Nancy Drew has long ruled mystery books alongside her male counterparts, the Hardy Boys. Since 1998 Seattle developer and publisher, Her Interactive, has been making Nancy Drew games for the PC and Mac. Now Her Interactive makes the jump to the iPad with Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch HD. Should you make the jump as well?
The story is based on the 5th book in the Nancy Drew series, "The Secret of Shadow Ranch." It takes place in Arizona at the Shadow Ranch, a dude ranch owned and operated by Bet and Ed Rawley, who are the aunt and uncle of Nancy's best friends, Elizabeth "Bess" Marvin and Georgia "George" Fayne.
Bet and Ed are having problems trying to keep the ranch in business because of a seemingly recent haunting by the ghost of Dirk Valentine and more often, his phantom horse. Eerie whistles in the night, the glowing ghost-like horse, strange accidents and the sudden appearance of dangerous wild animals near the ranch have made guests want to stay at rival ranch, Black Creek Ranch.
Nancy, not believing in ghosts and feeling that there is a more rational and earthly explanation, decides to help her friends, Bess and George, solve the strange mysterious happenings at the ranch. Along the way she encounters other mysteries such as "Coranado's Sword,"" the theft of 10,000 Pesos," and "finding gold."
The secrets to these mysteries though will not be revealed here.
Controls and Gameplay
Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch HD is less like a game and more like an interactive book. You swipe across the iPad (or tap the right side) to turn pages, touch highlighted words to gets facts, clues, or sound effects. Touching pictures also activates sound effects or moments to go with the story.
Now that's not to say there aren't any gameplay elements because there are. There are hidden object puzzles, word jumbles, and "making words out of other words" mini games scattered throughout the story. The horse race word jumbles were like a mini game inside a mini game, you would be in the horse race and every word you solved gave your horse a burst of speed.
In each chapter are collectable "words" that you have to find to unlock the "making words out of other words" mini game. When you've found all the collectables and beat their mini game it unlocks a mini mystery for you to solve. Some of the collectibles though are only found by going back through a chapter and making alternate choices, so it helps if you read everything.
Graphics and Sound
The illustrations done for Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch HD were nice, not cutting edge, but then again this is the iPad. The cool thing is that they were all interactive, touching them always activated a sound and sometimes a small animation.
The music and sounds are done well and in such a way that they are not intrusive. There were times I didn't even notice the soundtrack change. Can't say much for the voice acting, it was mostly a couple words here and there, nothing to really judge it by.
OK, I will be the first to say this is not aimed at my age group or demographic at all, but then again Nancy Drew was never really written for boys or men. So I asked a female friend of mine to give Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch HD a read through and tell me her thoughts. Oddly enough we both came to the same conclusions.
We both thought it was a great story and games for the target audience of young girls and women. We also though it would make an excellent story book for someone reading to younger girls. The interactive elements make for excellent enhancements for the story reader to help keep a younger listener's attention and allows the younger reader to be "part" of the story.
So funnily enough both of us arrive at the same score of 4 out of 5, but for different reasons. Her reason She remembers Nancy Drew being more of a broader appeal to girls and boys while this story is focused more towards girls. Personally I though Nancy Drew was always for girls. My ding is for the really light game content. Still I feel it is an excellent storybook that young mystery readers, Nancy Drew fans in particular, will enjoy.
The Apple App Store rates Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch HD as 4+ and Her Interactive rates it at 10 to Adult.