The seventh title in Her Interactive's amateur sleuth series, Nancy Drew: Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake finds the heroine involved in a mystery rivaling the classic Sherlock Holmes caper, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Instead of a single dog from Dartmoor, though, Nancy has her hands full tracking a pack of four "ghost dogs" for her friend and cabin-owner Emily. The mystery is afoot as Nancy explores the lakeside cabin, surrounding woods, secret passages, caverns, and caves while interacting with a colorful cast of local characters in an attempt to gather clues about a long-departed gangster, his dogs, and the mystery of Moon Lake.
Nancy Drew: Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake features an estimated 20+ hours of gameplay, in-game phone hints from Nancy's friends, two difficulty settings, a tutorial based on another game in the series, a journal for keeping track of clues and progress, and an assortment of puzzles. Although created by a developer of games "For Girls Who Aren't Afraid of a Mouse," the adventure is suitable for all mystery fans ages ten and up.
In Her Interactive's seventh outing, our intrepid girl detective is helping her friend, Sally MacDonald, figure out why ghostly dogs are attacking Sally at her newly purchased cabin on Moon Lake. After inviting Nancy out to the cabin, Sally runs off in fear prior to Nancy's arrival; thus leaving Nancy on her own to poke around.
Nancy Drew: Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake begins with Nancy recounting, via letter, Sally's leaving her high and dry at Moon Lake to her longtime boyfriend, Ned. (Snail mail? Where is Ned that he can't take a phone call?) It's definitely another mystery. Ghost dogs have attacked Sally's house every night since she moved into the place. Why? That's where you, amateur detective, enter the story.
You'll play Ghost Dogs as Nancy Drew, in a first-person, traditional point-and-click format. All actions are accomplished by the use of the left mouse button. Gameplay is offered at two difficulty settings, Junior or Senior Detective. If you get stuck, you can phone Bess and George or the Hardy boys for a push in the right direction.
Ghost Dogs is pretty linear, which isn't a bad thing! Certain things won't be allowed, like turning over rocks, until you've triggered the appropriate event. The game does allow you to advance the clock by going upstairs to sleep and setting the alarm for AM or PM. The majority of your actions will take place during the day.
Speaking of turning over rocks, there is a maze. In the forest. Actually, the entire forest is a maze. You will spend an inordinate amount of time in this forest. Get to know and love this forest. Embrace it! On the upside, there is a map for the forest that updates itself with various landmarks that you find along the trails. I thought that was a pretty cool feature.
The majority of the puzzles in Ghost Dogs are inventory-based. You'll also find FedEx (fetching things for other people), fun with Roman numerals and how-does-this-clue-relate-to-that-clue puzzles, among others. I found most of the puzzles pretty fair, with the exception of opening the entrance to the speakeasy. You'll need to enter the speakeasy from this particular entrance twice and both times you're forced to rework the puzzle. It's not an especially difficult puzzle, but it was time-consuming. Needless to say, I hated that puzzle!
Should I mention that there are two timed sequences in this game; one of which is part of the end game? No? Okay, then forget I said anything.
How about knowing that you could die in this game? There are a number of ways in which you can die in this game: fire, falls and boating accidents; however, you'll get unlimited second chances to try again. Or since you can save anywhere, you can reload from a previous save. By the way, just because you can save anywhere, don't get carried away - there are only about eight save slots.
Solving the mystery will involve chatting up the locals, who of course are your suspects. The voice work was pretty good. I found it hilarious when Nancy would end a phone conversation with one particular character by saying, "Nice talking to you!" and the character would reply, "I know." Subtitles are provided for all speech and sounds.
Speaking of sounds - the sounds in Ghost Dogs were very well done. When the dogs attacked there was howling, yipping and snarling. Forest sounds were abundant and lifelike, while the wooden doors and dock creaked appropriately.
Visually, Ghost Dogs is gorgeous! The screens are static, 3D with some 360-degree rotation. When talking to the suspects, not only is the lip-synching superb, but they also blink and move their hands as they speak. The only thing the characters don't do is change their facial expressions. The overlay of an actual photograph, of a view from a lake, on top of the graphic of Nancy motoring across the lake was very pretty.
I had one issue with the visuals: inventory items you find aren't identified as you pick them up. I imagine it's because most of the items are easily identified by sight. However, I picked up one item and for the life of me couldn't figure out what it was, until it was automatically paired with another item I picked up later. It'd be nice if Nancy could tell me what it is she's seeing and picking up.
Ghost Dogs isn't a bad little game and deserves thumbs up! It's the perfect game for a beginner just starting out or an experienced adventurer looking for a mystery that isn't too tough on those "little grey cells."
For me, Ghost Dogs was reminiscent of reading one of the novels, only with lots of pretty pictures. I was a voracious reader of Nancy Drew books as a kid. From those books I grew to love Christie, Chandler, and Grafton, to name just a few. I think of the Nancy Drew games in the same vein - a springboard to bigger and better games.
So, grab your magnifying glass and PDA and come on out to Moon Lake for a spell. Just don't let the dogs catch you wandering about after dark!
People who downloaded Nancy Drew: Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake have also downloaded:
Nancy Drew: Danger on Deception Island, Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand, Nancy Drew: Message In A Haunted Mansion, Nancy Drew 2: Stay Tuned for Danger, Nancy Drew: Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, Nancy Drew: The Haunted Carousel, Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock, Nancy Drew: The Final Scene
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