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A Game Review of Nancy Drew: The Ghost of Thornton Hall
Publisher: Her Interactive
Released: May 2013
Series: Nancy Drew Interactive PC Games (#28)
- Windows® XP/Vista/7/8
1.5 GHZ or greater Pentium 4 or equivalent class CPU,
512 MB of RAM,
3 GB or more hard drive space,
128 MB DirectX 9.0 compatible video card,
16 bit DirectX compatible sound card,
4x DVD drive,
mouse and speakers.
The Ghost of Thornton Hall begins when you, as Nancy Drew, are awakened by a strange phone call in the middle of the night. The caller is Savannah Woodham, a paranormal investigator who happens to be one of your contacts from a previous game. Savannah asks you to take a case for her. She wants you to go to Thornton Hall (an estate located in the southern USA) and investigate the disappearance of a young woman named Jessalyn Thornton. When you ask Savannah why she doesn't take the case herself, she replies that she would rather not go to Thornton Hall because it is occupied by the vengeful ghost of Charlotte Thornton. Of course, as Nancy you find yourself to be skeptical of this claim and are not even slightly daunted by Savannah's warning. You end the call, promising to get to the bottom of things, and before you know it you are setting off for Thornton Hall to begin your next adventure.
The characters that you find yourself regularly interacting with throughout the game are Clara Thornton, Wade Thornton. Colton Birchfield and Harper Thornton. The following is a brief biography of each character.
Clara is Jessalyn's mother, as well as the CEO of the Thornton family business. Although she is clearly worried about her daughter, Clara is continuously uncooperative with Nancy's investigation. Is she concealing information that could be vital to discovering what happened to Jessalyn? Or is it possible that she knows where Jessalyn is, but for whatever reason, doesn't wish to reveal her?
Wade has come to Thornton Hall to help Clara find Jessalyn. In fact, he was the one who contacted Savannah in the first place, hoping to get assistance from an outside source. When you arrive, Wade is clearly disappointed to see you and not Savannah. Fortunately, however, he is willing to fill you in on details and strikes up a friendly conversation upon your first meeting. He tells you about the history of the Thornton family and shows you around the grounds of the Thornton estate. When you ask him to go in the house, however, he refuses, claiming that he is afraid of running into his cousin Charlotte's ghost. Although Wade appears to be genuinely concerned about Jessalyn, it is obvious that he was never very close with her. Could there be another reason why he has decided to come to Thornton Hall?
Colton is Jessalyn's fiancé. After speaking with him you learn that their wedding was to take place very soon--within the next week or so, actually. This new information raises the question: Is it possible that Jessalyn wasn't kidnapped? Could her disappearance be something as simple as a case of cold feet? Colton and Clara both swear that Jessalyn would never run away. If that's true, though, then why is Colton so calm while discussing Jessalyn's disappearance? Could he be hiding something?
To call your first encounter with Harper "bizarre" would be a massive understatement. I don't want to give away too much, but let's just say that this lady has a lot of motives for causing trouble at Thornton Hall. For one thing, she is an outcast in her family. Her father disowned her many years ago and even had a gravestone made with her name on it. Ouch.
Harper claims that she has come to Thornton Hall out of concern for Jessalyn. This, of course, seems unlikely, especially when you discover that Clara, Wade and Colton have absolutely no idea that Harper is even there. How helpful can she possibly be when she's hiding out all the time? She also frequently exhibits sociopathic behavior that is more than a little disconcerting. For example, when you discover her hiding in the basement she threatens to kill you if you tell anyone that you have seen her.
Harper's presence raises all sorts of questions. What is she doing at Thornton Hall? Could she have taken Jessalyn out of anger? Most importantly, though: Is she dangerous?
For the most part I found the puzzles in this game to be absolutely infuriating. I say that because a lot of times my ability to solve them depended on how much I had paid attention to little things during the game--things like dates and Thornton family history. Naturally, this required me to go back and forth a lot. In order to avoid this, I suggest keeping a pad and pen with you throughout your game play. Trust me, you'll need it.
Don't get me wrong. There were lots of fun, challenging puzzles throughout the game, but some of them required me to gather information that I thought was pointless and (sometimes) rather silly. So if you like educational games, then this one might not be as enjoyable for you. As mentioned, the game focuses mainly on the history of the Thornton family and is, therefore, quite lacking in educational value. There was a brief reading on the role of women during the Civil War, as well as instructions on how to create a homemade battery, but other than that the educational aspects of the game were few and far between. This, for me, was more than a little disappointing.
For the most part I thought that the graphics were excellent. The game takes place at night, giving the Thornton estate a dark, spooky feeling both inside and outside of the house. There were also many "hauntings" throughout the game that I found to be quite enjoyable (The shadow in the foyer window always made me jump!) particularly the scenes where Nancy comes face to face with Charlotte's "ghost." It is a truly unnerving sight, and I would not recommend playing this game alone in the dark at 3 in the morning (like I did).
Being a die-hard fan of Nancy Drew games (I have played all but two) I will honestly say that this one does not fall into my top ten--nowhere close, actually. As I said, I didn't particularly like the puzzles, nor was I pleased with the game's lack of educational value. I also was not impressed by the ending. The explanation that they gave for the "hauntings" did not satisfy me in the slightest. That, truthfully, was probably the biggest letdown of the game. In retrospect, though, I do not regret buying The Ghost of Thornton Hall, and would recommend it to gamers who like challenging puzzles and don't mind far-fetched stories with lots of loose ends.