Time is of the essence in this Nancy Drew story, fifth in the series of 3D graphical adventures from Her Interactive that has players guide the young sleuth to solve interactive mysteries. One of Nancy's friends has been kidnapped and is being held in somewhere in a run-down old playhouse. Adding a true sense of urgency, the theatre is scheduled to be demolished within minutes. Nancy Drew must call upon her skills of perception, logic, and intuition to save her friend before it's too late.
Nancy Drew: The Final Scene, released in 2001, is another solid entry in the popular Nancy Drew series of graphical adventure games by Her Interactive. The game is set in St. Louis at a dilapidated old theater, which is slated to be destroyed despite its historical importance to the city. The old owner of the theater is said to have ties to Houdini and other magicians. While the game suffers at time from a rather desolate atmosphere and rigidly linear puzzles, the wonderful atmosphere, humor, and interesting characters make for a compelling experience.
The game begins when Nancy shows up at the Royal Palladium Theater to meet her friend Maya, who is interviewing Brady Armstrong. Brady is the leading man of a new movie called Vanishing Destiny, which is slated to be the theater's last production before its destruction. The action heats up when Maya is kidnapped and secreted away - and the unknown perpetrator threatens to kill her if the theater is destroyed. Nancy soon finds herself caught in the midst of a complex mystery with plenty of suspects. Perhaps the whole thing has been a plot cooked up by Brady or his agent, Simone Mueller, as a dirty publicity stunt - Maya goes missing, then Brady "heroically" solves the mystery. Or perhaps the culprit is Nicholas Falcone, member of a rather extremist group called H.A.D. I.T., which is dedicated to preserving old theaters at any cost. Nicholas seems to have a very questionable reputation with the police, a fact that makes him doubly suspicious. Also, there is the theater's weathered custodian, Joseph Hughes. Joseph claims to be looking forward to his retirement and moving in with his brother, but Nancy soon begins to suspect otherwise. Perhaps Joseph is willing to do anything to keep the old theater open? Finally, as unlikely as it seems, maybe Maya has not really been kidnapped, but is simply trying to save the theater by pretending to be trapped within it somewhere. Eventually, Nancy finds some documents throwing the legal ownership of the theater into serious question.
The best part of Nancy Drew: The Final Scene is its setting, but the characters also help move the game along. The Royal Palladium Theater looks genuinely vintage and has a spooky ambience, no doubt heightened by the subtle sound effects and music. Old movie and magician posters line the walls, and there are even a few antique games and machines with which to tinker. The characters are interesting. Brady is a thoroughly self-absorbed nincompoop, whereas Nicholas is a charming rogue. Joseph comes across at first as a kind grandfather, then a somewhat demented creep. Simone, unfortunately, is on the phone during the game and has very little to say to Nancy.
There are plenty of interesting puzzles in this game to keep players entertained. Of course, there are the usual sliding puzzle types that show up in almost every game in the Nancy Drew series, but also lots of trap doors, secret rooms, and logic puzzles. Some of the best puzzles involve old magic tricks; Nancy essentially has to learn how tricks are performed on stage and duplicate them. Nancy must also learn how to fix a movie projector, make a key using a key grinder, and escape a deranged maniac. The only problem with the puzzle setup is that the game is broken into discrete "days", and Nancy must perform a set of somewhat arbitrary actions to trigger the end of a day and the start of another. This trigger can be making a phone call, speaking to a character, or finding a hidden item. Unlike the other games from the series where there are plenty of clues to suggest what Nancy should do next, this game can leave players utterly baffled. Thankfully, there are plenty of hint sites that will provide the needed clue without giving away the rest of the game.
Nancy Drew: The Final Scene has some of the best graphics of any of the games in the Nancy Drew series. Each scene is richly detailed with plenty of vintage cinema and magician memorabilia. It is fun reading all the old posters for the magic shows. The music is low-key and somewhat jazzy, reminiscent of old 1940s mystery movies. It adds perfectly to the mood of the game and is not repetitive. As usual, the sound effects are spot-on and add considerable "spook" value to the game.
However, besides the problem with the "day" setup, this game can feel a bit desolate at times. Wandering about a large, vacant theater in this game does not invoke enough of a frightening experience. The game's pace suffers at times when Nancy must travel from the same place in the theater, which happens quite often since players must literally "try everything" to advance to the next day. Navigating the theater can also be a bit tricky, since players are often unsure at which points they can turn. Finally, it is disappointing that the developers have chosen not to showcase a bit of the Vanishing Destiny show as a reward for winning the game, much like the climatic opera scene in The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery; alas, the opportunity has been wasted.
All in all, though, Nancy Drew: The Final Scene is a must have for anyone who likes good adventure games, and any fan of Her Interactive's Nancy Drew series will not be disappointed. Although it is not quite as enjoyable as Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger or Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch, it is still a game that is highly recommended to both genders and all ages.
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