Nancy Drew: Ghost of Thornton Hall



Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Her Interactive

Released:  May 2013

PC Requirements:  

  • Windows« XP/Vista/7/8

  • 1.5 GHZ or greater Pentium 4 or equivalent class CPU,

  • 512 MB of RAM,

  • 3 GB or more hard drive space,

  • 128 MB DirectX 9.0 compatible video card,

  • 16 bit DirectX compatible sound card,

  • 4x DVD drive,

  • mouse and speakers.






by Jenny100



The game starts with Nancy being awakened by her cell phone. The caller is Savannah Woodham, a ghost-hunter/paranormal expert who assisted Nancy in her previous adventure, Shadow at the Water's Edge. She needs Nancy's help. A young woman (Jessalyn Thornton) has disappeared during a scavenger hunt at a run-down, supposedly haunted mansion belonging to the Thornton family. There is some concern that Jessalyn may have been abducted or killed by the vengeful ghost of Charlotte, a 21-year-old woman who died in a fire in what may or may not have been an accident. There are all kinds of stories from local people who claim to have encountered Ghost Charlotte. Of course Nancy doesn't believe any of that ghost stuff. Nancy is a skeptic who believes there's a rational explanation for everything -- and she's determined to get to the bottom of whatever happened at Thornton manor and find the missing Jessalyn.


The characters are mostly members of the Thornton family, a wealthy southern family that is (or was) in the business of ginning cotton. Clara is the matriarch, and the mother of missing Jessalyn. Colton is Jessalyn's fiance. Wade is a cousin -- who has spent time in prison. Charlotte is the ghost, a cousin of Clara. Harper is Charlotte's sister. Nancy will spend time talking to the members of the family -- at least to those who are still alive. Sometimes talking to them opens up new game options elsewhere in the house -- or they give her an object that is useful to her investigation.

Nancy's cell phone allows her to talk with Savannah, Beth and Ned, and Addison Hammond (a friend of Jessalyn's who was with her the night she disappeared).

Nancy's cell phone also has a camera, which allows you to take pictures of clues.

Game Environment

Not so very long ago, in 1989, the mansion was a showplace suitable for holding masked balls. But now, a mere 24 years later, it is in an advanced state of decay, rotting and falling apart, with holes in the floor and black mildew all over the walls. The relatively rapid deterioration may be due to the heat and humidity in that part of the United States. At least that's the explanation I came up with.

The game takes place entirely within the ruined mansion, its grounds, family cemetary, and outbuildings. This is a departure from other Nancy Drew games I've played, where Nancy visits several locations in the course of investigating and talking to different characters, some brighter and cheerier than others. In Ghost of Thornton Hall, if it isn't nighttime, it is at least extremely overcast outdoors. So the time you spend in unrelentingly dark grayish environments permeates the game without respite -- not a bad idea for a ghost story.


Many of the puzzles have to do with collecting information from several areas and deciding how and where to use it. For example, you need to pay close attention to what is written on the tombstones you find scattered around the graveyard, because all or part of the information may be required to solve a puzzle (or megapuzzle that combines information from several places). Another example -- there are a number of books scattered about the house. You will need information from these books to puzzle out codes necessary to progress in the game.

There are also the usual inventory puzzles, though you may have to scrub the screen with the mouse in order to find inventory due to the dark graphics. The cursor will change shape from a magnifying glass to a hand when you hover your cursor over inventory.

There is also quite a bit of exploration of the house and grounds. Besides the main house, there are the "ruins" of the burned building where Charlotte died in a fire. There is also a family cemetary with tombstones, a statue, a fountain, and a crypt. The main house itself is riddled with secret passages that Nancy will discover during the course of the game.

I was expecting to see more set piece puzzles (puzzles that involve the manipulation of a device, piece of machinery, or puzzle box). There are a few, and most of them are doozies, even as a "amateur detective." But there are fewer than I'm used to seeing in the Nancy Drew games I've played. There is one 3x3 slider, but the MaGtRo walkthrough provides a simple solution for sliderphobes.

