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A Veteran's Review of SHA

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  • A Veteran's Review of SHA

    Allow me to preface this review by saying that I have been playing the ND games for fourteen years. Over those years, I have probably played each game well over twenty times--the older ones probably over fifty--and I do at least one full marathon of all 33 games (i.e., all 32 and SCK Remastered) annually. As I have gotten older, I have found myself ranking the games, characters, music, etc. in my spare time during marathons, and this year I thought I would write--and subsequently post--reviews of each game while I go through my 2018 marathon (I started a month early but life got busy, so excuse the four-month delay). I have lost access to/forgotten about my previous accounts on here, including my very first one, so I made a new one solely for this purpose. That being said, I hope you enjoy my review.
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    Finally, we have exited the dark ages and entered a golden era of Nancy Drew games, starting with The Secret of Shadow Ranch. After devouring the first five games, I bought The Secret of Shadow Ranch, Curse of Blackmoor Manor, Secret of the Old Clock, and Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, so they are incredibly nostalgic for me as well. The former two were bundled together and the latter two were bundled together, so I got all of them at the same time back in 2006. Just to prepare you, this is going to be a rave review, but, in the interest of fairness, I will have to address this game's flaws. Though they are few and largely insignificant to me, they do, in fact, exist. Let's begin!

    Plot: Once more, Nancy's vacation time is foiled by the presentation of a mystery and spoiled by Bess and George's multiple flight delays. When she arrives at Shadow Ranch, she discovers that Uncle Ed was bitten by a rattlesnake the night before following the disturbing appearance of a white, glowing horse. The "phantom" horse seems to appear right before a mysterious accident occurs, though it is not initially clear how or why the two might be related. While trying to determine who or what is causing so many accidents at the ranch, Nancy also stumbles upon the mystery of a treasure hidden away by legendary bandit, Dirk Valentine, who is said to be the original owner of the phantom horse plaguing the ranch. As it turns out, Dirk Valentine was in love with Frances Humber, who lived on the ranch in the nineteenth century with her father, Meryl Humber, the town's sheriff, and he left the treasure behind as a memento of his love for Frances. Nancy must discover the truth behind the phantom horse and the accidents surrounding its appearance and find Dirk Valentine's treasure before the Rawleys are chased off the ranch.

    Let it be known that I adore the plot of this game! Sometime prior to playing it, I believe I had actually read The Secret of Shadow Ranch (1965 Revision) and yet didn't really piece together that the game was following that same story. (I have no idea how.) Anyway, I find that the story is exceptionally strong in this game, and that is probably due to the fact that it draws so much from the classic book. The love story, the treasure, the Western folklore, and the phantom horse/accidents are tied together so neatly. Neither plot line (i.e., accidents/phantom horse and Dirk Valentine's treasure) feels like a distraction or unnecessary fluff. I'm not usually one for Westerns or Western romances--well, I admit there are a few I can't help but like--but something about Frances and Dirk is so endearing to me. Unlike the previous game, this game combines the history (and historical mystery) of the area with the modern mystery very successfully and with no loose ends.

    Setting: Since there are so many different settings in this game and all are quite scenic and interesting, I feel compelled to discuss them all at length.

    Shadow Ranch itself is probably my favorite location in the game. It is so varied and there is so much to do and see. The interior of the house is rich with detail! The living room sports some decor very befitting of a Southwestern ranch house, from cattle skulls and cowhide leather to ethnic print couches and cowboys on horses. The roll-top desk, triangular hutch, cathedral-style radio, and bookcases with cowboy boot designs all fit the space so well. My favorite item in the living room is definitely Frances Humber's portrait. The colors are so vibrant--as are those of the other furniture--and the painting is such a great reminder of the ranch's history. The kitchen, however, is even more exceptional to me. I love the 1940s-looking fridge and built-in oven, but the real star of the kitchen is the cast iron stove. I love that the pots and pans are hanging above the backsplash like in an old farmhouse, and the rest are on a pot rack above the island. There's hanging garlic, painted tins, a painting of a horse with a feedbag over its face, and a big metal sign above the door that says "Shadow Ranch." I just love how detailed the interior of the house is without feeling overwhelming or garish. The orange stone floors, taupe brick walls (looks like painted brick or concrete), reddish-brown furniture and trim, and muted blue/red/yellow accent pieces (and really all the colors are muted) are so complimentary and reflect the style of the region nicely.

    Once outside, the ranch is equally pleasant. The bright blue sky and cliffs in the distance provide a nice backdrop to the ranch. There's a garden full of vegetables and sunflowers, a red pump house, a chicken coop, a fire pit, and a stable, all of which are charming and well-designed. The stable is outfitted with three adorable horses, and the chicken coop has an unfixed number of chickens roosting at any given moment. The pump house is far more interesting after a secret discovery is made, but in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I will refrain from saying more except that it's very cool. Outside of the stable, there's a yard where Nancy can do some barrel racing and rope a sawhorse. Inside the stable workroom, there's saddles, gloves, hats, feed, diagrams of horse anatomy, and bridles, which makes the space feel incredibly realistic, at least to someone who has no equestrian experience. I just love that there are tools and farm equipment around the backyard, which really makes these spaces feel alive.

    The next location of import is Mary Yazzie's store, which is full of American Indian art and weaponry, arrowhead displays, petrified wood, handmade jewelry, and antiques, many of which belonged to the Humbers. Since it such a small space, there isn't much I can say about it, but I do think it is charming and reminiscent of small, independently-owned stores I have encountered that sell American Indian art and crafts. The other two smaller areas include Trail Stop and Cougar Bend, which give great examples of the geography of the Sonoran Desert. I love the petroglyphs at Cougar Bend and Charlie's grave at the Trail Stop, which is just a lovely location and shows off a lot of native plants.

    The last two locations in the game are by far the most exciting. Dry Creek, the ghost town, is absolutely eerie, but so cool! Sadly, a lot of the buildings are so decrepit that Nancy can't explore them, but Cappy's saloon and the jail are available to enter. I especially love the artistry of Cappy's slot machine and upright piano. Between the absolutely chilling music that plays, the random shadows and falling pebbles, and the decayed buildings, Dry Creek is a spooky but tangible reminder of the West's history. The other area I won't say much about for fear of spoilers, but to be in a space that would make anthropologists wild with excitement had me on the edge of my seat when I played it as a child. I would love to experience such a place in real life, but doing it maze-style in this game can placate me, at least for now.

    Characters: Finally, the era of incredibly flat characters with the personalities of rocks has ended. Let's start with the character who obviously has the biggest personality of the bunch: Shorty Thurmond. So, keep in mind that I first played this game when I was quite young, so I found Shorty to be an absolute delight. He's such a hilarious character I find it hard to dislike him, even when he tells me I picked overripe vegetables or need to go have it out with that one white chicken to get the final egg. He loves to gossip about everyone, and he is incredibly superstitious. He also thinks that he is a grand chef--I guess he must be pretty good to make lamb ragout--and wants to become rich and famous. His yodeling skills are...sub-par, but his sass and gossip levels are exceptional.

    Dave Gregory is inarguably the fan favorite of the game and is among the top favorite characters in any game. Why? Simply because he is cute. Admittedly, he is cute--in fact, he is VERY cute--but I don't think his cuteness should promote him. Besides his cuteness, he is still a good character. Leaving a specific discovery aside that makes him even more interesting, his (unexplained) fondness and concern for Nancy--I can't fault him on this because Colin Baxter exists--and, mostly, honesty and helpfulness makes him one of the most endearing characters in the game. Every time he says "ma'am" to Nancy, I feel like I scream a little bit since it sounds so nice and respectful coming from him and not the teenage cashier at the grocery store that makes you feel like you're a grandma. That and when he talks about blushing around her. "You got a steady back home?" Ugh, such a cutie.

    Tex Britten is the gruffest ranch hand of the three. He absolutely terrified me as a child, and I mean TERRIFIED me. I dreaded anytime I had to talk to him, and when he first showed up to give Nancy her quiz and put the bandana over his face, I thought he was about to do something horrible to her. I also didn't have the cinch adjusted, so I kept falling off Bob after he put the bandana up and thought it was his fault. However, as an adult, I find him hilarious. His tough exterior and no-nonsense attitude are refreshing. He doesn't want Nancy causing trouble for him or trying to get friendly when he has work to get done. Requiring her to help out around the ranch and making sure she is knowledgeable about horses before riding around in the wild is just practical and sensible. Every time he says "nope," I honestly crack a smile or laugh. He clearly cares about his job and the Rawleys, so I like him. His "beet red" secret--again, this is too good to spoil--was so shocking to me as a child, and I still wish we had more juicy information about how that secret started.

    Mary Yazzie. Poor Mary. Not only does the poor woman get called by her full name throughout the game, but she doesn't have much personality. She is secretive and has a bit of a hot temper, but she is generally nice to Nancy and extremely helpful. I only wish there was more depth to her since she is the only other face character in the game.

    The rest of the characters are phone friends, and I honestly thought the phone friends were exceptionally done in this game. I generally don't call anyone unless I need something anymore, but Sheriff Hernandez, Charleena Purcell, Uncle Ed, Aunt Bet, Charleena's Purcell's assistant, and even Geza are so unique and interesting. I also want to mention Meryl Humber, Frances Humber, and Dirk Valentine because they truly came alive to me through the letters and journal entries. Obviously, Nancy can't actually meet any of them, but I absolutely adore all three and am fascinated by their lives as told through their own and each other's voices.

    Music: If there is one word that I can use to describe almost everything in this game, it's the word "charming," and that words applies just as well to the soundtrack for the game. The themes heard primarily on the ranch are "Swing," "Frances' Theme," "Ballad," and the "Sleuth" theme, so I will start with them. "Swing" is just a fun, upbeat song that perfectly encapsulates the energy of the ranch. The fiddle, accordion, banjo, and guitar are the hallmarks of traditional Western folk music, so their prevalence in this theme is perfect. "Frances' Theme" is a bit sweeter and more languid, which makes me think of sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch on a hot summer day. "Ballad" is even more languid than "Frances' Theme," but it makes me think of petting horses and walking around stables and barns more than anything. The "Sleuth" theme is one of my favorites in the game because it perfectly represents sleuthing. The beginning sounds like someone tiptoeing quickly and then stopping and peaking around a corner. I just love how it continues emulating that motion--run, now stop and look--throughout. So fun! The next group of themes are often heard while riding Bob around the desert: "Lands," "Drive," and "Desert." "Lands" is the only song in the game that draws upon indigenous music, which is a shame. I like the distinctness of the track with only the strong drums and flute until almost the end of the track. "Drive" sounds like something straight out of a Western movie with cowboys galloping on their horses in the blazing sun, so it's a fun track to hear while riding Bob. "Desert" is probably my favorite of the three riding themes because of how well it represents heat. The low, shimmering sound--I can't quite tell what instrument it's supposed to be, maybe different brass instruments?--makes me think of heat haze, and then the electric guitar comes in and all I can imagine is walking on cracked earth while parched and sweaty. My true favorite theme, however, is "Dirk's Theme." That solo guitar is delicious and really adds to the mystery of the area in which it plays. It's not distracting either, so it really allows the sounds and ambience of the environment to come through.

    The last few songs, such as the theme that plays during the phantom horse sightings and the Run for Cover banjo themes, aren't worth talking about much. They are fine and serve their purpose well, but they don't stand out to me (though the phantom horse theme is really good at creating tension). However, there is one song I have not mentioned, namely: "Curse." "Curse" is the song that usually plays in Dry Creek, and it is so creepy, I used to have to turn the volume off just to be able to focus while doing stuff in Dry Creek. I even started playing it randomly while my mom was walking by and she was disturbed. Seriously though, those ghostly vocals and sometimes rumbling, sometimes wailing brass instruments give me goosebumps to this day. If that song ever started randomly playing in a public space, I would be out of there immediately. Truly, it is haunting and absolutely perfect for its location of use, which is why it's a totally freaky song! I will use this phrasing anytime a really good, but really eerie song is included in the soundtrack, and eventually I will decide which song is the creepiest of the bunch. I don't think this song is ranked first, but it is indisputably in the top five.

    Puzzles: I love the puzzles in this game, especially the ones Dirk created for Frances. I won't run through them all just because there are so many of them, but my favorites are definitely baking Frances' cake, the flower box, and the navigational maze puzzle (again, no spoilers). All of the Dirk puzzles are great, except the magnet one under zebra rock, which is just tedious. The other one I hate, which is not Dirk's fault and I only hate it because the RNG hates me, is the slot machine puzzle. I literally spent over an hour trying to get the correct combination during my 2017 marathon, which had never happened before. I was losing my mind, so I created a save right after I got the key so I would never have to do that puzzle unless I wanted to go through possible RNG suffering again. If the Run for Cover game wasn't so glitchy and annoying (not to mention far away from the slot machine), I might not care as much, but riding Bob back and forth to get scrip for an hour was awful.

    Graphics: The graphics in this game get a major upgrade from the previous ones. The characters are very well designed and have unique faces. They also finally have minimal scary shoulder/arm/neck syndrome, which is a huge plus. The skin tones look natural, which is great for Mary Yazzie (who is really a gorgeous character). The environment graphics seem to be a bit better than the previous games, but that might only be because of the new interface that begins with this game and gives a larger in-game window. Speaking of the interface, I really love it, though it does have some flaws. Nancy's cellphone is great because her web searches can be conducted right there without having to backtrack to a computer. She also carries her journal and checklist (if you're playing on junior mode) with her, which can be extraordinarily helpful for first-time players and anyone who plays in the game in multiple sittings. The inventory is probably the worst part of the new upgrade because it has to be closed every time Nancy gets an item out before she can use it. The organization is a bit irritating as well, as the item most recently used sometimes falls to the very bottom. Items can be separated by whether they are hand-interaction items or eye-interaction items, which is nice but not necessary.

    Ending: This game has such a strong ending, it might even be perfect. First of all, the lead up to the ending (i.e., using the agate) is incredible , and the ending puzzle is so fun and challenging! After the big discovery, the culprit reveal is also done incredibly well. Honestly, I was so shocked the first time I saw who the culprit was and slightly terrified thanks to the great vocal performance and unnerving animated expressions. I cannot TELL you how many times I got caught--my solution was just to try running even though the culprit made it clear that was impossible--and got to experience The Shining reference that still haunts my dreams. I kid, but I didn't get that reference for a long time and when I did, I was even more disturbed. The solution to the escape is brilliant and the getaway is epic; I only wish we could have done part of that ourselves. The endgame explanation and debriefing letter to Hannah is satisfying and doesn't leave any loose threads, which is even better.

    Other points of interest: The voice-acting in this game is so great! I'm not usually partial to Southern accents because I hear them every day, but I think the voice-actors' accents are convincing and pleasant (congrats, Jonah, I actually like all of your characters' voices). Gary Hoffman's performance was probably my favorite of the non-Lani performances; I love Dirk's and Hernandez's voice (way better than his performance on Alejandro del Rio). As I said, I really just like all the performances.

    I will also note that this game can be challenging for first-timers, and it is easy to get stuck at numerous points. Not a huge flaw, but something to consider since it is a longer game (which I love).

    The Takeaway: The Secret of Shadow Ranch is the dawn of a new and golden era of Nancy Drew games. After several games rife with different problems, it emerged with an incredible story and lively characters. It is a definite classic and incredibly nostalgic for me because, as I've said, it was among the first four games I played after receiving the original five for Christmas in 2005 (not sure if I played Curse of Blackmoor Manor first or this one). The plot is fantastic, the characters are great, and the ending is brilliant. If I were to rate this game on a ten star basis, I would give it nine out of ten stars.

    So the final question is obviously whether I think you should play this game. Without a doubt! If you are a dedicated fan who wants to play all of the games, this should be high on your priority list; even with its faults, it's not the worst game. If you've got a good many games under your belt and you're looking for another game to play or if you're new to the ND games, this one is a great length and challenging without being insanely difficult, and it has such a good story without being flat-out scary. If, however, Western romance and stolen loot isn't your thing, I would recommend Treasure in the Royal Tower, The Final Scene, Curse of Blackmoor Manor, Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, Shadow at the Water's Edge, The Deadly Device, Ghost of Thornton Hall, and The Silent Spy (all in my top ten).

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    Thank you for reading my review! I hope that my perspectives and ramblings inspire someone to play this game, replay this game, look at it through fresh eyes, or try it for the first time. I should be posting a review of Curse of Blackmoor Manor sometime over the next few days (especially now that I am in one of my favorite game eras), and I will continue to post them as I complete my 2018 Nancy Drew Marathon...I hope my reviews haven't put a curse on your love for these games.

    Previous Review: Danger on Deception Island
    Next Review: Curse of Blackmoor Manor

    Other reviews: SCK STFD MHM TRT FIN SSH DOG CAR CLK TRN DAN CRE ICE CRY VEN HAU RAN WAC TOT SCK2 SAW CAP ASH TMB DED
    Last edited by yukixiaomeimei; December 12, 2019, 02:20 AM.

  • #2
    BRILLIANT REVIEW!!! I'll just dive right into it!

    Let it be known that I adore the plot of this game! Sometime prior to playing it, I believe I had actually read The Secret of Shadow Ranch (1965 Revision) and yet didn't really piece together that the game was following that same story. (I have no idea how.) Anyway, I find that the story is exceptionally strong in this game, and that is probably due to the fact that it draws so much from the classic book. The love story, the treasure, the Western folklore, and the phantom horse/accidents are tied together so neatly. Neither plot line (i.e., accidents/phantom horse and Dirk Valentine's treasure) feels like a distraction or unnecessary fluff.
    So, I actually had a similar experience with the book, except the other way around. I played the game, eventually got around to reading the book and I was SO SURE the culprit would be different for some reason (I guess I thought they would have switched the game culprit to make it less predictable) and I was incredibly surprised that they were the same lol. As far as the plot lines, they are SOOOO well woven together. There were several times while playing that I was invested in looking into the horse and the accidents, only to find myself diving into the past as a result. Which would lead me to completely forget about the horse altogether, until BAM, it would show up again and make me go "right, I should probably do that now." Everything happens so organically in this story, and HER does SUCH a good job of keeping both plotlines relevant by the consistent appearances by the ghost horse.

    The last two locations in the game are by far the most exciting. Dry Creek, the ghost town, is absolutely eerie, but so cool! Sadly, a lot of the buildings are so decrepit that Nancy can't explore them, but Cappy's saloon and the jail are available to enter. I especially love the artistry of Cappy's slot machine and upright piano. Between the absolutely chilling music that plays, the random shadows and falling pebbles, and the decayed buildings, Dry Creek is a spooky but tangible reminder of the West's history. The other area I won't say much about for fear of spoilers, but to be in a space that would make anthropologists wild with excitement had me on the edge of my seat when I played it as a child. I would love to experience such a place in real life, but doing it maze-style in this game can placate me, at least for now.
    I could honestly go on forever about all of the locations in this game, they're all so brilliant, but I decided to just pick one for sake of time. And I just want to say that despite this not being one of the more "scary" games in the series, that ghost town is ANXIETY INDUCING even now as an adult lol. I love that HER put in the extra effort to add those little bits of detail that make you feel like you aren't alone. The first time I played this game, when I saw the shadow in the window, I NOPED my way right on back to the ranch house until I could work up the courage to go back I do wish we were able to go inside a few more of the buildings, but at least it makes sense why we can't (everything is old and falling over). I also LOVEEEEE the final area you're talking about. It is BEAUTIFUL and also may be my favorite location in the game because it just makes so much sense with the story while also feeling new and rewarding to discover.

    Finally, the era of incredibly flat characters with the personalities of rocks has ended.
    ^^^ THIS basically sums it all up in one sentence. SOOO unbelievably true.

    So, keep in mind that I first played this game when I was quite young, so I found Shorty to be an absolute delight. He's such a hilarious character I find it hard to dislike him, even when he tells me I picked overripe vegetables or need to go have it out with that one white chicken to get the final egg.
    I am an adult and I still find Shorty to be an absolute delight. I love how consistent his character is throughout the entire game. I think this is the first time we get a really good, friendly, hysterical yet realistically flawed character. (I am NOT knocking Hotchkiss my spirit animal by the way, but to be fair she has no flaws because she is a goddess.) I love most of all that he just admits his own flaws without Nancy having to pry, or they're otherwise glaringly obvious in a way he isn't trying to hide. He's so clearly superstitious, he admits he loves to gossip, he doesn't even care when Nancy snoops on him because he's also a snooper. I appreciate his self honesty.

    Dave Gregory is inarguably the fan favorite of the game and is among the top favorite characters in any game. Why? Simply because he is cute. Admittedly, he is cute--in fact, he is VERY cute--but I don't think his cuteness should promote him. Besides his cuteness, he is still a good character. Leaving a specific discovery aside that makes him even more interesting, his (unexplained) fondness and concern for Nancy--I can't fault him on this because Colin Baxter exists--and, mostly, honesty and helpfulness makes him one of the most endearing characters in the game. Every time he says "ma'am" to Nancy, I feel like I scream a little bit since it sounds so nice and respectful coming from him and not the teenage cashier at the grocery store that makes you feel like you're a grandma. That and when he talks about blushing around her. "You got a steady back home?" Ugh, such a cutie.
    I have nothing to say about Dave that is any different from you, I adore him!! I just wanted to point out that my BIGGEST disappointment is not being able to follow up on his "you got a steady" comment!!!! Especially because in MY playthrough, Nancy replies "Depends on why you want to know" Please let me be clear that I am not advocating for Nancy disrespecting Ned, I just WISH that conversation could have played out a little further! Plus, let's be honest, Ned can be a little boring.

    Mary Yazzie. Poor Mary. Not only does the poor woman get called by her full name throughout the game, but she doesn't have much personality. She is secretive and has a bit of a hot temper, but she is generally nice to Nancy and extremely helpful. I only wish there was more depth to her since she is the only other face character in the game.
    I HATE WHAT THEY DID WITH THIS WOMAN!! I didn't give her the worst score in my review because objectively she's fine. But compared to the other characters she is most definitely not fine. And I just hate that they didn't put the effort into her that they did to the others because it severely degrades the overall character score in my book. She's like that ONE ANSWER that you get wrong on an otherwise perfect exam and there's a part of you that cringes because it would have almost been better if you'd just gotten a B... THAT is Mary. Also, for some reason for EVERY playthrough up until now, I thought she had a long braid in her hair, and I have only JUST realized that she has short hair. NO idea where I got that from lol.

    This game has such a strong ending, it might even be perfect. First of all, the lead up to the ending (i.e., using the agate) is incredible , and the ending puzzle is so fun and challenging! After the big discovery, the culprit reveal is also done incredibly well. Honestly, I was so shocked the first time I saw who the culprit was and slightly terrified thanks to the great vocal performance and unnerving animated expressions. I cannot TELL you how many times I got caught--my solution was just to try running even though the culprit made it clear that was impossible--and got to experience The Shining reference that still haunts my dreams. I kid, but I didn't get that reference for a long time and when I did, I was even more disturbed. The solution to the escape is brilliant and the getaway is epic; I only wish we could have done part of that ourselves. The endgame explanation and debriefing letter to Hannah is satisfying and doesn't leave any loose threads, which is even better
    First of all, I find the Shining reference absolutely hilarious lol. I also think the culprit choice was brilliant! I personally love that the culprit feels realistic and also stays true to character right up through the end of the game. Although we of course discover this person is more nefarious than we thought, I never felt as though it was out of character for them at any point. Even the final dialogue with them after the final cutscene is exactly how I would expect them to act in their present situation. Realistic AND Well-implemented AND entertaining turned out to be a recipe for success in this case. I also LOVE the final solution to this game, because it's difficult, but not in a bad way. Like, the ending of DOG for example was difficult, but mostly just because the puzzle was HARD. This is difficult because it's so insanely clever - it's about being logical and staying calm under pressure which is what you would REALLY have to do in Nancy's situation. Brilliant overall!

    And that is all my commentary! But I actually do have one last point/question about the plot before I wrap it all up. When I played through this time, I noticed what I thought was a pretty glaring plot hole, and I'm wondering what your thoughts are about it. I don't want to include any spoilers, but I think you'll know what I'm talking about even if I'm vague. As Nancy is progressing through Dirk's long-term puzzle, there's a point after we deal with zebra rock where there's no way to progress until a certain event happens that lets us into the jail. There, we find a clue to move forward. But as far as I could tell, this is a plot hole because there's NOTHING in the long-term puzzle that would point Frances to the jail in the first place. Furthermore we're lead to believe that Dirk had this all put in place BEFORE he went to jail, so I don't think it makes sense that he somehow forgot to leave JUST THAT clue for her and had to make due with what he had in the jail hoping she'd look there. It would make far more sense if the next part of the puzzle was with the thing we uncover when we finish zebra rock. Maybe I'm missing something, IDK lol.

    Anyway, NOW I am done!!!!! I'm looking forward to the rest of them! But if I'm being honest, there's a chance I won't even finish playing CUR before Christmas. But HOPEFULLY, I'll get through it before then and can then comment on your CUR review sooner!! Obviously GREAT REVIEW

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Jett View Post
      So, I actually had a similar experience with the book, except the other way around. I played the game, eventually got around to reading the book and I was SO SURE the culprit would be different for some reason (I guess I thought they would have switched the game culprit to make it less predictable) and I was incredibly surprised that they were the same lol. As far as the plot lines, they are SOOOO well woven together. There were several times while playing that I was invested in looking into the horse and the accidents, only to find myself diving into the past as a result. Which would lead me to completely forget about the horse altogether, until BAM, it would show up again and make me go "right, I should probably do that now." Everything happens so organically in this story, and HER does SUCH a good job of keeping both plotlines relevant by the consistent appearances by the ghost horse.
      Right! I mean, I can only guess that I had the same experience of believing they would have changed the culprit to make it less obvious for fans who had read the book. I know I read the book around the same time--my middle school library had a whole section of Nancy Drew books--but I did not piece it together that the game was supposed to be based on the book. Then again, I had also read Mystery of the Lilac Inn and The Secret of the Old Clock around the same time that I played CLK, and those books do not hold a ton of bearing on the game's plot from what I can remember.

      The game's events really do happen so organically, and the way they bounce you back-and-forth between mysteries is perfect. Like you said, I remember riding out to Dry Creek to follow a lead on the ghost horse, and then I ended up finding a bunch of stuff relating to Dirk Valentine. Instead of happening once or a few times, it's like that throughout the game. Ugh, I will never get over how well this one was written.

      I could honestly go on forever about all of the locations in this game, they're all so brilliant, but I decided to just pick one for sake of time. And I just want to say that despite this not being one of the more "scary" games in the series, that ghost town is ANXIETY INDUCING even now as an adult lol. I love that HER put in the extra effort to add those little bits of detail that make you feel like you aren't alone. The first time I played this game, when I saw the shadow in the window, I NOPED my way right on back to the ranch house until I could work up the courage to go back I do wish we were able to go inside a few more of the buildings, but at least it makes sense why we can't (everything is old and falling over). I also LOVEEEEE the final area you're talking about. It is BEAUTIFUL and also may be my favorite location in the game because it just makes so much sense with the story while also feeling new and rewarding to discover.
      I feel you. This was the beginning of an era where I really talked about the games' settings more extensively than I should have. They were just all so good; I couldn't help myself! Dry Creek is terrifying. I can handle it if the spooky music isn't playing, but if that piece comes on...the likelihood of me sticking around is quite low. Hahaha, I still nope my way back to the ranch or Mary Yazzie's sometimes, and I'm the kind of person who loves horror games that make Dry Creek look like Sesame Street. They did an exceptional job of making that place horrifying. Me too. Even if they are structurally compromised, I wish we could just peep inside. Clearly, they can't be too bad if they're still standing upright.

      YES! It is so beautiful, and it actually feels like it belongs in that environment. It totally makes sense why no one would have found it, too, which makes it even more believable as the final location. (The music that plays in it gives me all kind of warm fuzzies too. Perfect for that location.)

      I am an adult and I still find Shorty to be an absolute delight. I love how consistent his character is throughout the entire game. I think this is the first time we get a really good, friendly, hysterical yet realistically flawed character. (I am NOT knocking Hotchkiss my spirit animal by the way, but to be fair she has no flaws because she is a goddess.) I love most of all that he just admits his own flaws without Nancy having to pry, or they're otherwise glaringly obvious in a way he isn't trying to hide. He's so clearly superstitious, he admits he loves to gossip, he doesn't even care when Nancy snoops on him because he's also a snooper. I appreciate his self honesty.
      He is definitely still delightful and immensely entertaining, but he's not my favorite character in the game anymore. I'm not certain eleven-year-old me understood all the flaws with his personality, but the fact that he is so upfront and honest about them is really refreshing. He is true to his authentic self for sure, and that isn't something we get to see much in the earlier games. It's been a while since I played it now (a year and a half ago), but I recall a conversation with him where he even apologizes for doing things he knows he shouldn't and confesses to Nancy about it. Maybe I am remembering her snooping through his stuff though. (I completely agree that this is the first time we get a realistically flawed character who has a fun, outgoing personality. Yes, Professor Hotchkiss is a flawless goddess. It is my dream to be like her when I get older or even now tbh.)

      I have nothing to say about Dave that is any different from you, I adore him!! I just wanted to point out that my BIGGEST disappointment is not being able to follow up on his "you got a steady" comment!!!! Especially because in MY playthrough, Nancy replies "Depends on why you want to know" Please let me be clear that I am not advocating for Nancy disrespecting Ned, I just WISH that conversation could have played out a little further! Plus, let's be honest, Ned can be a little boring.
      ...Same. When I was little, I always did the other comment where she says she has a boyfriend (lol), but the saucy comment is wayyyyy more fun. I also do not wish to imply that I condone Nancy gallivanting across the globe and flirting with all the cute boys she encounters, but I think we could have had a little moment there without crossing a line. Just think about her conversation options with Rick Arlen and tell me that we could not have had a longer conversation with Dave about his crush on Nancy. Plus, seeing Dave get all flustered is SO cute. (Honestly, Ned can be a little boring. Not even sure I would want to date him in real life.)

      I HATE WHAT THEY DID WITH THIS WOMAN!! I didn't give her the worst score in my review because objectively she's fine. But compared to the other characters she is most definitely not fine. And I just hate that they didn't put the effort into her that they did to the others because it severely degrades the overall character score in my book. She's like that ONE ANSWER that you get wrong on an otherwise perfect exam and there's a part of you that cringes because it would have almost been better if you'd just gotten a B... THAT is Mary. Also, for some reason for EVERY playthrough up until now, I thought she had a long braid in her hair, and I have only JUST realized that she has short hair. NO idea where I got that from lol.
      You are absolutely right. In another game (e.g., DDI), she would seem marvelous, but in a game with consistently solid characters, it just feels like they didn't care about her at all. HAHAHAHA. Your analogy to getting that one answer wrong on a test is literally perfect.

      Wait...she doesn't have a long braid running down her back?! I have ALWAYS thought she had braided hair. If that is her short hair, don't care look, homegirl needs a new stylist. Even the worst days of growing out my pixie cut didn't look that horrendous.

      First of all, I find the Shining reference absolutely hilarious lol. I also think the culprit choice was brilliant! I personally love that the culprit feels realistic and also stays true to character right up through the end of the game. Although we of course discover this person is more nefarious than we thought, I never felt as though it was out of character for them at any point. Even the final dialogue with them after the final cutscene is exactly how I would expect them to act in their present situation. Realistic AND Well-implemented AND entertaining turned out to be a recipe for success in this case. I also LOVE the final solution to this game, because it's difficult, but not in a bad way. Like, the ending of DOG for example was difficult, but mostly just because the puzzle was HARD. This is difficult because it's so insanely clever - it's about being logical and staying calm under pressure which is what you would REALLY have to do in Nancy's situation. Brilliant overall!
      The Shining reference is amazing, even if you don't know what it is. Once you do, that moment becomes way more hilarious than terrifying though. It totally does! I never thought, "Well, this seems out of character!" It's surprising, sure, but not in a bad way. Additionally, you can literally think back on certain comments or questions that suddenly make complete sense, rather than the game being like "SURPRISE!!!" I love when I can trace things back to a specific comment or action that seemed innocuous at the time but was really an subtle admission of guilt (you can really do this with SAW). You're absolutely right! Having it be a think-on-your-feet moment was absolutely perfect and totally true to Nancy's character.

      And that is all my commentary! But I actually do have one last point/question about the plot before I wrap it all up. When I played through this time, I noticed what I thought was a pretty glaring plot hole, and I'm wondering what your thoughts are about it. I don't want to include any spoilers, but I think you'll know what I'm talking about even if I'm vague. As Nancy is progressing through Dirk's long-term puzzle, there's a point after we deal with zebra rock where there's no way to progress until a certain event happens that lets us into the jail. There, we find a clue to move forward. But as far as I could tell, this is a plot hole because there's NOTHING in the long-term puzzle that would point Frances to the jail in the first place. Furthermore we're lead to believe that Dirk had this all put in place BEFORE he went to jail, so I don't think it makes sense that he somehow forgot to leave JUST THAT clue for her and had to make due with what he had in the jail hoping she'd look there. It would make far more sense if the next part of the puzzle was with the thing we uncover when we finish zebra rock. Maybe I'm missing something, IDK lol.
      Ah! I can actually help out with this one! In the letter that Dirk sent Frances--the one that Meryl intercepted and never gave her--he mentions that he left her a clue in the jail cell in case he gets moved down to the jail in Tumbleweed. He did have everything set up beforehand, but I guess he was just going to tell her to search for something in that location or had yet to finish that part of the hunt. Naturally, Frances did not know about the letter since Meryl took it and Dirk wrote it when he was already in jail, so she did not know about the petroglyph map either. She wasn't allowed to see him in jail according to Meryl's journal, so she really did have no way to know to look there. It still makes you wonder why he didn't have an alternative way for solving that puzzle, but I guess he was not expecting to be caught or hanged for that matter.

      However, if it makes you feel better, I literally did not notice that message or try to solve it for YEARS. I was just stumped and confused on how to progress, so I looked up a hint on the forum the first time I played it. I had no idea I was supposed to check that certain spot or how to know I was supposed to look there.

      Anyway, NOW I am done!!!!! I'm looking forward to the rest of them! But if I'm being honest, there's a chance I won't even finish playing CUR before Christmas. But HOPEFULLY, I'll get through it before then and can then comment on your CUR review sooner!! Obviously GREAT REVIEW
      No worries! CUR is a long game and a tough one even if you don't have Christmas preparations bearing down on you. Thanks so much for the comment, and I'll be excited to see what you have to say about CUR!

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