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A Veteran's Review of TRT

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  • A Veteran's Review of TRT

    Allow me to preface this review by saying that I have been playing the ND games for almost thirteen years. Over those years, I have probably played each game 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'm starting a month early). 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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    Before I begin, I must say that Treasure in the Royal Tower is and always has been one of my absolute favorite games in the ND series and overall. While it is no longer number one in my heart--a spot it held for years, though technically tied with Curse of Blackmoor Manor--it remains in my top ten (and in 2016 was in my top five) list of favorite Nancy Drew games. That being said, the fact that I have always held it in such high esteem and it was one of the very first ND games I ever played back in 2005--I started it and the other first five ND games on Christmas Day in 2005--will make it harder for me to critique objectively. However, I think I have managed to do a decent enough job of that with my other reviews, and I will do my absolute best to critique it as fairly as possible in this review. With that caveat out of the way, let's begin.

    Plot: Such an original and fascinating plot! It starts off, in true Nancy Drew style, with her going on a vacation, which is soon derailed by inclement weather, repeated requests to run hotel errands, and, eventually, the presentation of a mystery involving historical treasures of both the knowledge and gemstone variety. One of the highlights of this game is the excellent pacing. Sometimes it's fun to charge headfirst into a mystery knowing what to expect at the start, but I love how the story unfolds in this game so organically. There's never a moment where you're like, "Aha! Now here's the mystery!" Instead, you just go along exploring the castle and talking to people until all these bits of information and unusual circumstances start threading together into a cohesive whole. On top of that, the mystery is largely grounded in history, from both Ezra Wickford's and Marie Antoinette's lives. Of course, nearly all of the historical information is inaccurate or completely made up, but that didn't stop anyone from liking National Treasure and it doesn't stop me from liking this game (or that movie, for that matter)! I think everyone who has played the game can agree that it is entirely possible to suspend disbelief, no matter how much they really know about Marie Antoinette, while playing the game and fully immerse themselves into this fictional narrative about historical figures.

    Setting: While not always the most aesthetically pleasing setting--I'll get to that in a minute--this game hosts one of the coolest, largest, and most interesting settings in the early games: Wickford Castle. Like Message in a Haunted Mansion, Nancy is restricted to one game location without any traveling, but the place is a literal castle and has grounds and a maintenance shed to explore, too! Nancy doesn't have access to many actual rooms in the castle, but the building is three stories tall with dead ends, secret passages, a hidden royal tower, and a restricted, vandalized library. Unfortunately, I think the castle suffers from an aesthetic standpoint, at least as far as the color palette goes. It is completely appropriate for the walls to be gray and various shades of brown/tan because they are made of wood and stone, but even the artwork and tapestries hanging on the walls are largely muted and subdued tones of red, blue, and green (foreshadowing?!). There is a famous Renoir painting in Nancy room--reversed, of course, like most of the paintings--and even it suffers from the lack of vibrancy and "orange shift" that all the artwork showcases. It's devastating. Naturally, there are some exceptions--the breathtakingly gorgeous library (even being vandalized cannot damage its beauty), the tower room, the foyer, the secret garden, and the parlor--and these are my favorite places in the game, but I do wish that the artwork did a better job of variegating the colors in the hallways. Colors aside, the Gothic pointed arches, the balustrades, the vaulted ceilings, and the stained glass windows in the castle are gorgeous! For such a large place, the space feels warm and cozy...except when things go BUMP in the night.

    Characters: Among this cast of characters is my second-most favorite character--though she was my absolute, indisputable, all-around favorite character up until Ghost of Thornton Hall brought Harper Thornton to my life--and one of the most enjoyable, iconic, beloved, and hilarious characters in all of the ND games: Professor Beatrice Gertrude Winifred Hotchkiss. Her preoccupation with food, loyalty to Marie Antoinette, use of creative metaphors and similes, dedication to scholarship, and inability to remember anyone's names make her the quirkiest character in any ND game. She is my true spirit animal--I discovered during this playthrough that I have become more like her over the last thirteen years than I realized--and what I hope to be like in thirty to fifty years (I've learned that she's 57 in TRT). She alone could make this game get full marks from me, but it doesn't work that way. Her dialogue is so excellent, which is only heightened by the perfect delivery and superb performance given by my queen, Keri Healey. Hotchkiss is not the only fan-favorite in the line-up, though! The game also features Dexter Egan, who starts out as an old curmudgeon and ends up being a helpful, soft-hearted man who's lived over half of his life with regrets. His story was always so tragic to me, especially upon the discovery of Ezra's letters and personal effects. Knowing that he never had reconciliation with Ezra and that Ezra died wishing he hadn't driven him away is so depressing.

    Compared Professor Hotchkiss and Dexter, the other two characters in the game, Lisa and Jacques, aren't great, and they really aren't up to par even without the comparison. Jacques starts out as a reasonably good character. He's a former French Olympian skier who's professional career is so washed out he had to come give skiing lessons in Wisconsin, and he's also connected to the history of the castle. For the first half of the game, he is quite nice and a little sassy, but after an unfortunate turn of events, he turns that sass onto Nancy and becomes irrevocably rude to the point that he won't even talk to you for the rest of the game. I guess he showed his true colors; he deserves that materialistic American fiancee of his. Lisa, on the other hand, is at least capable of apologizing, even when Nancy repeatedly lies to her face and tells her that she doesn't trust her. A certain dialogue choice will render Lisa silent, by which I mean she gives you 100% sass about reading her magazine, but even then, she calls to apologize and starts to gossip with you again. As a ten-year-old, I really liked Lisa--probably because she is so childish and even has a "Barbie game" quality to her voice--and I have to admit that her penchant for giving Nancy clues really does help move the story along, especially for a first-time player. However, she is incredibly irritating, too, which is probably largely due to her voice and cheesy dialogue.

    Music: If you've been keeping up with my reviews, you know by now that I am in love with the soundtracks for these games, and this game is no exception. First of all, Kevin Manthei blesses our ears for most of the soundtrack with the use of a harpsichord. A HARPSICHORD, PEOPLE! It's so appropriate for this old and elegant setting, especially given the tie to French history and the dominance of the harpsichord in Renaissance and Baroque music (though it might have been falling out of vogue by Marie Antoinette's later life thanks to the introduction of the piano). Besides the harpsichord, there's a heavy presence of strings and piano, with a bit of flute in the garden theme. Overall, the music in this game is quite rich and dark (though beautiful)--note how often the lower instruments in the string family are used--but the main themes heard through the castle during the day and night are warm and calming. There's a nice balance, and I never, ever tire of hearing them.

    Puzzles: There are not many puzzles in this game, and the few that are there are quite simple. I don't think this detracts from the game at all;there is so much exploring to do and the game focuses much more on that and conversation than actual puzzles. The more challenging puzzles have to do with exploring--for the life of me, I think it took me months of playing to figure out how to get to that particular area in the elevator shaft, but...I was ten after all--and they honestly don't even feel like puzzles because of how engrossed they are into moving the plot/exploring-potential forward.

    Graphics: As I have stated in other reviews, the 3D environment graphics are stellar, especially for this period. Despite my issue with the narrow range of colors in the game, everything is well designed and attractive. The character animation also greatly improves in this game. The 3D models still have funky shoulders/arms/necks and 90s Barbies waistlines, but they are reasonably expressive and look like they could be (slightly stylized) distinct human beings.

    Ending: Oh, this ending is a special one, and not in a great way. The big reveal--and, no, I don't mean the culprit reveal--is quite exciting and sports some impressive, flashy animation! Due to the moderate difficulty of the final puzzle, the reveal finally happening was even more exciting to me the first time. The culprit reveal, however, is dampened by two things: the cheesy dialogue during the hour-long motive exposition and the name of the "weapon" used against Nancy. I know this is a kids game and they probably didn't think they could call it a more realistic name, but good grief, I CRINGE every single time I hear it uttered. I admit that I was pretty shocked about who the culprit was after playing it for the first time, but for an adult, it is pretty obvious unfortunately. Catching the culprit is not difficult as long as a certain observation is made while exploring earlier, but there's a short amount of time in which it can be done, so that makes a little trickier.

    Other points of interest: The voice-acting in this game is pretty solid. I'm still bothered by how Dexter pronounces "library" (lie-berry), and Lisa's voice kills me inside (but it fits her character, let's be real). I am not too irritated by Jacques over-the-top, obviously fake French accent, but it would have been more pleasing to the ears if it had been passable as real (or actually real). Otherwise, Dexter, Professor Hotchkiss, and Nancy (of course) are delightful to hear. Unfortunately, this game is rife with spelling errors, typos, and punctuation issues, which makes the grammarian in me squirm repeatedly. I can get through most of the game without encountering them if I avoid certain dialogue options, but some of them are unavoidable.

