Nancy Drew Dossier:
Lights, Camera, Curses!
With the increase of popularity of hidden object games, it seems there has been an almost equal rise in hybridization of the genre in an attempt to keep things nice and fresh, and Nancy Drew Dossier: Lights, Camera, Curses! is no exception. True, much of the gameplay involves hunting around different settings for specific objects, but from the very beginning you'll realize that this isn't your run-of-the-mill object finder.
Tinsel Town, home of the stars, birthplace of movie magic. Starry-eyed yokels make pilgrimages there in the hopes of becoming the next big thing, while the paparazzi lurks around every corner with the hopes of turning the current big things into washed up has-beens. Glamour, glitz, and gold reign supreme in the world of ditzy divas and domineering directors and who on earth would turn down an invitation to be a part of that? Especially if that invitation were a personal invitation to the sound stage of the much talked about upcoming blockbuster, "Pharaoh."
Okay, so maybe your invitation comes as the result of a series of mysterious accidents. Maybe those accidents are thought to be caused by the same curse that led to the death of the leading actress in the original 1930's production. Maybe we would rather just stay home. Luckily for us casual gaming enthusiasts, the young amateur sleuth, Nancy Drew, is not one to be daunted by such perils.
As the ingénue teen detective, you are called up by a frantic producer eager to have your help in getting to the bottom of a string of unexplainable accidents that threaten not only the future of the film, but also the health and well-being of the crew. As your investigation proceeds, you'll come to look upon everyone as a suspect in a twisting plot involving a priceless reel of film, and an even more priceless gem.
Instead of a daunting list of items to find, in Nancy Drew Dossier: Lights, Camera, Curses! you will be presented with a single challenge for every scene, and it's up to you to find the items you'll need to meet that challenge, and what you have to do once you have found them. Mix that with some rather clever mini games such as mixing smoothies, picking locks, and blowing up rocks, and what you have is a game that feels less like a hidden object game, and more like a true to form adventure game that has been streamlined for the casual gaming set.
Analysis: While I was intrigued by the title of this game from the beginning, I also was a little apprehensive. For starters, I tend to be about two decades and a gender away from the Nancy Drew target audience, and I was really skeptical of the hidden object mechanics that deviate so far from the norm.
Happily, my worries were proven baseless almost from the beginning. For one, the hidden object aspect of the game is brilliantly executed and does a very good job of integrating the game play with the story. How many times have you played a hidden object game and thought to yourself, 'Is finding a hotdog really vital to my ulterior motives at this point?' No, in Nancy Drew, every single object you find is an integral part of the story.
Speaking of story, I couldn't help but fall in love with not just the story, but how it was told. Through a combination of stylized cartoon/comic-book cut scenes, discovered articles, and live voice acting, the convoluted web of mystery and deception is told in a way that is both intriguing and sometimes funny. Eda's voice drips with Hollywood diva-ism, while I felt that the director's Australian accent was a nice touch (Disclaimer: Not being from Australia, I fully recognize that the accent may be completely off). Combine this with beautifully drawn settings and it is clear that a lot of effort was put into making this Nancy Drew adventure a gift to both the eyes and the ears (and one that the designers intended for you to enjoy whether you wanted to or not; you are frequently quizzed on what has happened up to that point).
That's not to say that this game doesn't come without it's faults. Most notably missing is the all-important hint feature that no hidden object game should be without, especially one in which you aren't given a list of things to find in the first place. Usually what you have to find is pretty obvious, but occasionally you can find yourself a little too close to pixel hunting for comfort.
Also, the mini-games could probably use a little tweaking; the first time or two you play one of the mini games they are a little too easy, and then all of a sudden they become hard enough to invoke the worst profanities out of even the most patient of gamers.
But these minor complaints aside, Nancy Drew is just gaggles of fun bundled up with a nice story that should be entertaining for kids and adults alike. Promise of a special ending for getting the highest detective rank is a nice incentive to play the game again, but is hardly necessary given how fun it is all on its own.
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