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

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

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    TREASURE IN THE ROYAL TOWER (TRT)
    Release Date: August 1, 2001
    Difficulty: Senior Detective


    FINAL SCORE: (7.5/10)

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

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

    MY PERSPECTIVE:
    Hi there! I am a veteran Nancy Drew player, and have been playing these games since I was very young. Message in a Haunted Mansion was the first game I played at eight years old. I am now 25 and have completed every game in the series at least once. However, it's been several years since I've played my last ND game (Sea of Darkness in 2015), and many, MANY years since I have played many of the games. I've had a bout of Nostalgia and have decided to replay the entire series, starting from the beginning. I've decided to write a review for each game as I go. I will be playing on Senior Detective and using as few hints/online help as possible.

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


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    PLOT: (8/10)

    Nancy travels to snowy Wisconsin for a skiing vacation at the invitation of her father’s friend, Christi Lane. Christi is the proud owner of Wickford Castle, now functioning as a hotel, where Nancy is staying for the duration of her trip. However, when Nancy arrives, she’s told that Christi is away on business, and nobody seems to know how to get ahold of her. Due to a blizzard in the area, the mountains are closed to skiers and the surrounding roads are shut down. Nancy is snowed in with just a handful of people that managed to make it into the castle before the closures. Still determined to enjoy herself, Nancy plans to spend her time relaxing and exploring the castle. However, when she learns that the castle’s library has been vandalized and that the only suspects are those people currently in the castle, she can’t help but try to get to the bottom of it. She IS Nancy Drew, after all.

    Overall, the plot of this game is really great. Yes, at first it doesn’t seem like the world’s best plot, but THAT is precisely what makes this so brilliant. Normally, Nancy’s opening letter tells the player everything they need to know. But in TRT, the only thing that we learn is that Nancy is snowed in at Wickford Castle where she’s visiting for a ski trip, and that she’s having trouble contacting the owner. Not very suspicious at all. It isn’t until she stops at the front desk to mail her letter that she learns of the vandalized library. And even then, the player is generally left feeling underwhelmed with this supposed mystery. Please, Nancy’s already survived a haunted mansion, solved a murder and disarmed a bomb.

    But then, one thing leads to another and before you know it you’re on the verge of unveiling a secret that could change the history of an entire country (not to mention be worth a not-so-small fortune). I’ve mentioned before that I prefer the games in which the player gets to discover the mystery with Nancy, and this game does that so incredibly well. The Mystery Meter goes from zero to one hundred by the end of this story, but never does anything feel out of place. It progresses very naturally, and what you’re actually on the verge of finding really sneaks up on you as you play. Furthermore, the intertwining of the history of the castle itself, the history of France and the plots of several individual characters is really well done. There are so many beautiful, intricate stories here.

    Though the situation in TRT never feels urgent, things are always interesting enough to compel the player forward. You don’t need to know more. Nothing bad will happen if Nancy just decides to slip into her probably super-comfy bed and take the day off. But you’ll WANT to know more. Every discovery in this game leads to another question. And since when does Nancy Drew leave a question unanswered? Right. Since never.

    Conclusion: This is a lovely plot. The best so far.

    ************************************************** ******************************************
    SETTING: (7.5/10)
    This setting is probably my personal favorite that we’re given right up until Shadow Ranch. That’s widely due to personal taste of course, but even those who prefer a different style will likely agree that Wickford Castle is a wonderful area to explore. It’s a castle after all - what isn’t to love?! HER does a great job with this setting: the castle has plenty of character and is the largest area we’ve gotten to explore yet.









    LOCATION: (8/10)
    Wickford Castle is marvelous. The entire concept of the space is incredibly interesting and unique, and is really what allows HER to wrap so many stories up into this one game. We learn that the castle itself was owned designed by a man named Ezra Wickford in 1920. Wickford was a bit eccentric and paranoid of robbers, so he designed the castle with many peculiar dead ends - something that gives this particular castle plenty of character that it wouldn’t have otherwise. This also plays to HER’s advantage by making the space feel castle-worthy without having to make it overly large. The castle was built by one man after all, and he used the space as his own home. Not to house an entire monarchy. And due to his interesting architectural designs, we’re given a bunch of quirky little hallways and dead ends rather than a bunch of doors that we simply can’t open. This is a choice that really pays off.

