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Play as teenage super sleuth Nancy Drew as she uncovers two new mysteries in ‘The Legend of the Crystal Skull’ and ‘The Phantom of Venice’.


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Created by Her Interactive and distributed by Mindscape in Australia, the two latest instalments of the popular PC Adventure/ Mystery series releases the player’s  ‘inner detective’ as he or she collects clues to hunt for a legendary relic in New Orleans or put an end to the thefts of historical artefacts in Venice.  Nancy’s latest adventures are sure not only to re-captivate the interest of the game series fans but also entice new players to its growing fan base.

Similar to the games’ predecessors, Nancy’s cunning curiosity jets her off to exciting locations, this time in North America and Europe. While ‘The Legend of the Crystal Skull’ is set in the American city of jazz, blues and Cajun cuisine, the ‘The Phantom of Venice’ is set the Italian city of canals and gondolas.  The user friendly, and interactive ‘How to be a Detective Book ‘ introduces the player to the game manipulation while the ‘Case File’ gives information about the present mystery case. Both games enable the player to play as a Junior or Senior detective. Younger and new players who are unfamiliar with the game play can start off playing as a Junior detective and attempt the trickier Senior detective mode after familiarizing themselves with the controls.

 


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In ‘The Legend of the Crystal Skull’, Nancy is off to New Orleans on a holiday with her best friend, Bess Marvin to experience the best of what the city has to offer. Ned, Nancy’s thoughtful boyfriend, has asked her to stop in and check on his schoolmate, Henry Bolet. Henry’s uncle and guardian, the eccentric dentist, Bruno Bolet had suddenly died leaving Henry as the executor of his estate. Upon entering the Bolet manor, Nancy is attacked and knocked out by a person wearing a skeleton costume. Nancy’s urge to find out more about her attacker leads her on creepy, candle-lit adventure inside the Bolet manor. Together with Bess, Nancy finds out about an ancient relic owned by Bruno Bolet – a crystal skull that although was said to bring immortality to its owner has brought nothing but the previous owners’ demise.

Romance is the last thing on Nancy’s mind when she flies to the romantic Italian city of Venice in ‘The Phantom of Venice’. The Italian police have asked Nancy’s help in busting a crime ring that is threatening to steal all of Venice’s priceless historical artefacts. Along her quest to find out more about ‘Il fantasma’, a masked villain behind the missing artefacts, Nancy learns more about the charming city of Venice, the Italian language and navigating the city on foot or on gondola.

Navigating through both games is pretty much straightforward – point and click away!  The player will have to treat their mouse as their best friend, as both games use the mouse extensively throughout the game. Arrows appear on the screen to help the player navigate Nancy around the different areas in the game. Clicking on the red magnifying glass icon that pop out in crucial clue-filled areas enable the player to pick up clues.  Both games allow left to right panning in some screens but the player will find that these are jerky compared to similar games that offer 360 degree panning. There are small pop-up icons located on the lower right and left sides of the screen that gives the player access to the inventory, journal, checklist (only in Junior detective mode), mobile phone (Crystal Skull), game settings, save and load previous game options. There is also an icon to exit the game.

 


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Although the 3D graphics are in no way cutting edge, the player will be surprisingly pleased to find the graphics appealing. The player will find that the colours used in the graphics help convey the different moods of the locales – dark colours for the eerie Bolet mansion with its nearby graveyard and bright, cheery tones for Venice. Unlike its predecessors where the characters are static, the characters in both instalments are fully-realized complete with facial expressions, distinct facial characteristics and realistic gestures. Sound quality in both games is very good.  Sounds are mostly ambient with some short musical numbers played at key points to heighten the experience. Voice acting in both games is pretty believable and the dialogues peppered with culture specific colloquialisms and phrases aid in creating an appropriate atmosphere.

The only major annoyance found in both instalments (also in the predecessors) is the ‘unskippable’ dialogue. Although the text is written on screen, the player has no choice but to sit through every single line until the very end of the conversations. The time the player spends listening to these dialogues can be excruciating and can drag the game on considerably. 

A feature of all the Nancy Drew Adventure/Mystery PC Game series are the challenging puzzles that involve the player. ‘The Legend of the Crystal Skull’ and ‘The Phantom of Venice’ are no exceptions, with both games providing engaging puzzles that are not repetitive and are cleverly incorporated within the stories.

There are a lot of features to love about ‘The Legend of the Crystal Skull’ and ‘The Phantom of Venice’. The games are overall great fun with engaging storylines involving a spunky, intelligent main character coupled with challenging puzzles. However, what ultimately draws players to Nancy Drew is that human urge to find out more about things that spark our interest.

Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull and Nancy Drew: The Phantom of Venice are available now for $29.95.

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