The Phantom of Venice
A Review by Songlily

Mode:
Senior Detective

NOTE:
I had to take about a year-long hiatus in the middle of VEN, so my memory of
the beginning of the game might be a bit fuzzy.

What is VEN?
Well, it's not full of puzzles like CUR, and it's not all fun and games like CLK,
nor is it really a mix of the two. I found VEN to be somewhat unique, which I
thoroughly enjoyed. HER came up with some interesting new features and
puzzles that I found enjoyable and refreshing.

Setting & Graphics
First, however, I'll begin with the setting--Venice, obviously...
I was slightly disappointed with how little of the city you were able to explore,
even though you could 'see' quite a few locales. The Ca' [where Nancy stays]
seems small and unadorned, and apart from it, there's not much of anyplace
to poke around. The graphics and the color, however, were gorgeous.

Snooping
Somewhat minimal. There is only one main snooping location, which you are
able to visit multiple times, but because of the small amount of visitable
[is that even a word?] areas, snooping isn't really required in this game.
It's more focused on spy work--tracking people, stakeouts, that sort of thing,
which is a change from past games and works well here.

Puzzles & Games
The puzzles are also minimal, but interesting. We don't necessarily see
the same old puzzles we've been used to, which made some of them more challenging.
There are also a few 'games' in this game, which provide a nice break if you
are stuck or just want to have some fun. My favorite aspect of VEN, actually,
was learning the Italian card game Scopa, which has since become a favorite.
I found myself loading the game just to play Scopa in my spare time. :D

History & Learning
If you're into history and learning, VEN offers a more cultural spin. Rather than
history or alchemy, you learn Italian phrases, Italian card games, and Italian
cultural traditions. This is once again a refreshing change and one that fit the
tone of the game: less snooping, less reading, less historical data to dig up.
If you're very much into that, this might not be the game for you.

Characters
I was slightly disappointed with the characters in VEN. Though very colorful
[which I enjoyed], our interactions were minimal, and there were only three
main suspects [I prefer four or five for the challenge!]. It was difficult to
really get to know them, and there could have been so much more there.

That being said, there was a wide network of people you had the chance either
call, contact, get orders from, work with, or spy on, which made the game
feel more realistic. Nancy usually seems isolated in a world of five people, but
the presence of others [albeit mostly anonymous and unseen] aided the 'spy'
feel of the game and made Venice feel a little less deserted.

Suspense
There was more in this game than I was expecting, but it came along with
the spy work. Nothing too creepy, mind, but definitely a few parts that had
my heart racing. The ending was particularly exciting, with a highly suspenseful
'beat the clock' part as well as an extra chase of sorts. Definitely a step
up from recent games.

Overall, I enjoyed VEN. Though I sometimes found myself bored as the game
was pretty sequential [and I was stuck or waiting!], I thought the combination of
a colorful setting and a few noticeable differences from previous games
made it a great edition to my ND shelf. I'd recommend it.

8.5/10