Genre: Mystery Adventure
Release Date: November 2002
Note: Originally published 13 January 2003
Nancy Drew is at it again in Her Interactive’s “Nancy Drew and the Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake.” It’s the very best title the series has ever had, but it’s hardly the best game in the series.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s solid and entertaining, like each entry in the series has been so far. But after the strides the series took in Nancy’s last outing, “Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Scarlet Hand,” I was struck by the modestness of “Moon Lake.”
But you know what? Modest is just fine as long as it's good. This time around Nancy is planning a visit with a friend who has a cabin on beautiful Moon Lake in rural Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, upon her arrival a storm causes a huge tree to fall, thus blocking her car from leaving. Even worse, her friend had fled the place, due to nighttime visits from a pack of ghostly and very scary dogs.
What’s a trapped teenage sleuth to do? Get busy solving the mystery of the Ghost Hounds, of course.
One of the things I admired about Nancy’s last Her Interactive outing (“Scarlet Hand”) was how organic the puzzles were. “Moon Lake” continues this tradition admirably. One of the characters Nancy interacts with is a birdwatcher, and he triggers a fairly involved puzzle involving snapping pictures of several rare birds. The local general store proprietor has Nancy do everything from sort soda cans to scavenging for bait. The park ranger has dusty old files for her to organize. In addition, there are several things that need doing around the cabin: testing the water quality of the well, repairing a decayed floor, etc.
All of these tasks fit in perfectly with the context of the game’s story, and they’re all fun to do.
Like most of Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew games, the backstory of “Moon Lake” is suffused with local history. Even though Moon Lake is a tranquil place for family recreation, its past was a good deal rowdier, as a major gangster happened to live in the area. Many of the events surrounding his activities may have very real repercussions in the present day.
As usually happens in a Nancy Drew story, the past eventually comes back to haunt you. The more clues Nancy uncovers, the more reasons appear not to underestimate the local lake residents. Each one probably knows more than he or she is telling . . .
As always, the pre-rendered graphics are rich and inviting. The voiceover work is generally well done. The traditional alarm clock plot device has been streamlined, which for this player is a welcome change (there are only two choices, morning and evening).
There’s only one problem with these lovely graphics, mysterious characters, scary pooches, and fun puzzles: There just isn’t very much of any of them. There are only three (seen) characters and very few locations. Ghost Dogs feels significantly shorter than recent Nancy games. And while this may actually be a convenience to a harried reviewer, it might prove to be an irritant to the game purchasing public. As long as you don’t mind your adventures short and sweet, I can heartily recommend Nancy Drew and the Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake.
Final Grade: B