IGN Review of Nancy Drew: #20 Ransom of the Seven Ships
The first step is to put aside your preconceptions about the title. Yes, Nancy Drew was your mother's (and probably grandmother's) detective heroine, but the folks at Her Interactive have been doing a great job at turning out adventure/mystery games based on the franchise. Consider that Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships is the 20th Drew game from Her Interactive, and it's obvious that the company is doing something right; in this case, it's gathered a solid collection of puzzles and mystery in a family-friendly package that anyone can enjoy.
In Ransom of the Seven Ships, the action shifts to the Bahamas, where Drew and her friends have won a free trip to a resort. However, upon arriving it's discovered that one of Drew's friends has been kidnapped, and the price to get her back is for Drew to solve a mystery for the kidnappers: discover the long lost treasure of a Spanish fleet that disappeared in a storm upon the island. It all sounds a little too convenient to be taken seriously, but that's the point. This is a game that's just about putting you in unusual situations to solve interesting puzzles, and it's not suppose to be about menace or a real sense of danger.
The mystery will have you scouring the island for clues, with the usual obstacles thrown in your way. To move about the island you have to figure out how to repair the golf cart that transports you from locale to locale; you come upon a handful of characters who can help you, but only if you help them with their problems first. The nice thing here is the variety of things to do; there's the usual pixel-hunting as you try and look for things that are useful in the environment, but then you'll be doing everything from math-style puzzles where you have to figure out how to distribute water evenly to a battery, navigate a treasure map, and decipher a coded message, which is an enjoyable task.
However, not all the puzzles work out so well. The treasure map, for instance, might drive you crazy with its precise instructions, and the fact that you can move in precise steps. However, if you accurately follow the instructions you'll drive yourself mad; it's only when you start to fudge the number of paces that you need to actually take do you find the buried treasure. Then there are also reflex-based puzzles, like the ones where you must beat a monkey at throwing coconuts at targets; those with slower reflexes may struggle it. After a point, you'll be able to take off on a sailboat to go exploring around the islands and even scuba dive with a metal detector to hunt for clues. The puzzles become more complex the further you get, but if you enjoy brainteasers you'll likely find yourself at home here.
You'll want to have pen-and-paper near you to take notes, but one real world tool I found especially useful was my cell phone's camera; there are some puzzles that require you to analyze something with a timer counting down. Just take a picture of it with your cell phone, then go to someplace where there's not a timer to analyze the puzzle. The camera was also useful in taking a picture of a set of treasure map directions rather than scribble everything down.
There are two difficulty levels in the game, so if you start out at junior detective you can replay again at senior detective for more of a challenge. Otherwise, once you play through you're pretty much finished until the next Nancy Drew game comes out.
The production values are relatively low-tech. The game is entirely in 2D, and it runs at a fixed resolution that can't be adjusted, which is a bit annoying as the low-res graphics look a bit pixilated on high res screens. The flip side is that this game will pretty much run on any PC out there. The audio is adequate for the most part, and the only thing worth noting is that the voice of Drew sounds older than expected.
©2009-07-20, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved