    Puzzles, Tasks and Mini-Games

    If you’re a big puzzle fan, you will LOVE this game. If you’re not into puzzles, you will hate this game. It’s that simple. The puzzles are some of the best in the series. One of my personal favorites is the cryptograms – such a simple concept, yet so much fun. There’s a large variety of types of puzzles, mostly new concepts, and they’re very challenging overall, even in junior detective mode. The biggest downfall of this game, in my opinion, is that there are way too many of them.

    I tallied up the number of puzzles in RAN and I ended up with 20 tally marks, not including the multiple levels of lots of the puzzles. I recently replayed STFD and found that there were 3 or 4 puzzles in that game. As you can see, that’s a BIG difference. I haven’t played HAU in a while, but I remember feeling like all I was doing was completing puzzles throughout the game. I feel that same feeling when playing RAN, but even more so since there are fewer people to talk to. Nancy Drew is not a professional puzzle solver; she’s a detective. She just doesn’t feel much like one in this game.

    While solving the case, Nancy gets to play games with monkeys. That means that the games are easy enough that monkeys, even baby monkeys, can play them. I found one of the three games, the coconut toss, to be fun and somewhat challenging – the other two were boring. The board game with the spinner is downright silly. There is nothing, nothing at all, that the person playing the game can do to influence what happens in the game. All that players can do is click. The game with the colored blocks is just… dull, really. I honestly dreaded having to go and play games with the monkeys.

    "The Scare Factor"

    This game is set on a sunny island, so there is nothing to be scared about unless you’re afraid of sharks or swimming, maybe.

    Third Person View

    I’ve never made a section just to discuss the third person view and why it’s such a problem, but with this game, it’s that big of a deal. I was lying just a little when I said that pretty much all we get to do in this game is solve puzzles. Here’s what else we get to do – we get to see Nancy scuba dive, see Nancy drive the cart, see Nancy rock climb, see Nancy sail, see Nancy walk, and see Nancy use her metal detector and dig for treasure. If something sounds wrong here, it should. We’re supposed to be Nancy Drew. But in this game, we’re only her for half of the time, really.

    The graphics in this part of the game are much more cartoonish than in first person. In fact, the rock climbing reminds me of some old computer games I played on my first computer. I can understand why HeR might want to utilize the third person view some of the time, particularly when Nancy is using the metal detector, but there is way, way too much third person in this game. I would much rather like to have a map to click on than have to drive around the island, deal with the winds while sailing, or see Nancy walk from overhead.

    I was so excited when I found out that there was going to be scuba diving in this game. Imagine how cool it would have looked to scuba dive around a sunken ship in the first person viewpoint. Imagine the fish swimming around you and getting to explore inside the ship, maybe! Unfortunately, we only see the shipwreck from above in this one. It looks pretty cool. Too bad I don't get to experience it; Nancy does.

    Other Odds and Ends

    - The ending, while surprising, isn’t what I’d call a homerun. Everything is explained that needs to be explained, and the stuff that isn’t explained is left for us to debate for a reason. =] Unfortunately, the ending is very anticlimactic. There is no suspense or feeling of urgency when it’s time to solve the final puzzle. It just sort of… ends.

    - I appreciate the fact that even when Nancy is outside of the lobby looking in, you can see CouCou shifting around on her perch and George moving over at the desk. In past ND games, if you aren't close enough to click on a character to interact with them, they won't move. This made me feel like I was really standing outside the lobby and things were going on inside while I was gone.

    - I normally like Sudoku puzzles, but I didn’t even solve the one in this game. The reason is that the puzzle was underwater, which meant that I had to constantly abandon the puzzle, go back to the resort and refill my oxygen tank – the most annoying aspect of the game for me, bar none. When I returned to the puzzle, I had lost my train of thought and couldn’t remember what to do next. I eventually found a spoiler for this puzzle, sadly, because I was so tired of refilling that tank!

    THANK YOU so much for reading my very long review! Feel free to comment with your own thoughts. Feedback is appreciated.