    I guess I should also mention in this section that this game has one of the weirdest things I have ever encountered in a ND game. At a certain point in the game, it is possible to trigger a random, unexplained burp when rounding the corner (i.e., where that portrait of Anne Boleyn is...at least I think it's her) from the back staircase into the second floor. I have only succeeded in doing this three times--it happened in my first playthrough and I thought I had dreamed it because I was incapable of replicating the phenomenon until my last two marathons, including this one--and I still cannot say that I know when it can and can't be triggered; however, it happened this time after I had ordered Hotchkiss' drumsticks, but I don't think I had ask Jacques to take the bag out of the freezer yet. Anyway, I thought I would mention that in case anyone else wants to investigate or if anyone thought they were insane because no one else has said anything about it until now.

    The Takeaway: The fourth game is the strongest thus far and perhaps the strongest game period up until Secret of Shadow Ranch was released. It is a definite classic and incredibly nostalgic for me because, as I've said, I played it and the other first five games on the same day--Christmas--in 2005. The plot is great, the characters are phenomenal, and the ending is okay. If I were to rate this game on a ten star basis, I would give it seven and a half out of ten stars, largely because of the ending and culprit choice.

    So the final question is obviously whether I think you should play this game. A THOUSAND TIMES, YES! It is a classic among the older games, a fan favorite, and it is almost perfect for anyone to play with an engaging story and moderate difficulty/length. It wasn't the very first one I played--I got the 75th Anniversary Edition of the first five games for Christmas in 2005 and booted up Message in a Haunted Mansion first, until I got stuck, opened the rest, and got stuck on them too all in the same day--but it was one of the first, so it holds a special place in my heart. If you are new to Nancy Drew games and want more of a challenge and a longer, more perfect game, then I would recommend the legendary fan favorites (also in my top ten): Curse of Blackmoor Manor and Secret of Shadow Ranch.

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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 The Final Scene sometime over the next day or so, and I will continue to post them as I complete my 2018 Nancy Drew Marathon...don't worry it won't be the final one.

    Previous Review: Message in a Haunted Mansion
    Next Review: The Final Scene

    Other reviews: SCK STFD SSH DOG CAR DDI SHA CUR CLK TRN DAN CRE ICE CRY VEN HAU RAN WAC TOT SCK2 SAW CAP ASH TMB DED
    Last edited by yukixiaomeimei; December 12, 2019, 02:23 AM.

  • #2
    Great review! I've been playing for about as long as you have, and TRT was also one of my first games, so it will always be a favorite. The story, setting, and music especially, are captivating. You also pointed out some things that I never really thought of before, like the lack of vibrancy in the color palette. I always found the burp amusing too... I can only guess that Prof. Hotchkiss's 50 drumsticks are talking to her.
    Also, I agree with you completely about the ending! As a kid I wasn't bothered by it at all, but as an adult, it's extremely cheesy and almost laughable. I also used to really like Lisa, but now I appreciate Dexter's character more and find Lisa irritating. It's interesting to see how the games hold up when you're older vs. when you're a kid.
    Anyway, nice job! Your reviews are always insightful and thorough, I enjoy reading them.
    -Kat
    Last edited by like2hike123; December 3, 2017, 10:11 PM.
    I SEE A LITTLE SILHOUETTO OF A MAN `∙.,¸_¸,♪♫
    [SCARAMOUCHE, SCARAMOUCHE ! ]
    .where did my avatar go

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    • #3
      I am so glad someone other than me has heard the burp; I legitimately thought I had dreamed it or made it up until I managed to trigger it last year! It probably was Hotchkiss.

      I always liked Dexter, but I am still shocked I liked Lisa. Well, I'm not really shocked because she is totally relatable to a child--her voice even sounds like that of an elementary school girl--but her writing is truly horrific to me now. And the ending. *shudders*

      Thanks for your kind words and for reading!
      Last edited by yukixiaomeimei; December 4, 2017, 11:51 PM.

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      • #4
        I loved this review!! It's so nice to read an in depth and wonderfully written review on this game! TRT is one of my favorites too, such a classic :) I remember playing it for the first time and how it made me fall in love with this franchise- afterwards I was hooked!

        I agree with you on everything down to the phony french accent Jacques had & how cringe worthy it was.
        Now that I'm thinking of it, I think I heard the belch too and assumed it was Hotchkiss after her feast of chicken wings, HAHA! I also agree 100% on the drabness of the coloring in the walls & paintings it is a shame that it wasn't more pleasing on the eyes but maybe it was on purpose since it was snowing non-stop & Nancy was stuck in a dreary old castle?