    To make the castle even more interesting, the library and tower once frequented by Marie Antoinette were imported to Wickford Castle from France. Yes, that’s right. Wickford was clearly incredibly rich, because he not only built his own castle but had Marie Antoinette’s ACTUAL library and tower moved from France to Wisconsin. This is not only a great way to showcase Wickford’s interesting personality, but it also creates a beautiful distinction between Ezra’s castle design and the authentic french pieces that he had imported. It allows Nancy to not only learn about Ezra Wickford and the quirks of his castle, but also the history of the tower and library, and by extension a great deal about Marie Antoinette, whose storyline is just as important as anyone’s in this game.

    The actual artistry here is quite nice, if a bit more muted than the color palette we received in MHM. If I was to start with the bad, I’d probably jump straight to the hallways. I’ll admit that they’re quite boring and gray, and even the walls that are decorated with various paintings and ornaments just didn’t draw my attention. I find myself quite willing to forgive this, as I spend most of my time breezing through the hallways anyway, rather than stopping to look at my surroundings. Similarly, Nancy’s room is quite bland looking, though cozy enough. HER does a truly beautiful job, though, with some of the more quintessential locations such as the library (my favorite), Ezra’s garden and the tower itself. Though probably less impressive artistically than MHM (and many other games) in general, I didn’t feel troubled by that while playing the game. I generally feel as though the real beauty here is in the story and history of the castle itself.

    EXPLORATION: (7/10)
    Compared to previous titles, Wickford Castle feels quite large. This is the sort of location that makes it easy to get lost, at least at first before you get your bearings. Which is brilliant! I love getting lost! Creating a game that takes place within a castle was probably a big step for the developers, because chancers are that players will expect a castle to be big. As mentioned above, HER combats this expectation incorporating some lovely dead ends into the castle, which constrict the space without frustrating the player too badly. They definitely added some uniqueness to the castle, and were quite interesting little architectural quirks. Unfortunately, once I discovered them I generally never returned to them again. The world feels much smaller once you get the lay of the land and realize that most of the map consists of hallways. So it feels big because you’re travelling a larger distance between one place and another, but after you learn your way around it almost becomes a hassle to get where you want to go.

    Still, this game does a good job of providing the player with a rewarding sense of exploration. While some rooms feel more empty than others as far as things you can interact with (the foyer, the hallways, etc.), there’s still a lot to do. This exploratory strength of this game stems from the sequential “unlocking” of new areas. One area leads to another leads to another, and with each comes a sense of accomplishment and new history/stories/clues. Additionally, as you progress through the game the space you have to work with continues to get bigger, which keeps the player looking forward rather than becoming too complacent with the areas they’ve already explored.

    Overall, I think this game has a solid sense of exploration. I don’t know if I’d venture to say that it’s the absolute best, because I do feel that there was a lot of “empty” space included here. Also, traversing the hallways became a pain. Getting into the tower was also quite a hassle each time I wanted to visit, as there’s no “shortcut” in once you find it, and the puzzles to enter reset each time you leave. But I appreciated that the castle and grounds felt big, and it definitely felt as though I had more freedom than in any of the previous games.

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    CHARACTERS: (6.5/10)
    I actually found it incredibly difficult to settle on a score for the characters of TRT as a whole. That’s because I feel like we’re given such a mixed bag. In this title, Nancy meets two of the best characters (in my opinion) that the series has to offer. Unfortunately, the other two range somewhere between dreadful and mediocre. In the end, I felt I had to settle on the average of them all, but please be aware that the good characters greatly outshine the bad, and I do feel like they make this game worthwhile all by themselves.









    LISA OSTRUM: (2/10)
    Lisa Ostrum is a photojournalist who goes out of her way to befriend Nancy from the get-go. With an upbeat personality and some mildly interesting dialogue, I really thought when I first met her that she was going to be a decent character. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Lisa turns out to be the most two-dimensional character of the bunch, and it always feels like we learn so much less about her through the course of the story in comparison to the others. Yes, we open her locker by accident in the very beginning of the game. And then… well, pretty much nothing. She just sits in that comfy chair all day long with her magazine - does she even have a room? Why on earth can’t Nancy snoop in it? Additionally, of all the characters, Lisa seems to have the most minimal connection to the castle (if she has any connection to it at all,) and it always feels like she’s somewhere outside of the plot rather than tied up in it like the others are. Unsurprisingly, her motive is just as two dimensional as she is. Also, her voice is among the most irritating to grace the series.

    The one good thing I have to say about her (though this isn’t about her character per se), is that Lisa does react differently to Nancy depending on Nancy’s dialogue choices. I think this is a nice touch that would make any character feel a bit more realistic.

    JACQUES BRUNAIS: (3.5/10)
    A champion Skiier, Jacques had the opportunity to represent France in the olympics. Unfortunately, he failed miserably and now feels embarrassed and guilty for letting down his country and hurting his family name. Nancy learns that he’s in America to pursue Isabelle, the woman that he hopes to marry. While Jacques is involved in a nice little twist, and his French lineage unsurprisingly ties him to the very French plot, I find his character generally underwhelming. I like him, but I never really care much about his story when I play. He also has rather limited dialogue, and at a certain point he’ll refuse to speak to Nancy altogether.

    DEXTER EGAN: (8.5/10)
    Oh my goodness, Dexter Egan. The man who secretly hides a beautiful and tragic backstory behind his somewhat rough outer demeanor. In my opinion, Dexter is the first time they really, REALLY got a character right. He’s a bit gruff at first, but quickly reveals himself to be a pretty decent human being. As the story progresses, we begin to learn how his history ties in with the Castle in ways we never expected. But more importantly, we begin to feel for him as a character. His backstory is sad and his life is full of regrets - and even better, Nancy finds something that brings his story full circle and demonstrates a beautiful sense of forgiveness. What Nancy can discover about him through the castle lays down a wonderful foundation. But Dexter himself - like a real, actual human being - takes a bit of time to open up. And when he does, it feels incredibly rewarding because it feels as though you had to put some effort into that relationship. His demeanor towards Nancy feels very dynamic and he displays a lovely depth of character. I think that both the castle and the story would suffer greatly without him.

    PROFESSOR BEATRICE GERTRUDE WINNIFRED HOTCHKISS: (10/10)
    Oh Professor Hotchkiss, why on earth are you not a real person? Perhaps I’m showing a little bias here, but this woman is easily among the best characters that HER has ever created. (She’s actually my personal number one favorite). I don’t even know who I could possibly compare to her. Perhaps Harper Thornton would fall into her ranks. We’ll have to see when I get that far, I hate to compare when it’s been so long since I’ve played most of these games. Anyway, back to Professor Hotchkiss.

    Unique and quirky, but in a way that is ENTIRELY on her own level, Hotchkiss is so refreshing as a character. She has some absolutely superb dialogue, and her voice acting is out of this world. The way she’s introduced in TRT is brilliant - she won’t even speak to Nancy for the beginning of the game because she’s so busy writing. Even still, she manages to have some incredible dialogue through the crack of her door. Nancy really has to work her way into this woman’s schedule. Once she does, she earns the ability to speak with Hotchkiss - in the middle of the night of course, because does Hotchkiss do anything normal? From her lack of ability to remember a name as simple as Nancy to her ability to eat fifty chicken wings despite “not being much of a meat eater,” Professor Hotchkiss has an extra special place in my heart.

    And that’s just her character, let alone that she fits into the plot of TRT like a baby kangaroo all snuggled into it’s mama’s pouch. An expert on Marie Antoinette and a scholar in French history in general, Hotchkiss is determined to prove to the world that Marie wasn’t as bad as she seemed. There are a few instances where her dialogue served as a reminder that Marie was a real person who was likely young and frightened of the situation she was in. She’s also a necessary resource in solving the mystery of this story, as she’s fluent in all things French and Nancy is, well… not.

    In my honest opinion, Professor Hotchkiss alone is reason enough to play this game. You’ll love her, I promise.

    PHONE CONTACTS: (5.5/10)
    I don’t feel as though there’s too much to say here, to be honest. The phone contacts in this game aren’t anything special. We get Ned, Bess and George, and it’s not their best performance or their worst. They’re helpful, they have decent voice acting, there’s a bit of interesting dialogue here. Nothing too exciting.

    NED: (6/10)
    Awwwww, it’s Ned!! As in, the Ned that we all know and love. Scott Carty takes over Ned in this installment, and continues to voice him for the rest of eternity. Or at least until SEA, the most recent game that we can get our hands on. I think Ned is great! However, I feel I should add that I played most of these earlier games on Junior detective originally,and haven’t played many of them since. When playing on Junior detective, Ned actually has more dialogue because he’ll offer hints to Nancy if asked. On senior detective, his response to all hint questions is to direct Nancy to Bess and George. This does limit his dialogue toward the end a bit. But he’s still decent.

