by Caitlin Roberts
reviewed on PC
The Nancy Drew game series uses a tried-and-true, point-and-click format that suits the game well. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The game can be played at Amateur and Master Sleuth level; I chose Amateur level and when I hit a couple of the patterned puzzles, I was glad I did – these can bend the brain even at the amateur level. Fortunately, if you get stuck, there is also an well implemented hint system embedded in the task list. The hints start at a fairly vague level and are meant simply to point in the general direction, leaving you alone to work it out without further assistance. If that doesn't work, many of the puzzles will provide you with increasingly pointed hints or tips until you eventually get where you need to go.
The task list itself helps to keep you on track and includes the usual phone tool which is a staple for the Nancy Drew series. I have to admit that I forgot about this tool for quite some time; I tended to find the tips from Ned and Bess of limited use, and while the extra back-story information from Addison and Savannah was interesting and helped to fill in some of the gaps in the plot, there were few points where it really helped me move forward in the game. When I did eventually remember the phone tool, what I found most useful was the ability to take photos of items that were part of whatever puzzle I was working on at the time – this saved me scurrying back and forth constantly, which is one of the downsides of point-and-click puzzlers, unless you have a photographic memory.
There is a good variety of puzzles in Ghost of Thornton Hall, and I wasn't disappointed. They run the gamut of codes written in old-style ciphers – and you'll need to make use of the various books and notes strewn about the place if you want to solve a few of them; to collect-and-combine inventory puzzles, often requiring you to fix some of the old equipment left there from the island's industrial revolution factory days, to your classic logic puzzles. There was one involving clocks in particular that I loved, and that was a cross between a Sudoku and a tile pattern puzzle that I absolutely hated. In some cases you'll be running all over the estate collecting bits, and some puzzles are actually themselves just hints for a larger puzzle. This means that while in most cases, you have the freedom to choose which of the tasks you want to complete first, there are others that must follow a certain route and you will not solve them until you have completed the required first task. Without giving away too much, there is a particular tool you can use to get yourself on track when you get stuck. Someone at the estate is trying to help you, at least where it will help them, and they will leave you tips - and sometime demands – in a certain spot. Check it regularly.
Overall, the story was interesting, the puzzles had just the right mix of challenge and logic, and I enjoyed almost every minute of playing. Nancy Drew: Ghost of Thornton Hall didn't disappoint and kept me riveted until it was over, too soon. I'll be looking forward to the next instalment in the Nancy Drew series – though I might wait until I have some real free time before I buy it!
Good variety of puzzles.
Could have been scarier.