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Treasure in the Royal Tower: My 2016+ Reviews

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  • Treasure in the Royal Tower: My 2016+ Reviews

    Treasure in the Royal Tower: My 2016+ Reviews

    Greetings! I'm disneygirl12, and welcome to my latest 2016+ review! Today I'll be taking a look at the fourth installment in the series, Treasure in the Royal Tower. To do this, I'll break the game up into several categories and evaluate each one using one of the star ratings below (or something in between):
    « = Not So Great
    «« = Okay
    ««« = Good!
    «««« = Great!
    ««««« = Excellent!

    The last few categories won't use star ratings; I'll simply discuss them. Each category will be used to determine the game's overall score, so without further ado, let's begin!

    Plot: «««
    Nancy visits Wickford Castle, a resort in Wisconsin, for a mini ski vacation. Unfortunately, a blizzard sweeps in and prevents Nancy and the other guests from going outside to ski, and she soon finds out that there's quite a stir inside the castle. With the library vandalized, one of the guests allegedly robbed and police unavailable on account of the bad weather, you step into Nancy's shoes to figure out what's going on at Wickford Castle, along the way realizing that the place may hold some secrets of its own.

    This is the first game in the series where Nancy stumbles onto a mystery, and one thing I love about these scenarios is how the plot unravels as you play. You start off under the impression that something suspicious is going on, and once you learn of the things that have happened, it only builds from there. What starts off as just a few semi-related events becomes an elaborate story, and it only gets more interesting as the castle itself becomes part of the mystery. Nancy knows very little about what's going on at the start of the game; your conversations with the other characters are what bring her (and consequently you) into the know, and thus help the plot present itself.

    The plot is kept simple and is set up in a way that prompts you to get to the bottom of things. This makes it more personal, and though this is great, the storyline is even stronger, so let's get into that.

    Story: ««««½
    Treasure in the Royal Tower has a masterful storyline, and it all derives from its amazing setup of the mystery. As previously stated, the game begins with kind of getting to know your way around -- exploring and talking to characters to get an idea of what's been going on. Opportunities to become closer to the characters and search new areas of the castle present themselves throughout the game, and at a PERFECT pace. There's always something new to come, and the wonderful thing is that it feels very fulfilling to reach these checkpoints. I always get a sense of thrill when I find my way into some of the initially locked areas of the castle.

    Similar to the previous game, there are two storylines. The first refers to the suspicious activity going on inside the castle, and the second one actually delves into the history of the castle. This is where the educational aspect of the game comes in, and it's usually considered one of the highlights (which I must say I agree with!). You learn about why and how the castle was built, with particular emphasis on the titular royal tower. As you learn about the tower, you learn about Marie Antoinette and her connection to it. The second main "mystery" of the game stems from that, and it's really quite interesting. I can't help but find this whole story fascinating whenever I play, and the brilliant pacing of events along the way makes this almost perfect. I will say this, though; the game can come to a halt if you fail to notice a few things on screen. This happened to me a couple of times, but it's a minor thing. Aside from this, the story is near perfection.

    Setting: «««««
    This setting category does not just consider where the game is geographically located, but also the places we can visit in the game, how elaborate they are, how relevant they are to the story, and the game's overall atmosphere. :)

    Of ALL the locations in the Nancy Drew series, I do believe Wickford Castle is the most elaborate one, and it is downright amazing. The place is huge and is full of rooms, hallways, stairs, and dead-ends to explore. It's easy to get lost, especially if you're playing this game for the first time. That's one of the charming features of the castle though -- that it IS so huge and elaborate. It FEELS like a real place, and one that you can explore to your heart's content. It seldom feels like there's a limit to what you can see and where you can go, and that's a real treasure in these games (no pun intended).

    Of course the size and scope of the castle alone give this category major points, but there's more to this category than just the amount of places you can explore. Also to consider is how those places relate to the story and move it along, and once again, this is done very well. As you explore the castle, the story only builds. You might learn something new about one of the characters or become more familiar with the castle's history (getting into that second storyline mentioned earlier). The story progresses as you search new areas, making it feel like they're directly related. It again makes the whole mystery feel personal; that is, it feels like you're being the detective and making the effort to explore, and are thus rewarded with a new clue or plot point that guides the rest of the story.

    Let's not forget, the castle itself has some character to it. Perhaps one of the best examples is (are?) the dead-ends you might come across. They add some charm to the castle and prevent it from having to be too big, but they're explained by the fact that the original owner was a bit eccentric. That's brilliant! And they're only enhanced by some of Nancy's fun quotes when she runs into them. And there's plenty more that contributes to its "character," like the elevator, the vents, the different floors, and of course the rooms! The entire second floor feels like the safety zone (due to the sunny lighting and the fact that Nancy's room is on that floor), and as you get into some of the locked areas of the castle, there's a greater feeling of mystery. It also just feels grand, which is helped by the castle's size, design, and the background music. I'll go into detail on the soundtrack later, but it does a great job of setting up the atmosphere. On the whole, it makes the place feel grand and royal, and that's just the feeling that this setting needs.

    In addition, there's a feeling of warmth and comfort inside the castle. Throughout the first half or so of the game, you can hear the blizzard outside. The lighting, furniture (especially the fireplace), and some of the music help to make the castle feel cozy and help you to feel safe from the storm. It just goes to show that the weather in the game can influence the atmosphere.

    And, of course, there's the game's geographic setting to talk about! The game takes place in Wisconsin, and aside from the snowy weather, it doesn't have a huge impact on the game. It doesn't need to, though, because the French ties to the castle and royal tower are what matter the most. It's amazing how the game doesn't even need to be set in France for you to really get interested in the French history present here.

    What more is there to say? The castle is expansive and a lot of fun to explore, and the story elaborates as you discover new areas to search. It feeling like a grand, warm castle adds a sense of elegance to it and just makes you want to explore and get to the bottom of the mystery even more.

    Characters: «««½
    Now let's meet the characters in the game! I'll start by briefly describing their personalities and roles in the game.
    Dexter Egan is the caretaker of the castle and is found at the front desk. He gets Nancy caught up on what's been going on and is willing to answer her questions, but sometimes it feels like he's trying to hide something. Dexter isn't exactly the friendliest person, but he'll open up to you more after helping around the castle a little.

    Lisa Ostrum is a guest at the resort who's interested in historical castles and mansions. She's nice and friendly to Nancy, and she tells her what she knows about about the things that have been going on, but being a journalist herself, you can't help but wonder if she knows more than she lets on.

    Jacques Brunais is a ski instructor at the resort and once was an Olympic skier. He grew up in France near the royal tower before it was reassembled and became part of this castle. He's polite and very charming, but can get thrown off by some questions.

    Professor Hotchkiss is a guest and is a scholar of French history. She's chatty and very charismatic. She's often heard typing away on the typewriter in her room and has her quirks, but after helping her find some information on the castle, Hotchkiss will open up to Nancy.

    On the whole, this is a nice cast of characters. They have interesting personalities and it's great when you have the chance to become closer to them, either by helping them or finding out something about them. These are some outright memorable characters, too! Dexter and Professor Hotchkiss in particular seem to be some of the fan-favorites, especially the latter. This just comes from their charm and charisma, which in turn comes from the great writing here.

    What I really want to emphasize here though is how they all have a personal connection to the castle, and that connection is what adds to their suspicion. It's also used to explain why each of the characters are even at the castle to begin with, and it's just brilliant. Their connections don't just feel like excuses to include them in the cast of characters, and that's because they feel like genuine reasoning for their being here.

    So then, why isn't this category getting four or more stars? I really hate saying this because, to some extent, it can be said about almost any game in the series, but I feel there isn't quite enough interaction with some of these characters. The beginning of the game is great; you can introduce yourself to them and have thorough conversations. You can also have good conversations once you've gotten an opportunity to become close to them (again, coming from finding out something about them or helping them). However there's a point where conversation becomes limited, and I always feel like there are some characters I didn't get to talk to enough. It feels like I should be talking to some of them more, but I can't.

    I feel like we also don't get to know what the characters think of one another. While they're all fun and interesting characters, they feel kind of isolated if we don't get to understand their connections to the others. This and the limited interaction with some of these characters do bring this category down, but again, their personalities and ties to the castle are great, thus why I'm giving this category three and a half stars. :)

    Puzzles: ««½
    The way I see it, puzzles should move the story along and add a special layer of character and challenge to the game. The strongest puzzles relate to the setting and the story, and there are some ND games that master this. There doesn't need to be a LOT of puzzles, nor do they need to be super elaborate, in order for this to happen. There just needs to be a balance.

    A good number of the puzzles in this game relate to exploring the castle. As you explore and come across new areas, chances are there will be a small puzzle for you to complete to unlock or reach that area. These puzzles come naturally and make sense for the location, and as all great puzzles do, they move the story along.

    There are a few other puzzles that come up of course, and one of them I love because it requires you to enlist the help of another character. You have to relate the information they give you to something else you should have come across while investigating. The puzzle itself is rather simple, but it utilizes in-game information, and that actually kind of helps to build up excitement for when you complete the puzzle (seeing as how it's a turning point in the game).

    There aren't many other puzzles I can think of, though there are a few chores. At the beginning of the game you're given a few tasks to complete (one of them actually being a short puzzle), and though they can feel a little out-of-place given that Nancy's on vacation, they do move the story along. They allow you to introduce yourself to the characters and start getting familiar with the castle's layout. There's also a reason for you to complete the chores, so it makes sense that they're here.

    One other "puzzle" introduces you to the French history that you should know for this game. Again, this helps the story progress. Not only does it bring you closer to one of the characters, but it helps you get the mindset you'll need to make sense of the castle's (specifically the tower's) relations to France.

    On the whole, the puzzles are relatively simple with maybe just one or two being particularly memorable. However, they do a great job of guiding the story and don't feel underwhelming or overwhelming (not to mention that they also fit in with the setting and have reasons for being in the game). All of them contribute to the game's character in some way, either by adding a sense of thrill to unlocking new locations or by immersing the player in French history that's relevant to the story. They could certainly be stronger and perhaps more challenging, but they are good nonetheless, so I'll award this category two and a half stars. (:

    Graphics: «««½
    I'd say that Treasure in the Royal Tower is probably the first game in the series to have solid graphics. The location graphics have always been good up to this point, but the character animation hasn't held up very well over time. With this game though, both are at their best.

    Let's begin with the biggest strength here: the location graphics. The castle is beautiful and has a sense of elegance, as I mentioned before, and that's influenced greatly by its design. I can see Wickford Castle being a real place because the graphics are just excellent! It LOOKS like a real place! It's incredible how advanced the setting graphics were even in these earlier games, and this applies to the outdoor graphics as well.

    The characters have great designs, too. The graphics are much smoother in this game, so they don't suffer from weird lighting or looking clay-like. For once the graphics are solid, and that's a major plus. Additionally, their appearances fit very well with their personalities and voices, which helps them stand out as characters.

    The characters' motions, as in their actual animation, is okay. It's an improvement over the last two games but as with many of these earlier games, they have pretty basic hand gestures. They fit with what they're saying just fine, though. There are a couple of scenes where bigger animation is needed (especially at some of the turning points), and I'm guessing it's just because it's an older game, but that animation can be slow. That's really a nitpick, though, and it doesn't take away from the game.

    Overall, this game has very nice graphics. The castle, inside and outside, looks amazing, and the characters have nice, fleshed-out designs that go perfectly with their personalities. The only reason I'm not giving this category a higher score is so I can reserve that for the games that really go all-out on their graphics. :D

    Soundtrack: ««««
    You might not think the background music is super important to a game, but just like puzzles, they add a certain layer of character to the game. Their most important function is to help convey the tone that a certain place or scene should have, whether it be happy, dangerous, or mysterious. It also helps if the music fits the location and/or theme of the game. In fact, the soundtrack is pretty much every component of the game's setting I mentioned earlier, summarized in musical form. How cool is that?

    I think in general, this is one of the favorite Nancy Drew soundtracks, and it isn't difficult to see why. I know I've said this plenty of times already, but the castle feels grand and elegant, and the music helps to convey that feeling. The different instruments work so well off of each other. There are stringed instruments, a harpsichord, and I think a clarinet too in these songs. They give this soundtrack a distinct sound and a feeling of majesty.

    The feeling inside the castle can vary. One song definitely makes it feel grand, but others are a bit softer. One sounds kind of sad while another carries a more mysterious tone. There are a couple other tracks that actually sound a bit unsettling, and each of these tracks plays at the perfect part of the castle. While the games were starting to venture away from "one song plays on loop in this particular spot," there are certainly some that play more often in one place than another. It again establishes character to the different sections of the castle. Simply put, the soundtrack is just gorgeous, from the choice of instruments to the melodies of each song. They fit with the setting perfectly and convey just the right tone.

    Ending: ««
    This category considers not only the actual climax, but also the build-up to that climax, the choice of culprit, and the game's resolution (which is usually conveyed through a closing letter). And don't worry, this section is spoiler-free.

    I don't think this is the strongest of endings, but there are some good qualities here. The build-up to the climax is always great, and this game is no exception. You need to complete a short puzzle utilizing some things that you've collected while investigating. You need to rely on in-game information as well, and once this little puzzle is complete, you see the pay-off, and there's always a great sense of accomplishment that comes with seeing it.

    The culprit reveal is handled pretty well I believe, though I have mixed thoughts on one aspect of it: the fact that the culprit is willing to explain so much of their plan to Nancy. I suppose it makes sense for their character, and it's of course beneficial to the player to know what's going on, but I can't help but feel that this culprit in actuality wouldn't have bothered explaining everything and instead would have just skipped to what is the actual climax scene. This scene requires quick thinking, but the solution is very simple and even predictable.

    Similarly, the culprit choice isn't too difficult to figure out, but at least they're an interesting choice. Their motive isn't particularly strong or elaborate but you're interested to know why they did what they did and what they hoped to accomplish.

    The resolution is handled very well. It's really fulfilling to see how the story wraps up and where each of the characters goes from there. The main thing I love about it though is how the storyline involving Marie Antoinette is resolved. It just makes the whole mystery feel worth it for that payoff.

    While the climax and culprit could be stronger, the build-up and the resolution are both rather strong. It's a bit of a mixed bag, so I'll give this category two stars.

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

    Doesn't that little arrow make this look so snazzy? Joking aside, the sense of mystery in this game is a little different from that of the previous installments. Instead of there just being a consistent feel of mystery throughout the game, it really builds as you progress. At the start of the game, you're told that things have been going on, but you kind of just have to accept it as fact until you can actually investigate it yourself. As you explore more of the castle and converse with the characters, though, you reach turning points in the story. These turning points add a new layer to the mystery and a sense of thrill, and it just keeps building and building! It's wonderful!

    And of course, there are PLENTY of opportunities to explore the castle. As I said before, you almost never feel limited to how much you can see and do. There is a little bit of snooping as well. I wouldn't say there's a lot of snooping, but it's definitely present in a few parts of the game.

    The Game's Overall Persona: A Definite Classic & Meaningful Education
    This category is admittedly more subjective, but it's something I never talked about in my old reviews, nor do I see it explicitly talked about very often in other reviews. Here's where I talk about what this game feels like to me and what it feels like compared to other games in the series.

    There's no doubt that Treasure in the Royal Tower stands as a classic Nancy Drew game. Of course it has a well-written story, beautiful and elaborate setting, and memorable characters, but it also has an educational value that few games in the series can top. This was the game that introduced me and presumably many other fans to the French Revolution and the famous figures of that time period. The history blends in with the setting and the story perfectly, and learning about the castle's ties to this time period makes the place feel more real. It's one of the game's most valuable features, especially since not that many other games in the series integrate education as smoothly or in as big a way as this one does.

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

    All in all, Treasure in the Royal Tower receives a final score of:
    Final Score: «««¾ = 3.75 out of 5 = Very Good!

    Treasure in the Royal Tower is considered one of the greatest games in the series for a reason. With such an immersive setting, graceful yet mysterious atmosphere, and layered characters, it's difficult not to fall in love with it. It's an excellent game to be introduced to the series with and a must-have for any Nancy Drew fan. :D

    I thank you for reading my review! Please feel free to comment, as comments are always welcome.

    Previous Review: Message in a Haunted Mansion
    ......Next Review: The Final Scene
    Last edited by disneygirl12; July 2, 2016, 03:45 PM. Reason: Linked to next review :D
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    Hope everyone's having a great summer!

  • #2
    Nice Review :) Agree with the Puzzles and Ending especially

    As for

    "I suppose it makes sense for their character, and it's of course beneficial to the player to know what's going on, but I can't help but feel that this culprit in actuality wouldn't have bothered explaining everything and instead would have just skipped to what is the actual climax scene. "

    I think the culprit has Narcissistic tendencies eg Obsession with class and status, Fantasising about power, beauty and success., Exploiting others for personal gain to name a few so it makes a lot of sense for them to brag about it.

    It does help fill in a lot of loose ends too.

    One thing I didn't understand though is why they would lie about what languages they could speak in earlier in the game kind of never made sense.