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Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull review: Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull

If you're looking for a good mystery or a fun game for your kids, you could do a lot worse than Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull.

Alex Selth
3 min read

Nancy Drew has always been an interesting choice of character to include in a video game. A teenage detective who has somehow managed to remain 18 years of age since the series started in 1930, the Nancy Drew video game series has outsold each of the Harry Potter, Myst and Lord of the Rings franchises individually, making it the top-selling PC adventure game series. Legend of the Crystal Skull is her 17th computer game mystery, developed by Her Interactive and published in Australia by Mindscape.


Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull

The Good

It's a good game for the kids. Excellent value for money. Hypnotically addictive. Can outwit an alligator, a spider and an iguana.

The Bad

Variable stability. Lacking in graphical quality.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for a good mystery or a fun game for your kids, you could do a lot worse than Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull.

The Nancy Drew games cross the line between point-and-click adventures in the vein of LucasArts' Monkey Island and Agatha Christie's Poirot. Players click on a variety of objects and characters to collect certain items, which are then used and combined to progress the plot, either by opening doors and such, or by encouraging other characters to reveal salient plot points. As with all point-and-click games, whether mystery or adventure, the worst part is often attempting valiantly to hitch a ride on the developer's unique train of thought — while the game does often provide you with hints as to how to progress, we expect that few people's first thought will be to use charcoal and paper to get etchings of strange glyphs on a wall.

As far as the plot goes, Nancy must uncover the mystery of, strangely enough, a crystal skull rumoured to protect its owner from almost any cause of death except murder. The owner of the skull recently passed away, but the skull could not be found amongst his belongings, so it's up to you to find the artefact before it falls into the wrong hands. As far as plots for video games go, it's fairly weak, but younger and more casual audiences should enjoy it, and the meat of this game is in how the narrative progresses, rather than the plot itself. The game recommends you play it at night with the lights off and the door shut; however, we don't recommend letting younger players attempt this, as there are a few shocks throughout the game which are cause for concern.

Legend of the Crystal Skull contains a number of puzzles which, depending on which of the two difficulty settings you've chosen, range from the fiendishly difficult to the insultingly easy. With these two difficulties, the game plays very differently, so it's worth replaying the game just to get this extra experience — the game isn't too long as to make this painful, with much of your time spent listening to the fully voiced, reasonably well acted, and unfortunately unskippable, dialogue.

The graphics are nothing to write home about, but for this type of game, it doesn't matter. Legend of the Crystal Skull is a game about puzzling out answers and following the story — you're too intellectually involved to be distracted by needless graphical dressing, like textures.

Stability is an issue — we experienced several crashes to the desktop throughout our play time. Irritatingly, most of these occurred when we clicked save game. We played this game primarily in Windows Vista, and while Mindscape claims that the game is supported for both Windows XP and Vista, we experienced no such save game crashes when checking it out on a smaller, weaker XP laptop.

A review of one Nancy Drew game is likely to be an accidental review of the entire series, as Legend of the Crystal Skull seems to be very similar to its 16 predecessors and its (so far) three successors: The Phantom of Venice, The Haunting of Castle Malloy, and Ransom of the Seven Ships. This is no bad thing, as fun garnered from hours of gameplay with Legend of the Crystal Skull's mystery is more than worth the AU$29.95 asking price. If you're looking for a good mystery or a fun game for your kids, you could do a lot worse than Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull.