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Throwback Review Series: SSH {a fresh new play-through and in-depth review}

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  • Throwback Review Series: SSH {a fresh new play-through and in-depth review}

    SECRET OF THE SCARLET HAND (SSH)
    Release Date: August 12, 2002
    Difficulty: Senior Detective
    FINAL SCORE: (1.5/10)

    ************************************************** ******************************************
    Rating Scale:
    1. Dreadful | 2. Poor | 3. Mediocre | 4. Not Bad | 5. Acceptable
    6. Good | 7. Exceeds Expectations | 8. Strong | 9. Superior | 10. Outstanding

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    AUTHOR’S NOTE / DISCLAIMER:
    Welcome back to the Throwback Review Series!!! Yes, it has been nearly two years since I have uploaded a review. Allow me to explain. Two years ago, I decided that I wanted to replay these beautiful games from start to finish (see “my perspective” below). And so I went on to play and review games 1 through 5, with nary a second thought. Then, THEN… Ugh, then I came to THIS game. The reason this Author’s note doubles as a disclaimer is because it is only fair to be up front about how much I ABSOLUTELY HATE this game. It has always been my least favorite game in the series (yes, even worse than CRE). I dislike it so much that trying to play through it last time caused me to take a TWO YEAR HIATUS from these games (well, along with my general sadness that MID would probably never happen.) But THANK GOODNESS I decided to hop on and take a look at HER’s site, because MID IS HAPPENING and I will be diving back into this review series with renewed vigor!! With this game behind me and MID at the finish line, nothing can stop me now. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS REVIEW IS ALMOST ENTIRELY ME JUST HATING ON THIS GAME. If you love this game, you may want to skip this review. Otherwise, enjoy <3


    MY PERSPECTIVE:
    Hi there! I am a veteran Nancy Drew player, and have been playing these games since I was very young. Message in a Haunted Mansion was the first game I played at eight years old. I am now 27 and have completed every game in the series at least once. However, it's been several years since I've played my last ND game (Sea of Darkness in 2015), and many, MANY years since I have played many of the games. I've had a bout of Nostalgia and have decided to replay the entire series, starting from the beginning. I've decided to write a review for each game as I go. I will be playing on Senior Detective and using as few hints/online help as possible.

    Please keep in mind that everything written below is only my personal OPINION. If you don’t agree with something I have to say about a game, please don’t feel upset or offended. We all enjoy different aspects of these games and it’s wonderful that we can all have differing opinions about what makes a game great. I hope you enjoy!!


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    PLOT: (1/10)
    Nancy’s father has helped her land an internship as the deputy curator of Beech Hill Museum in Washington, DC (proof that life is all about who you know.) Beech Hill is a small museum dedicated to Mayan culture, and has temporarily closed its doors to prepare for the unveiling of a new Mayan monolith obtained on loan from Mexico. Nancy is there to provide some much needed help to the museum staff so that they can have a smooth opening, but as can be expected things soon take a mysterious turn. Before the exhibit opens, a treasured (and valuable) jade carving is stolen, with a mysterious red handprint left behind. What’s more mysterious, similar thefts have taken place across the country. The piece must be found in order to save the museum, which is already on the brink of a financial disaster.

    In my personal opinion, this plot has little to no redeeming qualities whatsoever. After finding incredible success with the “Nancy isn’t here to solve a mystery” trope in the past three entries, it’s no surprise that HER stuck with this formula here. Unfortunately in this entry, they get it terribly wrong. The “main” mystery doesn’t kick in until about a quarter of the way through the game, but in this case, it feels like the game doesn’t really start at all until that specific event takes place. Everything the player does leading up to that moment is, quite frankly, a waste of time. Yes, it provides some background and character information. But it mostly consists of meaningless (and incredibly time consuming) tasks that only exist to make the player feel as though Nancy really is there on an internship. It’s like the game is trying to say, “No, really, there is NO mystery this time. Nancy is just the deputy curator doing deputy curator things. NO MYSTERY, PROMISE.” The player obviously knows this is a lie, and trudges through these horribly dull tasks all while patiently (and then not so patiently) waiting for things to pick up.

    Eventually, things do pick up - for a solid five minutes. We’re given a crime, and our typical handful of suspects, and a mysterious red handprint that has to mean SOMETHING. Right? RIGHT?! Unfortunately, if you expect it to get any better than this moment you will be sorely disappointed. The rest of the game drags on pretty much as slowly as the first bit. We get to discover a few unexciting motives. We get to witness a small plot twist. We get to play around with a HAM radio, and at the VERY end we of course find out that everything conveniently connects. But most of the game is spent running back and forth a multitude of times in the same two or three rooms, lugging information about the Ancient Maya with you each and every time. Unless you are uniquely and desperately in love with Mayan History, you will not care in the slightest about this plot. And to top it all off, by the end of the game I was left feeling as though all of the pieces had just fallen together into Nancy’s hands due to almost zero effort on her part whatsoever. All the while, you’re supposed to be racing the clock to the opening of the exhibit, but it never actually feels like there’s any sort of rush.

    And lastly, though I can unfortunately not go into too much detail here, just be aware that there are SO MANY PLOT HOLES in this game. I repeat - SO MANY. Just know that if I didn’t have to worry about spoilers in this review, I could write another three paragraphs about all of the ways in which this plot does not make sense. There were so many times that I asked the question “Why?” and the game just never gave me an answer. Most importantly, WHY THE RED HANDPRINT EVERYWHERE?!?! You would think at the very least that the handprint itself WHICH THE GAME IS LITERALLY NAMED AFTER would matter. Ugh. Sorry for the yelling, but this plot just upsets me.

    ************************************************** ******************************************

    SETTING: (2/10)
    Beech Hill is a “prestigious” museum in Washington, DC that focuses primarily on displaying Ancient Mayan Artifacts. Unfortunately, HER fails at what should have been an interesting and fun setting for a mystery of this nature. The artistry and design is nice, and we do get to see exhibits on mayan artifacts and lifestyle. But the location itself is small and feels like a broken piece of something that should have been much larger.


    LOCATION: (3/10)
    This time around, our primary location is Beech Hill Museum and a few other small (very small) surrounding locations. Beech Hill itself feels basically like a museum. Kind of. It really feels more like one small exhibit that should be a part of a larger, full sized museum. So, with that being said, was it well done? The answer is… Kind of. The artistry of the museum is, as usual, well done. It’s obvious that HER put a lot of time and energy into the exhibits themselves, and the result is some really nicely done in-game artwork. The main hall, garden and temple combine in a way that feels real, and result in a space that does an excellent job of mimicking the feel of a museum EXHIBIT. Unfortunately, they also try to convince us that this is the entire museum, which makes the space itself feel far less grandiose than the game wants it to be.

    Let me put it this way. This feels exactly like walking through the “Ancient Egypt” section of my local museum. The trouble is that after Ancient Egypt, I also get to experience gemstones and dinosaur bones and the 427 mammals of the Amazon. I would never pay to go to the Museum if I only got to see one exhibit. So I’m left wondering who is paying to go to this one. I feel like this was such a missed opportunity, because a Museum in a larger sense could be a really intriguing setting for a mystery. HER could have made use of hallway sections connecting exhibits both for additional artwork and as a way to make a small space feel larger (like they did with TRT).

    Unlike in past games, the setting itself just doesn’t provide that extra something that makes me excited to explore it, and it also doesn’t lend as much as it should to the mystery at hand. For example, in MHM, the Mansion was not only a beautiful setting but was itself part of the solution to the Mystery. In TRT, Ezra Wickford’s castle was basically a character, and the quirks of the Royal Palladium in FIN were what allowed Maya to be kidnapped in the first place. We don’t get any of that here. The museum exists only as a vessel for the pieces of this mystery - basically, it’s just a convenient way for all of our clues to connect without the player asking “why” too many times.

