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

Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy

Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy

Spring 2009 Software
Ages: 10 & Up
Price: $19.99
Based on the Nancy Drew books that date back to 1930s, Her Interactive's nineteenth title in this popular, well-designed mystery-detective series stars the teenage gumshoe originally conceived as a fem counterpart to The Hardy Boys. But, it bears repeating, these Nancy Drew videogames aren't just for girls. They're for anyone who loves solving an engaging mystery.

In this episode, Nancy continues the recent trend of exploring other cultures while solving a mystery. She arrives at the doorstep of spooky Castle Malloy in emerald environs of old Ireland, where she has traveled to be a bride's maid in a friend's wedding. But, alas, the groom is missing!

Boys playing this game might have to get past the fact that the hero is a heroine, it's about a wedding, and Nancy does do some wedding-prep tasks such as seating and floral arrangements. But it's the high-suspense mystery that matters most.

Filled with clues waiting to be uncovered, loaded with eerie superstitions and even some blarney, the storyline delves into Irish countryside and culture and gives players a little taste of what it's like in the land o' leprechauns and faeries. Graphics here are stunning at times, though the game is somewhat gloomy since most of it takes place after dark.

Typical of the ND series, Nancy works the case from a first-person, 360-degree perspective. This title also introduces a new top-down view, where you move Nancy from place to place from about 20 feet above her head. It's somewhat ill-conceived since the point of these games is that the player is Nancy Drew and not some out-of-body experience.

As always, there are suspects to chat up. Is groom Matt Simmons, known to be a prankster, up to old tricks? Is Matt's best friend Kit Foley involved? What about creepy Donal Delany, the skeletal caretaker of the castle and expert on Irish lore? Even the bride, Kyler Malloy herself, is not above suspicion.

Interspersed in the investigation are tasks and chores, mini-games and puzzles-most of them fun and compelling (though the sliding-tile puzzle at the start got a wee bit frustrating). Others challenge logic with arranging the wedding seating chart, aligning gears, sheering sheep, playing Irish jigs, even rewiring an old machine. Darts and bartending (non-alcoholic) at the pub are fun distractions. Solving the case requires hours, even in the junior detective mode.

Compared to previous Nancy Drew titles, this game's cast of characters is shorter and the objects that are fodder for the investigation seem fewer. But, to paraphrase an old Irish toast, the hinges of this videogame series never grow rusty.

Don Oldenburg   ©2009 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:
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers
Her Interactive, Inc.

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