Nancy Drew: The Haunted Carousel

2003 Her Interactive
Designed by Anne Collins-Ludwick
Reviewed 2004 March 4

Rating -2 Linearity wide
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty easy Relevance moderate
Interface 1st paned simple Real-time minor

Nancy investigates the theft of a wooden horse from a carousel at an amusement park. There's also a suspicious accident on the roller coaster. With the park closed down because of the accident, Nancy is left with a handfull of park personnel to investigate. As usual, they're all hiding something, but it's up to Nancy to sort the innocent secrets from the guilty party.

The story develops nicely, gradually revealing possible motives for the various suspects, then clearing them. The history of the park and carousel are slowly revealed, and there are some interesting facts about the history and artistry of carousels. As a nice extra, you also help one of the characters uncover her own forgotten history.

The challenges are easy. The real problems with them, though, are a lack of creativity and involvement. Even if they're easy, the challenges should work to focus your attention on the details of the story and game world. Here, too often they are trivial aspects of the world, or require exhaustive trial and error with no rationale to discover. They don't generally focus your attention on either the story, the characters, or the world.

The overall structure of the challenges and triggers is good, though. The story flows nicely, with enough non-linearity to let you feel free in your investigation.

The presentation is attractive. Your jaw will stay safely off the floor, but everything is clearly seen and looks natural. Control is intuitive, the same engine, mostly, as in the other games of the series. There's no clock this time. The save/load game interface has been touched up a bit, making it easier to use. The excellent second chance mechanism has been retained, which takes the sting out of "death" (really just premature game-ending decisions), allowing you to quickly restore to just before the bad action.

There's a good story here, well told through an attractive medium. The problem, as with the series in general, is the weakness of the gaming side. Fans of the series should enjoy this installment, but it won't convert anybody who has tried others and found them wanting.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

Related reviews:

  • The Nancy Drew Series
    David Tanguay's Game Reviews
    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.