    Additionally, every location outside of the Mayan exhibit itself is underwhelming in its design. Joanna’s office is an office. The shipping room is a shipping room. The lab a lab (and not even super lab-y at that). Nancy’s hotel room is a hotel room. And so on. All of these locations have okay designs for what they are, but they just aren’t really aesthetically pleasing, and the general feel of them is quite boring.

    EXPLORATION: (1/10)
    Exploration is admittedly my FAVORITE aspect of these games. I want to be able to look at everything and open every door and snoop behind every desk. Oh, and at least one secret area is a must. Most games seem to have no trouble providing me with a few of these (if not all). But NOT this one. The exploration in this game, in my opinion, is horrendous.

    In this entry, we return to a map with multiple locations. This is something that is supposed to make the world feel larger, but since every location outside of the museum is small and uninteresting, it really just makes the player feel like the museum is the only REAL location. And the Museum isn’t all that large or interesting itself. The most exploration we get is at the beginning of the game, when the museum is new to Nancy and the player. After we look at the exhibits and see what there is to see… well, that’s pretty much it. There’s really not much else to see or do. There is nowhere new to explore, there are no secret areas. We do have two “unlockable” areas, but they’re hardly secret or exciting, and because of the way the story progresses, you already know what you’ll get out of them before you get there. Also, you get a glowstick. Exciting stuff, no?

    Additionally, the rest of the locations that Nancy can visit around the map are really more just “people” she can visit around the map. Want to see Joannah? She’s in her office, where there’s nothing to do. Alejandro? The Consulate, where you can click on exactly ONE brochure. Taylor, in his office, where you can click on ONE painting. Oh, and at first you think it’s okay because at least you’ll be able to snoop later? WRONG. So wrong. There is no snooping in this game. None. There is one instance that may POSSIBLY count as snooping, but there’s no chance of being caught and there’s nothing shady to find, so I’m inclined to say it doesn’t even count. Also, there are two locked boxes in the stockroom that we can look at but never open.

    Overall, what little exploration that exists in this game at all is tedious and unrewarding. You’ll spend most of your time running around looking for answers to the quiz minigames in the temple, only to get excited when you open the next level, only to find that there is nothing interesting there and you have to do another quiz. The only thing in this game that I was excited to find were the Koko Kringles in Sonny’s desk - and since we’re still so early in the series, Nancy couldn’t even eat one.
    ************************************************** ******************************************
    CHARACTERS: (3/10)
    Normally, HER gives us a mixed bag in the character department. Oftentimes, there are one or two good (or at least above average) characters, one that should have been good but missed the mark, and one that is just plain bad. They break that habit here… because all of the characters are pretty bad. In general, I didn’t find that I connected with any of them by the end of the playthrough. The only good thing I can say about these guys is that if this were my first playthrough, I would probably think that any of them could be the culprit. But NOT because they all have good motives. Just because all of their motives are equally mediocre. In the end, it doesn’t matter who the culprit is because we basically no nothing important about anybody in relation to the crime, and by the end of the game we STILL don’t really know why or how the culprit knew about the secret that we spent all game figuring out.


    JOANNA RIGGS: (3/10)
    Joanna is the Curator at Beech Hill, which is apparently one step up from Deputy Curator which makes her Nancy’s boss. She spends a lot of time telling Nancy to complete her tasks and stares at the microscope in her office a whole lot. We learn quite early on that the Museum is dealing with a bit of financial instability, and Joanna may be at fault. Which I suppose is supposed to be her motive? The game tells us so, but I can’t help but feel as though it’s not a very good one. We don’t really have any reason to suspect her until we find one particular clue that points in her direction. And then WE NEVER FOLLOW UP ON IT AGAIN with anybody. Also, she’s quite boring and I never cared about her at any point.

    HENRICK VAN DER HUNE: (4/10)
    If any of these characters are a hair above the rest, it would probably be this guy. Henrick is Beech Hill’s Heiroglyphic expert, and it seems as though he’s basically just really passionate about translating glyphs. Which is more personality than any of the other characters have. Henrick is at Beech Hill helping to decode the Monolith, and being that he’s the ONLY person who can read Mayan Glyphs, it’s very possible he may have some secret knowledge that he’s hiding from everyone else. In my opinion, this is probably the most well-done motive of the bunch. Also, he’s 61 and allergic to Bee Stings which is cute. His personality isn’t all that interesting, but it outdoes the others by a fraction and the game does use him in a more interesting way than the others as the story progresses.

    TAYLOR SINCLAIR: (2/10)
    This man’s terrifying CGI face still gives me nightmares. I’m sure if HER had today’s technology they would not have made him this creepy looking, but it does kind of work for him. Taylor is basically a shady art dealer who helps the Museum locate artifacts to display. The game goes out of its way to tell us that he is shady over and over and over again. We know that he is shady, and that means his motive is probably of a shady nature. But having one character attribute - “Shady” - just doesn’t make for a well rounded character in my book. He also doesn’t have a whole lot of dialogue compared to the others. Also, there is ONE thing to do in his office for the whole game, and Nancy doesn’t even have to work for it. Mr. Taylor Sinclair just excuses himself and leaves for no reason at all. AND WE DON’T EVEN GET TO SNOOP HIS DESK WHEN THIS HAPPENS. Ugh. This just distresses me.

    ALEJANDRO DEL RIO: (1/10)
    This man with his lovely accent and remarkably not-hideous face for the CGI of the time is the Mexican Consulate Ambassador. This basically means that he sits behind a desk all day and complains about Mexican Artifacts being stolen from Mexico. He LOVES Mexico and HATES the American “conquistadors” who have stolen ancient mayan artifacts from their rightful home in HIS homeland Mexico, and since the law isn’t taking care of the problem he may have to help return those artifacts to “with his own two hands.” This, my friends, is what I call an OVERDONE MOTIVE. Alejandro basically throws this information in Nancy’s face the first time she meets him. He is SUPER PASSIONATE about it, which should help him to be a good character, right? No, not in this case. The game really wants us to know in that first conversation that Alejandro is a suspect with a real motive. This is because after we talk to him the first time, he’s pretty much irrelevant for the entire game (until we need him one time ever, and only because Google Translate is not yet a thing.) You have no idea how many times I returned to this man to see if he had anything more to say. He never did.

    SONNY JOON: (10/10)
    Okay, so Sonny is not TECHNICALLY a Character. But he had more personality than all of the actual characters combined, and I really wanted to give something about this game a higher score than absolutely awful. Although we cannot meet him or speak to him in any way, we know that Sonny Joon is the Alien-believing, KoKo Kringle loving, ex-deputy-curator at Beech Hill. We find hilarious remnants of his adorable nuttiness all over the place, and it is the ONE THING that gives Beech Hill any sort of character. I absolutely loved reading through his journal and seeing his notes, and to be completely honest I forgot that this is the first entry that we encounter him. Those who have played the whole of the series will know that he goes on to grace the presence of many games beyond this, and if this game did one thing right, it brought us Sonny Joon.

    PHONE CONTACTS: (5.5/10)
    It turns out that this horrific spectacle of a game also got one more thing right. The phone contacts actually range on a scale of not bad to really good. AND WE GET THE HARDY BOYS! Need I say more? Some of the smaller phone contacts are also very well done - Poppy is great, and the “Keep it Real” phone contact made me laugh amidst an otherwise dreary experience

    Franklin Rose: (4/10)
    Franklin Rose is a friend of Nancy’s father, and also on the Board of Directors for the Museum. He’s not particulary exciting, and basically just does a decent job filling the role of our typical “Nancy, please solve this mystery” character. He serves his purpose and his voice acting is well done, but there isn’t much more to him than that.

    Bess and George: (7/10)
    Finally, Finally, FINALLY, Bess and George have gotten it together. That’s mostly because we get voice actress Alisa Murray, who goes on to voice Bess for quite a while (I believe she doesn’t switch until CRY. From this point forward, any voice actress changes for both of our ladies here are generally well received by me, but this is the game where they really picked it up. Their voice acting is great, their dialogue with Nancy is helpful and interesting, and their dialogue and bickering with each other is even better. THIS is the Bess and George that I know and love.

    Frank and Joe: (6/10)
    Honestly, the most exciting part of replaying this entry was realizing that I got Frank and Joe Hardy in it. They are by far my favorite phone contact in every game that they appear in, and this is no exception. I’m not sure who voices them here, but in general their voices are always well done. They have some great dialogue, and they’re our main source of hints once they join our contact list. They do have better appearances than this one, but they remain solid here and I enjoyed calling them every chance I got - even if they did get way too excited over a glow stick.

    Prudence Rutherford: (4/10)
    We learn early on that Prudence had a jade necklace stolen in a very similar fashion to the theft at the museum. We contact her to learn more, and I was honestly a bit unsure of how I felt about her. On one hand, she’s got an interesting-enough personality. On the other, I really dislike the voice acting for her, and I feel like she’s mainly there to fill that “slightly wacky” hole in our hearts that Professor Hodgkiss left, but does a really bad job of it. I just didn’t love her, though I was glad she was yelling at her husband through the whole conversation and not her dog. I would like her a lot less if she was mean to dogs.
    ************************************************** ******************************************
    PUZZLES: (1/10)
    This category will discuss QUALITY of puzzles, rather than DIFFICULTY.

    In my past reviews, I didn’t have a separate section for Puzzles and instead included some general puzzle information in the miscellaneous section below. This game has made me realize that they deserve their own category. Mostly because there just WEREN’T ANY, and it deserves to lose points for that. But also because I do think integrating interesting, high quality, immersive puzzles makes for a better game overall, and deserves to be taken into consideration when calculating an overall score.

    But, back to this game, which does NOT have a very high overall score… I am honestly not lying when I say there were basically no puzzles. Almost every task in this game is information based. That means, for example, finding a map of how the exhibits are lettered and then going to EVERY exhibit in order to arrange audio to match the correct exhibit (unless you read something else first which will just give you most of those answers). It means running in and out of the temple looking for answers to quizzes, not that half of them are even found in their appropriate sections. (I mean, who would think to look for the name of a Goddes in the “Gods” section of the museum.) It means translating two words into morse code using a book that tells you how to translate words into Morse Code. Technically, I guess the game considers these puzzles, but I don't. They remind me more of my highschool history homework.

    The moral of the story is, take notes on paper, and have a lot of paper ready. You’re honestly going to have to in order to get through this game, because you will spend a lot of time looking for answers. Or skip the paper and just look up the answers online, because it really does beat all of that running back and forth. If I wasn’t obligated to play the entirety of this game for the sake of a proper review, I would have most definitely just cheated. I wanted to by the third floor of the temple, and so will you.
    ************************************************** ******************************************
    ENDGAME: (2/10)
    Just when it feels like this game can’t possibly get any worse, we get to the Endgame. After all that, you’d think our culprit would at least have a long, interesting monologue where he or she explains exactly just what is going on. But nope, we don’t get anything of the sort. The culprit doesn’t explain pretty much anything, and leaves us with more questions than answers. I can’t really say if I thought the choice of culprit was good or bad, because I think they are all mediocre.

    After the culprit leaves us to our fate, do we get any sort of clever, tricky puzzle to solve? Do we at least get to use ANY of the information concerning the Ancient Maya that we now have engraved in our brain after staring at it repeatedly for hours on end? Nope. Basically, this is a situation of “click faster than the clock.” Though, I highly advise that your first time through you try NOT to click faster than the clock, because the scene we get for failing is honestly better than the endgame itself.

    Once you succeed, you will be greeted by all three of the remaining characters, who proceed to say some awkward stuff considering you just survived a life threatening emergency. Also, why are they all there? I guess it only makes sense that this game ends by NOT MAKING SENSE.

    ************************************************** ******************************************
    MISCELLANEOUS:
    This category may not affect the game’s overall score in any particular way, as low scores in the categories presented here shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as a bad thing. These are highly subjective to personal taste and are included primarily for informative purposes.


    DIFFICULTY: (3/10)
    Define “difficult.” If you mean “does it require a whole lot of intelligence or logic”, the answer is no. This game is incredibly easy. If by difficult you mean “time consuming and annoying” then the answer is yes. Overall, there’s very little that is difficult or tricky about this game. It isn’t the absolute easiest title, but it’s not very hard either.

    SCARE FACTOR: (1/10)
    This is not a scary game. Keep in mind that I’m basically a child when it comes to scary movies, games, etc. I wasn’t scared once during this playthrough. There are no jump scares, and really not even any suspenseful moments other than the endgame. It never feels as though anybody is watching you, and there are no ghosts or hauntings of any sort mentioned.

    EDUCATION/LOCATION HISTORY: (9/10)
    Finally, something I can commend this entry for. There is SO MUCH HISTORY. If you enjoy this sort of thing in your playthroughs, you will most definitely get it here. Not only is it everywhere, but it pervades the plot as well. You will learn so much about the Ancient Maya that you could probably open your own Ancient Maya exhibit in your backyard. It would probably be just as big as the on ein the game, too.

    IMMERSION: (2/10)
    This concerns how realistic the game feels. Does it feel like Nancy is really there for the reason she is supposed to be? Is her reason for being there realistic? Are the things that happen throughout the game realistic?

    Basically, this game begins pretty immersively and then quickly moves downhill. When the game begins, it goes out of its way to make sure you feel like Nancy really is just the new intern deputy curator. As tedious as her tasks are, they do feel like something an intern would actually do. But as soon as our mystery kicks in, they start to lose me. There are so many things that are immersion breaking after this point. Like, why can’t I call Bess and George and the Hardy Boys from the Museum? Why do I have to retype ALL the quiz answers every time when it’s supposed to be saved on my card. Why can’t I snoop behind Taylor Sinclair’s desk when he leaves the room (BECAUSE NANCY WOULD NOT MISS A CHANCE TO SNOOP)? Why didn’t Nancy check the temple after the tumble down the stairs. Why can’t we ask Joanna more about Cinnabar? WHY would Franklin Rose put Nancy in charge when she is literally just a teenager. And most importantly, why does a certain very important plot point only take place if I come out of the garden from a certain direction? (Honest, if you get stuck, try going through the garden the opposite way.)

    GRAPHICS: (3.5/10)
    The Graphics are meh, but only because of the time period. It will still be a while before we get anything phenomenal. Taylor Sincalair is terrifying.

    EXTRA STUFF/NOTES:
    As with the previous entries, we really don’t get any extras in this game - it’s still to early. We can’t even eat the KoKo Kringles in Sonny’s desk drawer. We can’t call any additional numbers scattered around. One thing of note is that this is I believe the first entry where we see some form of Nancy’s notebook, which goes on to become a brilliant part of future games!
    ************************************************** ******************************************
    FINAL SCORE: (1.5/10)

    Every series has to have a worst entry. This just happens to be it for Nancy Drew. The only good thing I have to say about this game is that it is now over and I can move forward knowing that I will never have an experience this bad again (unless MID turns out to be a particularly horrendous letdown.) I would recommend this game to anybody who feels like they deserve multiple hours of misery and an unhealthy dose of Mayan history. Oh, and I guess also to anybody who wants to play through the series in its entirety. If you are looking for a quality experience, look elsewhere.

    ************************************************** ******************************************
    BONUS SPOILER FILLED RANT

    For those of you who have already played the game, please enjoy this brief spoiler-filled rant, linked below! BEWARE THAT THIS CONTAINS MANY SPOILERS!!!


    TAKE ME TO THE SPOILER FILLED RANT

    ************************************************** ******************************************
    THROWBACK REVIEW SERIES - ALL REVIEWS

    SCK | STFD | MHM | TRT | FIN | SSH | DOG | CAR | DDI | SHA
    ************************************************** ******************************************
    Last edited by Jett; December 4th, 2019, 01:36 PM.

  • #2
    Another fantastic review! I am SO glad you have returned to bless the boards with your perspective of each game. Now, onto business:

    Although my review was less scathing than yours, I agree with a lot of points you made, and I found myself laughing aloud repeatedly at some of your commentary. I will highlight the particular segments that interested me or made me cackle below, but I also find it quite refreshing to see such a staunchly negative opinion of this game. No one seems to list it as their favorite, but no one seems to criticize it heavily either. It doesn't get much attention in either direction. This fact probably says a lot.

    The main hall, garden and temple combine in a way that feels real, and result in a space that does an excellent job of mimicking the feel of a museum EXHIBIT. Unfortunately, they also try to convince us that this is the entire museum, which makes the space itself feel far less grandiose than the game wants it to be.

    Let me put it this way. This feels exactly like walking through the “Ancient Egypt” section of my local museum. The trouble is that after Ancient Egypt, I also get to experience gemstones and dinosaur bones and the 427 mammals of the Amazon. I would never pay to go to the Museum if I only got to see one exhibit. So I’m left wondering who is paying to go to this one. I feel like this was such a missed opportunity, because a Museum in a larger sense could be a really intriguing setting for a mystery. HER could have made use of hallway sections connecting exhibits both for additional artwork and as a way to make a small space feel larger (like they did with TRT).

    Unlike in past games, the setting itself just doesn’t provide that extra something that makes me excited to explore it, and it also doesn’t lend as much as it should to the mystery at hand. For example, in MHM, the Mansion was not only a beautiful setting but was itself part of the solution to the Mystery. In TRT, Ezra Wickford’s castle was basically a character, and the quirks of the Royal Palladium in FIN were what allowed Maya to be kidnapped in the first place. We don’t get any of that here. The museum exists only as a vessel for the pieces of this mystery - basically, it’s just a convenient way for all of our clues to connect without the player asking “why” too many times.
    YES. I have this same complaint. I have a hard time believing that a museum, much less in D.C., would be that tiny. Even museums that are legitimately created for one specific period of history usually have more than one room. The only museum I have ever been to that was close to the size of Beech Hill was in a small city outside of Charlotte, NC, when I was a kid, and even it had more than one exhibit from what I can recall. Also, your point about the museum utterly lacking the personality and character of the settings in MHM, TRT, and FIN is spot on. I love when a setting becomes a character, sometimes literally, in a work of fiction, which is probably why I love so many of the settings in these games. Beech Hill feels so empty and lifeless, especially when compared to its direct predecessors.

    This man’s terrifying CGI face still gives me nightmares.
    All of your commentary about the characters was perfection, but this line sent me into hysterics. It's so true. I've never known anyone to come away from this game without remarking at least once about how terrifyingly hideous Taylor Sinclair is. Makes me proud.


    The moral of the story is, take notes on paper, and have a lot of paper ready. You’re honestly going to have to in order to get through this game, because you will spend a lot of time looking looking for answers. Or skip the paper and just look up the answers online, because it really does beat all of that running back and forth. If I wasn’t obligated to play the entirety of this game for the sake of a proper review, I would have most definitely just cheated. I wanted to by the third floor of the temple, and so will you.
    It's so true. This game really has some of the most tedious puzzles of all. I don't hate all of them, but...let's just say I couldn't even make it through my very first playthrough without cheating because I got so fed up and was tired of taking notes.


    Once you succeed, you will be greeted by all three of the remaining characters, who proceed to say some awkward stuff considering you just survived a life threatening emergency. Also, why are they all there? I guess it only makes sense that this game ends by NOT MAKING SENSE.
    I think it says a lot that this is quite literally the first thing I think of whenever I think about SSH. If it isn't that abomination, it's "AAARRGHHHHHH CONFOUND YOU, NANCY DREW!" or "semper ubi sub ubi."

    I am curious about your opinion of the Pacal/Whisperer part of the plot, since you didn't mention it directly. Similarly, what do you think of the music in the game and the various musical themes that relate to the Whisperer and Pacal?

    Again, great review! I'll be looking forward to your thoughts on the next one!

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    • #3
      Yeah it turns out the only thing more powerful than Good Nostalgia is BAD nostalgia. This game didn't stand a chance against my years of biased bitterness toward it lol.

      Honestly, I thought that the Pacal/Whisperer plot was interesting and well done in hindsight, but during my playthrough I really couldn't have cared less about it. Mostly because it sort of blended in with allll of the the other random Mayan history and facts that the game throws at us, and by the time we get to the background of the Whisperer and Pacal I'm always just TIRED of reading about it all lol. It's a shame, because this game has SOOOOO much in the way of history/education, but because of the way it forces it on the player rather than allowing it to feel organic (Like the Dirk Valentine plot in SHA or maybe more related would be the French history we get in TRT), the game forces too much of it on us for no reason at all and it had such a negative effect on all of my playthroughs. Kind of like my mom telling me to clean my room when I was a kid. The answer was always no. Then there were times that I decided to clean my room on my own, and would find old notes from friends, and old drawings I'd done, and I had a great time doing the same thing because I had an organic experience as opposed to it feeling like a chore.

      As for the music, I hate to disappoint but I have to be honest and say that I didn't pay much attention to it in this game lol. I typically don't try to listen to the music while I play, but I will make note of it if anything stands out as really good to me. And I didn't make note of the music in this, so I must not have thought too much of it. Though on my next playthrough of this game (WHICH I HOPE IS NEVER LOL) I'll do my best to listen!!!

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      • #4
        Hahahaha, too right! You'll see a good bit of that in my own reviews later on.

        I don't blame you. There is so much material, and that whole subplot gets really lost in the amount of information in the game. They really went heavy-handed with the whole education thing in this game. Even now, I can't get myself to read all of the text in the game. There's just so MUCH. Yes! It really doesn't come across evenly or organically in the game. There's a massive info dump at the beginning. I feel like that part of the game should be called "How to Become a Mayan Expert in Thirty Minutes." Then, things slow down and become more chore oriented. After that, it's just one info dump after another. Way too much information to absorb or care about unless you really want to take the time to read everything. I may have read everything in the game now once from reading various parts across multiple playthroughs. But you're right, the pacing is awful. SHA and TRT do a much better job of integrating the historical plot into the current mystery. You never lose sight of either aspect of the mystery the entire time, and the history is shown in more ways than walls of text.

        No worries! I just love talking about the music in the games, but I know not everyone pays as much attention to it as I do. I care more about music in video games than almost everything (except plot/characters). I adore the music in this game--some of it reminds me so much of Amazon Trial 3rd Edition--and took note of it immediately, but it's okay if you didn't notice it or even like it. Hahahahaha, I hope you never have to play it again either, but if you decide to listen to it, do it outside of the game. You might have a more positive experience with it. (Just wait until you read my review of CRE. My feelings for that game and its soundtrack mirror yours for this one.)

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