    ALSO: Ned is a frat boy, oh my goodness. That’s something that definitely went straight over my head when I was a kid. He’s an Omega Chi! For those of you who don’t know, Omega Chi Epsilon is a technically a chemical engineering honor society. So it’s an academic fraternity. But still, it’s a fraternity. Also, does this mean that Ned is going to school for chemical engineering? If so, that’s awesome. Good for him.

    BESS AND GEORGE: (5/10)
    I never feel like I have much to say about Bess and George. The voice acting is, yet again, different from the last game. For Bess, we get Claire Gallagher, who we don’t see again for the duration of the series. George is actually much better in TRT, as we see Maureen Nelson take over and remain with George up through CAR. These two are back as a duo again, a good choice in my opinion. They’re mildly entertaining and give rather good hints, even on Senior detective. I don’t see any major problems with their dialogue, but also can’t find anything to rave about.
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    ENDGAME: (2/10)
    And here is where this game goes way, way downhill. This is one of the most disappointing endgames I’ve experienced. The culprit choice was terrible, the culprit’s explanation was a mix of terrible and predictable, and the fact that the culprit even bothered to take the time to explain was incredibly unrealistic. Furthermore, catching the culprit was perhaps the easiest endgame “puzzle” of the entire series. This is among my absolute least favorite endings of all time. After all that effort put into the castle, the plot, the character arcs… and all that HER could come up for the grand finale is this? Incredibly disappointing.
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    MISCELLANEOUS
    This category may not affect the game’s overall score in any particular way, as low scores in the categories presented here shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as a bad thing. These are highly subjective to personal taste and are included primarily for informative purposes.









    DIFFICULTY: (4/10)
    The difficulty of this game really varies based on your playstyle. While not incredibly puzzle-heavy, there are a few tricky parts, primarily involving a mixture of exploration and logic. In fact, logic is your best friend in this game - don’t just assume that everything is a puzzle that you're not smart enough to figure out. I spent a good ten minutes flipping the circuit breakers in the basement looking for the magic “combination” only to realize that there wasn’t one. And this wasn’t frustrating in the way that the audio tape in STFD was, because in this case there WAS a solution. I was just trying way too hard. In general, if you try to be observant and logical, you won’t run into too much frustration. Some of the solutions are actually quite rewarding. I personally felt a great sense of accomplishment when I managed to figure out what the code to the library alarm was. I had to think a bit outside the box to make it to that point, and that made the game enjoyable. That isn’t to say that there aren’t ANY puzzles, but most of them are pretty straight-forward. This game took me approximate six hours to complete.

    SCARE FACTOR: (1/10)
    I honestly don’t think that I was ever frightened during this game. It’s very slow-paced, and there really isn’t any sense of urgency for Nancy to solve the mystery. Nothing bad will happen if you don’t. There aren’t any spooky elements to this game at all. The occasional bump in the night does happen, but it’s really not the scary sort of bump. The castle feels warm and inviting, and the whole game feels pretty safe right up until the end.

    EDUCATIONAL/LOCATION HISTORY: (7.5/10)
    I think I’ve touched on this plenty in the categories above, but I’ll restate it here. TRT does such a lovely job with the history of the castle, the history of France and the way that they intertwine together! Learning about both is quite an interesting and rewarding experience. While of course not all of the information presented in the game is historically accurate, it’s wonderful to see HER incorporate a real-life historical figure like Marie Antoinette into their story, and it was nice to learn about her life and role in both the french culture and the french revolution. This story is a great reminder to not necessarily take everything at face value, and to always search for the truth. Great job.

    IMMERSION: (7/10)
    TRT does a great job immersing the player in the plot of this game. The slow pace with which everything unravels, coupled with Nancy’s very typical reason for being there in the first place, keeps the game moving at a realistic and immersive pace. The chores she’s asked to do make sense and aren’t overly difficult or unrealistic. And the people who she interacts with are generally quite realistic and slow to open up to her. Overall I think the game does a solid job in this department.

    GRAPHICS (3/10):
    This section pertains to how lifelike and realistic the characters (and to a lesser extent the worldspace) look. This does not include my thoughts on the artistry of the environment, as that can be found in the location section.

