reviews\ Dec 17, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Nancy Drew: Ghost Dogs Of Moon Lake - PC - Review

Nancy Drew is on the case again, in this her seventh outing. A "friend" of hers, Sally, has asked for help in solving some mysterious goings-on at an old house she's just bought adjoining a lake located in a state park. As Sally has been reticent on the details of what exactly is going on, Nancy is clueless (heh, had to say it, didn't I) about the entire situation, but drives down anyway because that is what friends are for. When she arrives, surprise surprise, Sally has evidently decamped to safer surroundings, leaving Nancy to deal with the danger alone. If I were Nancy, I'd have some rethinking to do on this friendship.

At least Sally calls to tell Nancy where she is and why she left. It appears that there are ghost dogs haunting the house, which supposedly belonged to the original owner of the home, a notorious bootlegger and gangster. According to local legend, the dogs come back to haunt the house whenever someone other than their master occupies the house. During the phone conversation, Sally suddenly seems to realize that gee, if it was dangerous for her to stay there, might it not be a little hazardous for Nancy, too? Sally begs Nancy to leave at once, but Nancy laughs it off and declares her intention to stay and get to the bottom of things. Good old Nancy, always ready to solve the mystery.

Night is falling fast, and Nancy begins to get a little nervous. Sure enough, soon the hounds come a-callin', and these aren't your garden variety dogs, no sir, these dogs have eyes that glow in the dark. This is beginning to look a lot more like a case for Scooby Doo and friends, rather than Nancy Drew.

However, Nancy has lots of experience solving cases and soon decides that despite the strangely glowing orbs, these dogs must be real dogs, trained to attack the house in certain situations. She begins to explore the house and surrounding forest, looking at and picking up many clues. As in previous Nancy Drew games, there are plenty of items lying around to examine, plus characters to interview. There is also a maze in the forest, but fortunately Nancy has found a handy map left behind in the house which will help her get around, although many players will still spend a lot of time wandering around as many parts of the forest look exactly the same. This is a linear adventure game, and often-times items and actions won't be available until triggered by a certain action on Nancy's part.

The interface is exactly the same as in the other games of the series, with the inventory menu taking up a large part of the screen at the bottom. The perspective of the game is played in first-person, and movement and other actions are controlled by the mouse. The items picked up are placed in the inventory, but without any description of what they are, which is unfortunate; descriptions of items found are an integral part of the adventure game experience and are helpful in deciding the possible future use of objects, besides. If stuck in the game, players can always call on Bess and George for helpful hints. There are two difficulty levels, but this pertains to the manipulative puzzles, rather than the adventure. Nancy can expire, but the handy "second chance" option takes the sting out of this.

The Nancy Drew games have gained a reputation for excellence in children's software, and this title is no exception. We found the gameplay to be a little easier than previous games in terms of puzzles and actions, but the length and interest of the game is unaffected, as there's still plenty of people to talk to and things to do. The story is more interesting and engaging, we felt, than some of the games, but the initial encounter with the dogs may be a little scary for younger players and parents may want to play the first part of the game with their children, to explain that the dogs aren't going to get in and get Nancy, but are just trained to bark and attack the door to scare her.

The game is designed for kids ages ten and up, so the adventure isn't extremely difficult to solve, but neither is it easy. In fact, it is perfect for pre-teens and teens aged twelve-eighteen. Parents can feel confident about getting this game for their teens, which features plenty of interesting and exciting twists with an element of danger, but no blood or gore.

Gameplay: 8.5
An engrossing mystery that offers lots of adventure and excitement.

Graphics: 7.5 
NIce animation with great characterization.

Sound: 8
The music and sound effects give just the right atmosphere.

Difficulty: Medium
Not the hardest adventure game around, but neither the easiest. Just right for pre-teens and teens.

Concept: 7 
This is the seventh in a series, so nothing new here, but still a very well-done game.

Overall: 8.5
A great adventure game that will require thought and perseverance to finish. The story is exciting and offers a little spookiness in the beginning; in fact, some younger players may be scared at first, which parents should be aware of. Whether your kids are Nancy Drew fans or not, this game will interest most teens and many adults, as well.


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