There were two or three timed puzzles, where Nancy can be flattened by falling debris or asphyxiated unless she moves fast enough. But the "second chance" feature helps out if Nancy has a really bad accident.


Ghost of Thornton Hall uses the same point-and-click controls as other Nancy Drew games. The inventory area is at the bottom of the screen, and looks like the same one that was used for Lost Queen and Deadly Device. Nancy's Journal and Task List (for Amateur Detectives) are at the right The checklist that appears when playing as a Amateur Detective automatically places checked items at the bottom of the list. Nancy's cell phone has a permanent spot to the left of the inventory items, and includes a Camera, phone numbers, and Settings for Wallpaper and "Ring Back."

Educational Value

There was less learning about the past or about cultures in this game than in other Nancy Drew games I've played. There was a little about female spies during the Civil War, and bad conditions in cotton factories, but for the most part the educational aspects were downplayed.


None!!!  (yay)


Again none!!! (yay again)

Voice acting

The Southern accents of some of the characters seemed a bit "off," but the voice actors did a good job of putting emotion in their voices and sounding convincing.


Visually the game is very dark, both inside the house and outside. Fortunately I was able to jack up the brightness of my monitor to compensate, but there was another problem -- the inventory bar at the bottom of the screen was so much brighter than the rest of the screen that it made it even harder to see what was going on. A black inventory bar would have made more sense than the beige/tan inventory bar that was so eye-searingly bright compared to the rest of the picture. For some reason many of the screenshots I've seen online do not show the inventory bar

Other than the overly bright inventory bar, the graphics were atmospheric and well done. There were some subtle animations. I particularly enjoyed the little brown critter that would periodically scuttle across the cellar floor. It was too fast for me to get a good look at it, so I don't know what it was. It looked a little like a light brown hedgehog, but it was probably just a big rat.


The music was spooky and of the ambient, unhummable variety. Sometimes there would be something that resembled singing. Apparently Charlotte had a lovely singing voice, and there were stories about how her singing led people out of danger before she scarred them forever with her terrifying presence.


The DVD case version of the game is for both Windows and Mac. There was a 20 digit alphanumeric "Mac installation code" on the back of the manual, which is apparently necessary for installing on a Mac. Mercifully I didn't have to mess with inputting a code when installing the game on my PC. I just inserted the disc and ran the Setup.exe. There is a separate Setup.msi file to install the game on 64-bit versions of Windows.

The instructions recommend temporarily disabling your antivirus when you install. But since I didn't read the instructions until after finishing the game, I neglected to do this and the game had no problems running. I use Microsoft Security Essentials on XP SP3, so the result may be different with a different antivirus. I should mention that the game took about an hour to install, and it might have taken less time if I'd disabled Security Essentials while installing.

Game Manual

The game manual is very sketchy, including a few general instructions telling how to install and start the game on PC and Mac. There is a pdf manual that installs with the game, but it contains no more information than what is in the paper manual (actually only a folded piece of paper) that comes in the DVD case. Apparently HerInteractive feels the interface is intuitive enough that you don't need a manual, though I don't know if this would be true for a first time player.

Game Options

There are separate volume controls for voice, (sound) effects, and music. There is also a checkbox that allows you to choose whether to play full screen or windowed. I wasn't really sure what was meant by "fast convo" in the game options, but the default setting was "on" and I left it that way. (A Google search later revealed that HerInteractive had posted the answer to the mystery on their webpage for the game: "The all new Fast Convo feature allows the player to accelerate through all character conversations"). 

Unfortunately there were no brightness controls, which would have been useful in this particular game. Nor was there an option to darken the inventory bar, or choose a darker color choice for the inventory bar.

General Comments

Nancy Drew: Ghost of Thornton Hall is worth a play if you enjoy Nancy Drew games. If you haven't enjoyed other Nancy Drews, this game is unlikely to change your mind.

I wasn't happy with the explanation given for the ghostly manifestations, or with the end of the game in general. The story itself was interesting, but (without going into spoiler territory) I think they could have done a better job tying up loose ends.

Chances are you'll have to brighten your monitor and/or your video card settings because the game is visually a lot darker than most adventure games.

Grade: B+


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