You have to admire a franchise that
is still going strong at nineteen games, with two more already in
production. However given that there are at least 300 titles if you count
the original publications plus the Simon & Schuster Nancy Drew Mysteries
and Nancy Drew Files, there is plenty of fodder to keep Her Interactive
going for quite some time.
This is about the sixth Nancy Drew game I have
played, although a number of those were with one or other of my daughters.
My daughters are now far more interested in real life than they are in
gaming, so I now fly solo. I have to confess Nancy Drew is not my first
choice when it comes to choosing a new game to play, and that to date I
have played them in order to review them. But I also have to confess that
I was pleasantly surprised with The Haunting of Castle Malloy, and
found it a definite step up from The Creature of Kapu Cave,
the last Nancy Drew game I had played.
This time Nancy is in Ireland, to be maid of honour
at Kyler Mallory’s wedding. Except that Matt the groom is missing, perhaps
playing one of his infamous pranks, or perhaps taken by fairies or
something more sinister. Kit probably knows more than he is admitting, and
Donal knows all there is to know about folklore. If a banshee is involved,
then death is close at hand; Matt’s maybe?
Nancy of course is the one to set things right.
Sleuthing is what she does, and is what she does here. Along with sorting
out some wedding details as she goes – seating charts and wedding
invitations are just two of her contributions.
3 bags full
Indeed, there is no end to Nancy’s talents. By the
time she leaves to fly back to the United States, she will have mixed
drinks at the local tavern, filled in on drums for a missing musician,
mustered and shorn a pen full of sheep and completed upwards of twenty
puzzles of varying complexity. Downtime is not in Nancy’s vocabulary.
To me, the puzzles were the high point. Which is not
something I expected. I described many of the puzzles in Kapu Cave
as “repetitious filler”, and whilst there is some of that here, it’s the
exception rather than the rule. They are still a little “stuck on” rather
than being integrated into the plot, but that’s a minor complaint.
Littered right through the game, they provide a good degree of interest
With so many of them, you are bound to find ones you
like and ones you don’t. Collecting sheep was a bit of a dud, and mixing
drinks and playing the drums were a little too arcade like for my tastes.
So too were playing the games machines in the tavern. But if they are to
your liking you can play them more than once for fun, and perhaps get a
tick in the achievements certificate at the end of the game. Some will be
familiar – a slider, a Tower of Hanoi and placing gear wheels on a machine
for example – but others are less so. I particularly enjoyed the dollhouse
puzzles, in which the placement of the dolls was akin to a logic puzzle,
and the otter puzzle gave me a challenge in excess of its seeming
These puzzles are fairly well self-contained,
everything you need being right there in front of you, albeit perhaps
after you have found a piece or two. Other puzzles are more complex,
requiring note taking and book reading and a bit of brain power to unravel
their objectives and then their solutions. The standing stones and the
tower desk puzzles are good examples. Other puzzles also intersect, with
the solution in one feeding into the solution of the next – the answer to
lowering the castle wall requires an understanding of a successful solve
You will come across many of the puzzles right from
the start, although you may not have all the pieces necessary. Both the
slider and the gear wheel puzzles, for instance, can be accessed as soon
as you arrive at the Castle. However, you will need to solve other puzzles
to be rewarded with the pieces necessary to complete them. This is common
throughout the game, with almost every puzzle solve giving you something
necessary elsewhere. You find some objects lying around, but most you have
The plot by comparison was a little drab, although I
wasn’t expecting the high-tech (if a little silly) finale amongst the bogs
and fens and leprechauns. The voice acting is good as always, and all
dialogue comes with subtitles. Mild dialogue trees give you some
involvement in the provision of information, although I couldn’t find a
way to skip or advance the dialogue. A minor irritation if you have heard
something before or have read ahead.
On your own
In the last few games the Hardy Boys have been
participants, but they are absent here, preferring instead to be solving
their own Hidden Theft. You can ring Ned and Bess, but seemingly
for a chat and little else. As with all Nancy Drew games, you can play as
a Junior or Senior detective, and whilst Ned and/or Bess gave you clues as
a Junior detective in earlier games I played, at Castle Malloy you get
them (so it seems) from a fortunetelling machine. Junior detective also
gives you a task list to keep track of what to do, something Nancy says
you do not need as a Senior detective, and a few of the puzzles at least
have less complicated solves as a Junior detective.
Whichever you choose, a tutorial is available at the
start of the game to get you familiar with the interface and game
mechanics. You can ignore it if you wish. Instructions abound for many of
the conundrums throughout the game, but some puzzles require a bit of hit
and miss to work out how they work. I thought at times this was a little
unbalanced – the instructions for mixing drinks, for instance, are
voluminous, yet nonexistent for disposing of the chemicals. I exploded
(literally) quite a few times just working out how to manipulate the
Whether playing as a Junior or Senior, exploding,
drowning in the bog, or plummeting down a missing stairwell results in a
second (or third or fourth) chance that returns you to just prior to the
fatal moment. So there is no need to worry about saving as you go in case
of disaster. Saving, though, can help you save money in undertaking tasks
that require a coin or two; simply restore if you don’t like the result!
An aspect I hadn’t come across in earlier games was
a third person perspective when Nancy travels outside the castle between
locations. Simply drag the magnifying glass cursor and off she goes.
A simple set of active cursors will tell you there
are things to be examined or interacted with. Icons along the bottom of
the screen give you access to your inventory, Nancy’s journal and (if
playing Junior detective) the task list. The save and load screens are
also accessible there. A purse shows your current money situation, and
some puzzles will result in a temporary icon needed as part of the
solution. Point and click your way around in response to icons which show
where you can move and turn.
What else? There is a maze which you only have to
traverse once, and you can tweak various settings. The musical score was
okay, and I liked that when I pressed the exit icon, the game did exactly
that (no asking was I sure or anything else). You get a little typed out
“good news, bad news” message when you meet an untimely end. Once or twice
this is amusing, but after a while becomes irritating when all you want to
do is try again. The sheep hair designs are pretty freaky.
For some reason, the game would not start by using
the desktop icon or the program icon in the start menu, even after I
removed and reloaded the game. I had to start through the autorun icon on
one of the discs. Not a big deal, but not something that should occur.
Oh, and Nancy runs off the road whilst talking on a
mobile phone at the start of the game. A lesson to her and everyone else.
The Haunting of Castle Malloy
was certainly the best experience I have had with Nancy Drew. If you
haven’t played one before, my advice is start with this. If you have
played before and have become a little jaded with the offerings, you (like
me) might be pleasantly surprised. And for all those fans who have played
all previous eighteen and can’t wait to get to the Bahamas in the next
instalment, you probably didn’t need any of this.
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