Genre: Mystery Adventure
Release Date: October 2004
Note: Originally published 15 October 2004
Flip-Flop ain't so bad, is it?
When I first started to play this game, I was all set to give it a horrible, scathing review. I had one complaint after another, but something weird happened on the way through that I can't quite put a finger on. By the time I had played the game a second time, I had done an about-face and was hooked. (I always play a game at least three times when writing a walkthrough - once to play and 'enjoy;' once to write the walkthrough; then once again, by following the WT to the letter, to make sure it "works" and doesn't lead a player astray.)
Anyway, did I say hooked? The HER Interactive team have really outdone themselves. Following closely on the heels ofShadow Ranch, which I would classify as a Very Medium game, Blackmoor is a sure winner. It has a good, strong story line, the primo ingredient in any game, and the developers have attended to details in a way that their enthusiasm becomes apparent throughout the gameplay.
Nancy finds herself in England, in an old manor and, as you would expect, becomes embroiled in a mysterious situation. There is talk of Lycanthropy (that's werewolves to us peasants) and characters who speak English that isn't quite English (Bangers and Mash, anyone?) and dealings with gargoyles, ghosts, and devious puzzles created by several generations of eccentric owners of the mansion, all designed to protect some mysterious 'treasure.' As usual, nearly every character is subject to suspicion, and rightly so. You will meet a Houskeeper, a Tutor, the Daughter, the Granddaughter, a Librarian, and some other people on the phone. Except for Bess, George, and the Hardy Boys, everyone comes under Nancy's watchful eye.
An 87-year-old Parrot provides a bit of diversion. She speaks Latin; though not for long. She also provides the complete solution to one of the puzzles, and delivers a never-ending stream of comments whenever you pass her cage, even when the cage is covered with a blanket. After while, she just becomes a pain in the butt, and her most appropriate remark is "Ignore the bird behind the curtain."
Speaking of that puzzle, it is the one big squawk I have with this game. It's located at the foot of a long stairs, which are part of a secret passage, and therefore dark. Nancy has to win a game in order to earn a phosphorescent Glow-Stick from Jane, the Granddaughter.That's not so bad, except the Glow-Stick is only good for a couple of trips up and down the stairs and burns out. At that point, Nancy must beat the same game again to get another one, and since she must get five different answers from Loulou, chances are she will be playing that game yet a third and maybe even a fourth time. We'll see who burns out first; the feeble Glow-Stick, or the frustrated player.
Actually, little Jane has a chest-full of games that Nancy will need to play, each one yielding some kind of reward from Jane; either an object or some useful information. One of the games felt familiar, and when I went looking, discovered that it was lifted wholesale from another Nancy Drew mystery. That's okay; it provides a bit of continuity, not to mention some relief, since having beaten it in the past makes it easier to get through again. All in all, since I like puzzles and games, I give Blackmoor high marks for this aspect.
Sound, Music and Voice Acting
Relative to the other Nancy Drew games, this one comes out best. Understand that with a series of this scope, it seems reasonable to keep the rating within the Nancy Drew games, and not attempt comparison with the rest of Adventure games. By this time you either like Nancy's games or you don't. The lip synchronization is better than ever, though the characters' physical movements are somewhat wooden, as usual. Hey, if it runs well on a fairly obsolete computer, I have no reason to whine.
Graphics and Technical Considerations
As with the other aspects of the game, the developers continue to tweak their quality, and the graphics are - no surprise here - the best of the series. The playing area seems somewhat enlarged, which is a good thing, and the menu system derseves mention as well. The Load/Save menu looks the same as always, but it not only works better, there are unlimited Save slots. (This feature is not brand-new to Blackmoor, but it merits a compliment nonetheless.)
I played Blackmoor Manor on my old computer, which just barely makes the minimum, and it ran perfectly. A full-install option is available, which requires a little over 600 megabytes, and I strongly recommend doing that. The disk needs to be in the CD ROM drive to start the game, but with the full installation, it is never accessed again.
All in All
Relative to the Nancy Drew series as a whole, this one rates well. I would give it an A, in spite of the fact that I think forcing the player to repeat a fairly difficult task again and again, even after beating it is really unfair.
Enjoy the game, and hold your breath for Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock.
Final Grade: A
300 MB hard drive space
16-bit color graphics video card with at least 16MB of VRAM
16-bit Windows-compatible stereo sound card
12X CD ROM
Mouse and Speakers