    Hi CTD, I removed your reference to your post being spoiler-free because all reviews must be spoiler-free. It could confuse members into thinking that other reviews contain spoilers.
    Last edited by Sr.D; August 13, 2009, 11:05 PM. Reason: explaining title edit
    My reviews - STFD, MHM, TRT, FIN, SSH, DOG, CAR, DDI, SHA, CUR, CLK,

  • #2
    Excellent review! I can see you have put all of your effort into sharing your opinion with everyone, so thank you very much! I agree with pretty much everything you said, ending up that RAN is just a decent game
    Thanks again!
    Here We Go Again


    • #3
      Awesome! I love all your reviews! I think RAN is an average game - it's still fun! It was a puzzle game with tedious tasks. A constant "you scratch my back - I
      ll scratch yours" Every time you wanted to get something - you always had to do something for it I love seeing other people's opinions on games!
      Last edited by idancebetter; August 5, 2009, 12:10 PM.


      • #4
        Excellent, well thought out, and right on the money review! I am sure you speak for many of us who were upset with the third person issue and overwhelming amount of puzzles...I keep saying (and they are sick of me on this site) to please bring back the investigating Nancy, snooping Nancy, questioning suspects Nancy....and let Nancy figure out the mystery. A little spookiness thrown in and a few puzzles will suffice! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I think you have said it all. Reps!

        Some of my favorites:

        Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake
        Danger on Deception Island
        Secret of Shadow Ranch
        Curse of Blackmoor Manor
        Treasure in the Royal Tower
        Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon
        The White Wolf of Icicle Creek
        Legend of the Crystal Skull
        The Phantom of Venice
        The Haunting of Castle Malloy
        Warnings at Waverly Acadamy
        Shadow at the Water's Edge
        The Captive Curse
        Ghost of Thornton Hall
        The Silent Spy


        • #5
          Hi, ConnecttheDots! You did a fabulous job on this review! I agree with most everything you said, specifically about Lani Minella's voice sounding older than a teenager, the "chance" game" with the monkeys & wishing I could have explored the shipwreck in 1st person. I still liked the scuba diving, though. Five stars & reps for you on a great job! ~Jas~
          GHOST OF THORNTON HALL . . . . . . Dare to Play!


          • #6
            I love your review! I totally agree with you on everything, especially third person and puzzles. It's a little surprising that I wanted more characters, usually because you have to take a lot of time to talk if you haven't been talking for a while and I disliked that, but this game made me realize how much I DO like talking to the characters. And I agree with you elpana! Please bring back the snooping we know and love, HER!
            ~*My reviews and my petition!*~
            *Ransom of the Seven Ships
            *Warnings at Waverly Academy
            *Trail of the Twister
            *Secrets Can Kill - Remastered
            *The Captive Curse
            *Tomb of the Lost Queen


            • #7

              Awww... thanks to Adventureous, idancebetter, elpana, MysteryEye, and StarMaiden for reading and the lovely comments! :) I wasn't sure if anyone would because it's pretty long.

              idancebetter, I'm not sure what you mean by "Although I'd just give RAN a 6..." because I don't use number ratings in my reviews. I don't rate the games mostly because I find that everyone has a different idea of what "average" is on number scales.

              elpana - nice points! I definitely agree that I miss the questioning, snooping Nancy. She has lost lots of her spunk in recent games.

              StarMaiden, I felt the same way about the suspects! I'm usually annoyed when I have to have long conversations with people, particularly phone characters, but I missed the conversation in this game. So you're right - I guess I like talking more than I thought! =]
              My reviews - STFD, MHM, TRT, FIN, SSH, DOG, CAR, DDI, SHA, CUR, CLK,
              TRN, DAN, CRE, ICE, VEN, HAU, RAN, WAC, SAW, CAP, ASH, TMB, DED, GTH and SPY


              • #8
                Ha, sorry, I edited my post - that didn't make any sense


                • #9
                  There were certain things in this review that you said extremely well. For one thing, there really was potential for other characters--like the Gibsons, or even the pilot! If more people were stranded with them, it may have created more urgency to get off. Also, the way you described third person was great. I felt the same way about the sunken shipwreck and not feeling like I was Nancy. Unfortunately, this aspect of the game made me sit back without much caring what happened next. And I think that is what I disliked most about RAN. There's nothing to care about.
                  Nancy Drew
                  For Girls Who Aren't Afraid of a Mouse.


                  • #10
                    While I read your review, I found myself thinking, "So true" and "I feel exactly the same" and "I couldn't have said it better myself."

                    Nicely done. :)

                    I loved the section you wrote about puzzles. I hadn't actually counted how many there were, but to hear that there were twenty puzzles explains why I felt like the whole game was a puzzle. Personally, I'm more of an interrogate suspects and deal with suspense type of girl. Dealing with kidnappers on a deserted island sounds like it could've been such a suspenseful game; I was really disappointed. :( I thought you tackled that section very well and I couldn't agree with you more.

                    Thank you for such an informative review. You did a wonderful job!
                    ..:.Let your heart guide you..:
                    .It whispers. So listen closely.
                    ..........-The Land Before Time

                    Aw, I love Land Before Time!
                    My Pretty Much and Almost Brand *NEW* AE: *~A Carousel of Clues--CAR~* Updated 8/20/09


                    • #11
                      Great review as always, ConnectTheDots! Just so well thought out, and every opinion was backed up perfectly. As you commented on my review, we agree on pretty much everything but the graphics.

                      I'm kind of on pins and needles, hoping for a response from HER about all of the negative (or rather, constructive criticism) reviews of RAN. I'd really like to get inside of their heads and see what their plan for the future games are. Are they considering making changes? Will they continue third person? Who knows, but they did post about the negative reaction to CRE when it came out so I don't think it's unreasonable to think that they might about RAN.

                      Originally posted by ConnectTheDots View Post
                      If something sounds wrong here, it should. We’re supposed to be Nancy Drew. But in this game, we’re only her for half of the time, really.
                      I just loved this. I want to plaster it all over the forum, or maybe get it tattooed on my forehead...too much?
                      aka SnappyBlueRoadster

                      What I *Really* Thought Reviews
                      LCC RED


                      • #12
                        Thanks to Wilhelmina, Lenehazel and MyCatTilly for the feedback! I looooove hearing everyone's thoughts on the game.

                        Wilhelmina, good point on the pilot! I really liked the beginning of this game with the plane. I guess he couldn't really be on the island, though, because then they would have someone who could fly back to get help and that would be the end of the game. =P

                        Lenehazel, thanks for your complimentary words! I think whenever I play the games, I'm going to start tallying the number of puzzles in each one. It'll be interesting to see the number change with each game.

                        MyCatTilly, you're too kind! I, too, wonder how much third person will be in WAC. People were complaining about the third person in HAU, and now they're really complaining.
                        My reviews - STFD, MHM, TRT, FIN, SSH, DOG, CAR, DDI, SHA, CUR, CLK,
                        TRN, DAN, CRE, ICE, VEN, HAU, RAN, WAC, SAW, CAP, ASH, TMB, DED, GTH and SPY


                        • #13
                          You have hit the nail on the head! I agree with everything you said!!! RAN was a huge disappointment. I wanted a detective game, not a puzzle game. This was just a string of neverending puzzles. Great Review, and I really hope that HER 1. Gets rid of third person and 2. concentrates more on making good games like DOG, FIN, SHA, and TRT and less on the message board. RAN cannot even be compared to the games I mentioned.
                          Read my game reviews!
                          MHM, TRT, DDI,
                          LABYRINTH OF LIES:!-FancyNancy16-Review&p=8309421#post8309421]LIE

                          LORD OF THE RINGS
                          Become who you were born to be.

                          I have completed every Nancy Drew Game!
                          Click here for my petition for another ND original yellow hardback mystery!
                          Check out my sig shop here!


                          • #14
                            Thanks for your review! I have yet to play the game, and found your review very helpful!
                            If I could report Midnight in Salem for being chatty, I would.


                            • #15
                              what a thorough review! i will probably still buy the game, though.

                              i also agree that the 3rd person isn't great. it makes the graphics in the game look a lot older- like in HAU. i didn't like the walking around part.
                              I have...
                              Broken the Curse of Blackmoor Manor
                              Discovered the Secret of the Old Clock
                              Ridden the Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon
                              Captured the Phantom of Venice
                              Learned the Secret of Shadow Ranch
                              Befriended the White Wolf of Icicle Creek
                              Confronted the Creature of Kapu Cave
                              Heard the Legend of the Crystal Skull
                              Wittnessed the Haunting of Castle Malloy
                              Seen into the Danger by Design
                              Ridden on the Ransom of the Seven Ships
                              Attended Warnings at Waverly Academy
                              Been in Danger on Deception Island
                              Visited Treasure in the Royal Tower
                              Watched the Final Scene
                              Found out the Secret of the Scarlet Hand
                              Tracked down the Trail of the Twister
                              Seen the Shadow at the Water's Edge
                              Been captivated by the Captive Curse