    Eh. Getting better. Not quite there yet. The character models do seem to improve with each game. While the movements are still rather unrealistic, the characters are starting to look more and more lifelike.

    EXTRA STUFF/NOTES:
    No extras or easter eggs. I believe you can get a few interesting sounds on the phone if you dial a couple of specific numbers, but that’s all.
    ************************************************** ******************************************
    FINAL SCORE: (7.5/10)


    In conclusion, this is a wonderful game. It combines a large, beautiful, interesting setting with a rich sense of history and a couple of really great characters. It makes great use of all of these things to create several inter-arching stories. This game also boasts two extraordinary characters in Dexter and Professor Hotchkiss, who really bring a lot to the table and make this a joy to play. The story progresses beautifully and the plot feels quite natural as it moves forward. Unfortunately, this game suffers from a few underdeveloped characters and a particularly uncreative and overly-simple ending. While this does detract from the overall game, this is an instance where the journey rather than the destination is what really matters. This is a really lovely game overall with some really, really great stories, and I would highly recommend it to any who haven’t yet experienced it.

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    THROWBACK REVIEW SERIES - ALL REVIEWS

    SCK | STFD | MHM | TRT | FIN | SSH | DOG | CAR | DDI | SHA


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    Last edited by Jett; December 4, 2019, 12:37 PM.

  • #2
    I take off my hat to you, madam, because this review is the best one I've read so far, and all of your reviews have been splendid. I think this is one of the best games in the series, and it was my absolute favorite until 2010/2012/2013 threw in some big contenders. I could probably write an essay back to you about how much I share your love for this game and echo your thoughts, but I'm going to limit myself to two things, specifically your discussion of Dexter and Professor Hotchkiss.

    Oh my goodness, Dexter Egan. The man who secretly hides a beautiful and tragic backstory behind his somewhat rough outer demeanor. In my opinion, Dexter is the first time they really, REALLY got a character right. He’s a bit gruff at first, but quickly reveals himself to be a pretty decent human being. As the story progresses, we begin to learn how his history ties in with the Castle in ways we never expected. But more importantly, we begin to feel for him as a character. His backstory is sad and his life is full of regrets - and even better, Nancy finds something that brings his story full circle and demonstrates a beautiful sense of forgiveness. What Nancy can discover about him through the castle lays down a wonderful foundation. But Dexter himself - like a real, actual human being - takes a bit of time to open up. And when he does, it feels incredibly rewarding because it feels as though you had to put some effort into that relationship. His demeanor towards Nancy feels very dynamic and he displays a lovely depth of character. I think that both the castle and the story would suffer greatly without him.
    It touches my heart to see that someone shares my feelings for Dexter. Even as a child, I couldn't help but feel such intense sympathy for him, and the older I have gotten, the more I have realized what a golden character he is and how incredibly real he feels. I don't think it's unfair to say that some characters in ND games come off as a bit (or entirely) flat, and even some of the more dynamic, fleshed-out characters don't feel as complex and deep as real human beings. Dexter, I think, is one of the major exceptions to this, and it amazes me that we see this growth in him over the course of one (short) game (and he isn't even the main character). Here we have this prodigal son who never got to feel the redemption and forgiveness. He's bitter and angry at himself to the point that he closes himself off from the world emotionally. So, it is deeply moving to me that Nancy is not only able to establish a connection with him and make him feel like he doesn't deserve isolation but also finds something to give him the closure he needs to find peace. I love his character and his story arc so, so much.

    Oh Professor Hotchkiss, why on earth are you not a real person? Perhaps I’m showing a little bias here, but this woman is easily among the best characters that HER has ever created. (She’s actually my personal number one favorite). I don’t even know who I could possibly compare to her. Perhaps Harper Thornton would fall into her ranks. We’ll have to see when I get that far, I hate to compare when it’s been so long since I’ve played most of these games. Anyway, back to Professor Hotchkiss.
    My dream is to be just like Professor Hotchkiss when I'm middle-aged (or even now honestly). She was my absolute favorite character up until Harper Thornton (!!!) entered my life and took over that top spot, but she will never lose her place in my heart. (Also, your comment about Harper thrilled me. I am basically preparing to write an essay on Harper in my own GTH review, and the fact that she is also played by Keri Healey isn't surprising.) Even if this game was horrible, and it so isn't, Professor Hotchkiss would redeem it.
    Last edited by yukixiaomeimei; November 24, 2019, 08:49 AM.

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