Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor

This is not something that grinds my gears. On the contrary, the video game Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor is in fact a little gem.

I bought this game on Steam because they were having a sale, and it cost just a few euros. At first I was disappointed, but then it became quite engaging.

The thing about this game is that probably at least 90% of gamers nowadays would not like it. It's way, way too difficult for casual gamers, and most HC gamers would probably get turned off by it because it feels technologically so antiquated. This game was released in 2004 for Windows, yet feels like a DOS game from the early 90's. It consists of pre-rendered still images and short FMVs, with no sprites, 3D models or anything else. Even its screen resolution is fixed at 640x480. In fact, if you were to remove the voice samples, it could quite well pass for a DOS game from 1994 rather than from 2004.

And as said, most casual gamers wouldn't like it either because it's so damn difficult. How difficult? Think of Myst. Really hard, obscure puzzles that sometimes even require writing things on physical paper (or, as I did, take screenshots with your cellphone camera so that you can consult them while playing.) Hints are often subtle and quite hard to get. In a few cases you have to more guess because it's not explicitly and unambiguously hinted.

Yet every single puzzle, as difficult as they are, is actually solvable by deducing from the hints you get. There aren't, in fact, any puzzles where you have to just blindly try all possible combinations or anything like that, as long as you realize which other detail in the game was actually a hint for the solution.

The thing is, it can be really difficult, but it's quite rewarding when you finally figure it out. In fact, I set to finish the game without reading any walkthrough or anything. Just by playing. And I succeeded. Game finished, I solved every single puzzle myself, and properly at that. (Steam recorded my total playing time as 20 hours, although part of that was spent on the pause screen.)

I think this is a little gem of a game which unfortunately not many people will appreciate, especially nowadays, where everything has to be either really casual, or more action-driven.

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