Nancy Drew: Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake

2002 Her Interactive
Designed by Anne Collins-Ludwick
Reviewed 2003 January 11

Rating +1 Linearity wide
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity high
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance strong
Interface 1st paned simple Real-time minor

Nancy goes to visit a friend at her cabin on Moon Lake. When she gets there, her friend has fled, chased away by ghostly dogs that attack the cabin. Why are they attacking? Who is controlling them?

In this episode, there are only three characters Nancy has to deal with face to face, with a few more heard only on the telephone. As usual, each of the local characters has a plausible motive to want to chase people away from the cabin.

Ghost Dogs, however, plays differently from previous Nancy games. The challenges are well integrated, not set-pieces, and Nancy's investigations are more relevant to the story. In previous games, Nancy's investigations spooked the culprits into showing themselves, usually before Nancy had figured it all out; here, Nancy puts the pieces together herself. When the culprit reveals h**self, Nancy has already figured out who it is, and Nancy's progress forces the confrontation.

The game is still not difficult, if you notice the clues. They're not hidden, or especially subtle, but they could easily fall into a personal blind spot. If you're stuck, just look at everything and talk to everyone, paying careful attention.

The challenges are mostly inventory based. There are also a few machine based challenges, in the form of mechanisms to reveal and open secret passages. Rather than being machines where you figure out the rules and then apply them, these tend to be more believable code-based locks, where the codes are presented as clues in the wider environment, or as part of your research. I.e., they function as such devices should, with only a small puzzly flourish. There are a few timed sequences, as in previous Nancys, with generous constraints and a painless auto-restore.

The engine has a few small changes. Rather than a clock that steadily advances, Nancy goes up to the bedroom to advance time to either day or night, when certain actions must be taken. Some inventory objects can be used on their own: for example, a map can be looked at then put back into the inventory, and a PDA can be opened and used. As previously, the presentation is effective and attractive, but not spectacular.

Ghosts Dogs is the first Nancy Drew game that feels like a true detective game. The plot is well paced and synchronised with player activity. Hopefully future adventures in the series will follow its lead.

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.