Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Nancy Drew: The Phantom of Venice

Nancy Drew: The Phantom of Venice

Fall 2008 Software
Ages: 10 & Up
Price: $19.99
In the eighteenth incarnation of this popular teenage detective series, our famed heroine Nancy Drew lands in Venice to go undercover and help Italian police bust a dangerous art-theft syndicate. As in all ND titles, the player assumes the role of Nancy Drew and immediately starts collecting clues, investigating leads and interviewing suspects. What's different this time is that Nancy's working in disguise to infiltrate the criminal headquarters and identify the masked culprit (think "Phantom of The Opera"). And none too soon since the master thief is snatching Venice's priceless art treasures from museums and residences with increasing bravado!

As ND fans have come to expect and newcomers will discover, the 3D first-person look-around animation and graphics are dazzling, practically photographic-a huge bonus since this mystery's destination is Venice's gorgeous piazzas and street markets during Carnevale. Point-and-click gameplay is easy and there is intrigue everywhere to probe-but solving the mystery is hard.

Unlike many videogames, the ND series is known for developing characters-meaning suspects and all with motives. In Phantom, there's the Englishman Colin, a dashing art restorer who might be dabbling in the black market; the widowed Contessa, who has fallen upon hard times; the journalist Helena, who knows the ins and outs of crime syndicates maybe too well; Enrico, a one-timer criminal with a history in stolen artifacts; and Antonio, a tech-savvy consultant who had installed security systems where art was stolen.

New in this title which should bring smiles to many ND fans is a wardrobe of clothing and costume changes for Nancy from head to toes. Other accessories include learning some common Italian words, sightseeing Venice, learning about Venetian culture from gelato to singing gondoliers on the canals, feeding pigeons in the piazzas, and becoming familiar with Europe's Euro currency buying things from magazines at street kiosks to using a bank ATM. (Before you get too involved in the game, be sure to check out the "Interactive Guide to Venice" in Nancy's Venice room.) And, yes, there are the some cool mini-games and puzzles, from playing the Italian card game Scopa and learning how to pick a lock to playing a coded chess game and solving a Chinese box game.

As always, players can choose between the easier Junior Detective mode or the harder Senior Detective mode. Newcomers should check out the "How To Be A Detective" book from Nancy's desk at the beginning to bone up on how it all works. But don't worry: If you make a fatal error, the game now automatically reloads to the point just before that mistake.

Oh, and don't forget the Italian dictionary....and watch out for dark tunnels with leaky pipes and poisoned Italian sausages!

Don Oldenburg   ©2008 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

Look for this product at:
Her Interactive, Inc.
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers
Electronics Stores

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