        Anyway, LOVE LOVE this review- thank you for your input & happy sleuthing
        SCK, STFD, MHM, TRT, FIN, DOG, CAR, DDI, SHA, CUR, CRE, HAU, SAW, TOT

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        • #5
          I loved this review!! It's so nice to read an in depth and wonderfully written review on this game! TRT is one of my favorites too, such a classic :) I remember playing it for the first time and how it made me fall in love with this franchise- afterwards I was hooked!

          I agree with you on everything down to the phony french accent Jacques had & how cringe worthy it was.
          Now that I'm thinking of it, I think I heard the belch too and assumed it was Hotchkiss after her feast of chicken wings, HAHA! I also agree 100% on the drabness of the coloring in the walls & paintings it is a shame that it wasn't more pleasing on the eyes but maybe it was on purpose since it was snowing non-stop & Nancy was stuck in a dreary old castle?

          Anyway, LOVE LOVE this review- thank you for your input & happy sleuthing
          Not sure how I missed this comment for over a year, but thank you for your kind words! It's confirmed that we are all not crazy and Hotchkiss really did burp after consuming all those chicken wings.

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          • #6
            Awesome review!!! I had a great time reading it as always!!

            Of course, nearly all of the historical information is inaccurate or completely made up, but that didn't stop anyone from liking National Treasure and it doesn't stop me from liking this game (or that movie, for that matter)! I think everyone who has played the game can agree that it is entirely possible to suspend disbelief, no matter how much they really know about Marie Antoinette, while playing the game and fully immerse themselves into this fictional narrative about historical figures.
            I just wanted to say that this is a really great point! I've honestly never bothered to do any research to see if the information HER gives us has any value to it, but I have to agree that I don't really think it matters in the long run. When I play a game like this, I'm doing so to be immersed in the story and the characters, and I honestly have no issue with the information the game presents us straying a bit (or a lot) from the truth to give the player a better experience. After all, nobody is pretending to be an expert on Marie Antoinette after playing one Nancy Drew game - though one might develop an interest in her after playing this game and go on to learn more about her REAL history, which would be a good side effect.

            The culprit reveal, however, is dampened by two things: the cheesy dialogue during the hour-long motive exposition and the name of the "weapon" used against Nancy. I know this is a kids game and they probably didn't think they could call it a more realistic name, but good grief, I CRINGE every single time I hear it uttered.
            I laughed so hard at this because I'd honestly forgotten about the "weapon" of choice until now, and I agree it is particularly cringeworthy.

            I also could go on for AGES about Hotchkiss and also Dexter, but I feel like I would just be repeating everything you already said.

            The fourth game is the strongest thus far and perhaps the strongest game period up until Secret of Shadow Ranch was released.
            I never really thought about it this way before, but I think I might have to agree with you here! FIN was also particularly good, but nothing beats the feeling of wandering around Wickford Castle (especially that library). Also, the characters here FARRRR outshine any others we're given until Shadow Ranch (Hotchkiss still outshines the shadow ranch characters, but I have to admit that I do love those cowboys )

            Anyway, awesome job as usual!!!

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            • #7
              Thank you so much! Yeah, I prefer to suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in the story as well. When the inaccuracies become glaring or it’s a subject I am passionate about, I might be a little less forgiving, but overall, if it enhances the story and is in the realm of possibility, I am fine with it. Plus, as you said, historical fiction can and often does lead to a budding interest in whatever topic/person/event is discussed.

              I’m honestly thinking the “weapon” name might be the worst (or best, depending on your perspective) piece of writing in all of the games. I know there are some strong contenders, but...oof. YESSS. Hotchkiss and Dexter are the best. I would love to see Hotchkiss make another appearance in the games (even MID would be fitting because she loves history and the Salem Witch Trials sound like they would be up her alley).

              I have an undying love for FIN that only gets stronger with time, so I concur. TRT is such a work of art, and the library and all of Wickford Castle are such great locations. I will never forget running around and getting stuck in all the dead-ends because I was trying to locate the tower entrance based on the appearance on the box and brochures in the lobby. I thought if I went to every corner I would find it. Absolutely! Even Ezra Wickford is a better character than many we get in the games between FIN and SHA. (So true, but I also love those cowboys. )

              Thanks again for the comment!

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