Nancy Drew : Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake

Nancy Drew : Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake
The latest mystery game featuring Nancy Drew is a great puzzle-adventure perfect for young sleuths! A great last-minute gift or use of a gift certificate.

The seventh in the series, these games are relatively inexpensive yet provide hours of gameplay. In them, Nancy Drew, the college-aged female detective, explores mysteries and finds solutions to various puzzles.

You can see the various improvements in this latest entry. The graphics are much smoother, and as you turn around in a given area the 'snapshot' quality is more of a flow. It's still not a fully immersive environment - in essence you go "to" a spot and then can turn left or right through set images of the room. You can point to a "hot spot" in the room to approach an item or examine it. Still, in a way this makes it easier for younger detectives to know what to do. If you can't click on something, it's not important.

There's no violence or blood, although I do have to comment that the ghost dogs are rather scary! I have had younger teenage girls refuse to play some of the games I've lent them because they were too scary after a few hours. This one might fall into that category if you have a skittish nature. The dogs don't actually attack you, but their jumping on the doors, howling and rattling the house can be quite scary.

The game uses very logical puzzles that actually teach you things. You want to test water from a well, but first you have to learn the real technique for priming a pump and do it. You need to use a motorboat, but the pistons aren't in the proper cycle positions. Anyone who uses a boat would see this by looking at the engine, and they helpfully include a diagram to show you (i.e. Nancy) how to fix this before the engine will work. Notes at the ranger station warn you about Hantavirus, a real danger if you're cleaning areas where mice live.

There are other puzzles - identifying birds, finding planks to get over rotten floorboards and so on - that fit in as well. In general the game does an admirable job of keeping the game very realistic-feeling, like you're really at this Pennsylvanian lake, amongst the locals there, exploring their world.

On the downside, much of the game involves pony-trail sorts of handoffs. You know you need a spark plug. You might think it would be lying around nearby or that one would be in the house. But instead, searching all over creation finds none. Instead, you have to go to sleep, wake up at night, chat with someone who it so happens has one, go back to sleep again, and then in the morning use it. It can get extremely frustrating when at many times in the game you know what you *need* but just have to figure out how the game designers think you should *get* it.

Still, many times this means that your gameplay time is stretched out as you wander around, explore, chat with people, and enjoy the world. It's not a game for people who want to race through to the end to have 'beaten it'. If you poke at a walkthrough site, you can probably do so in an hour or two. Instead, it's a game that, for a relatively low price, lets you wander through a well realized world, exercise those "little grey cells" in your brain, and really become knowledgeable about a number of intersting subjects. Give yourself time to have fun with this one!

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