Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy

You, as Nancy Drew, visit Ireland's Castle Malloy for a friend's wedding and discover that the groom has mysteriously vanished; can you find him in time to save the wedding?

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Genre: Mystery Adventure
Release Date: October 2008
Platform: PC

Note: Originally published 6 November 2008     

I have to say that like most Nancy Drew addicts, I have been eager for this game to come out for a long time. Now that it has, I have a self-satisfied smile on my face, knowing that as usual Ms. Drew and the gang have managed to solve the mystery again and in doing so, they’ve created yet another hit for Her Interactive. This time our teenaged friend Nancy is traveling to Ireland for a friend’s wedding, playing maid-of-honor in the process. Of course, being a Nancy Drew game, the fun (and mystery) start almost immediately when our girl is run off the road by a raving Banshee. Not the way I’d like to be welcomed to that beautiful country, but our girl is nothing if not plucky, and finally finds her way to the castle and to her friend Kyler. Apparently her groom-to-be is missing, and no one is sure what’s happened to him. And while Nancy’s trip has suddenly taken a turn toward the mysterious, we, the players, don’t mind at all. After all, how many of us will ever get to see Ireland or a real castle in our lives?

Now, I don’t want to give away the entire story here. I’d rather you play the game and enjoy finding your way to the end yourself. (Unless you’re like me and need the occasional walkthrough!) So let’s jump to the important stuff:

Graphics:

The graphics in Castle Malloy are just as lovely as in previous games; sharp, very colorful, and in some places true eye candy. When I first walked into the Library I was bowled over by the details of the stonework, the fireplace, and the glowing moon and stars that were visible from just above Kyler’s desk. Beautiful! I’ve always enjoyed the graphics in ND games, and this time was no exception. They’re tasteful and very well-made, so that in some areas I wanted to climb through my monitor and actually “be” in that space myself. Everything looks touchable, from the leather-bound books to the solid stone walls to the puzzles sprinkled around to play with. The graphics not only engage the eye but also the hands, making it seem almost possible to feel everything around you.

Having said that, there is one thing about the graphics that made game-play occasionally difficult for me. Although we ARE in a dark, old castle with barely if any electrical lighting, it can be almost too dark and hard to see sometimes. For example, in the Great Room, part of the outer wall is gone and we can see the moonlit night beyond. It’s lovely, but is also makes it a little difficult to see what is in the room itself, despite the addition of a lantern early in the game. Also, once Nancy makes her way outside to wander about the castle grounds, it can be difficult to keep your eye on where you’re going, which can sometimes mean falling into a bog! Granted, the lantern is a huge help and it’s not a big problem, but something to share for those of us who wear glasses and struggle with seeing things in the dark.

The minor darkness issue doesn’t take away from the game play or the genuine beauty of the graphics though, so my grade for this area is a solid A.

Puzzles:

I love puzzles and there is no shortage of them here. From cute kid-like ones such as “find the difference” to more challenging ones like the weight-balancing one, there’s plenty see, do, and play with here at the Castle. Some of them are instantly intriguing, such as the rune puzzle out on the castle grounds. Looking at blocks with many different pictures and runes on them then discovering how to match them up is really a challenge, especially if you try it before you receive a book full of hints! Also, trying to make your way across the boggy grounds without falling in is a test all of its own. Every puzzle seems geared towards both learning and having fun, and it was always a bit of a triumph for me when I was able to solve one by myself! Of course there are hints in the game that will give you what you need, and those hints (often coming in books) are a life saver. There’s something very satisfying about following a train of thought (or a trail of breadcrumbs) and then seeing that moment when the puzzle is solved and you get a prize. It reminds me of being a kid down at the beach playing the game and trying to win a stuffed animal. Such fun!

The puzzles I have to give an A to as well!

Game play:

In Castle Malloy we have a mix of moving normally about a room or space as in previous games, but an addition has been made to this game that’s a little different. When you are outside of the castle or local pub, you’re moving about the castle grounds in 3rd person rather than 1st. As soon as Nancy exits the castle or other indoor space, we see her tiny little figure in front of us, holding her lantern, and we as players maneuver her around the boggy grounds that way. When she comes upon an area that can be entered or interacted with, the game play returns to 1st person. Then when she exits again, the game is in 3rd person once again.

I have to admit this took me a bit of getting used to because I’ve always preferred 1st person to 3rd person games. Especially since the Nancy Drew games have been in 1st person from the beginning. I think that I would’ve preferred this whole game to be in 1st person, but once I got used to the back and forth way of playing, it wasn’t bad.

I’ll give game play an A-.

Solving the mystery/Storytelling:

I think one of the most important things in an adventure game is the story behind the pretty graphics, and I enjoyed the storytelling in this one a lot. It can’t be easy to come up with brand new stories for games as they come out, and it’s especially hard to not become repetitive. This mixture of weddings, missing grooms, Irish legends, and derring-do was a lot of fun and very original. The intrigue of solving the mystery, as well as trying to figure out each player and what is really going on in their minds was fun, and I especially liked trying to figure out our bride-to-be. From the beginning, I found myself thinking about WHY she wasn’t more upset than she was, and from that hook came a great deal of intrigue and snoopy, delicious detective work.

Yup, I have to give the story part of our game a solid A as well.

Overall:

This game is beautifully done, fun to play, and gorgeous to look at. With only a few minor quibbles such as the darkness and the movements into 3rd person, I really love this game. Sometimes you just can’t put your finger on why a game works when another might not have (for example, this Nancy-lover didn’t care much for White Wolf). But for me, I don’t always need to know. If I can sit down, pop in the CD and get lost for a few hours or days feeling completely absorbed, then I know it’s a good game. That’s what happened for me with The Haunting of Castle Malloy and I think it will happen for you too.

My overall grade? A all the way!

System Requirements:

    Windows® XP/Vista
    1 GHz or greater Pentium or equivalent class CPU
    128 MB of RAM
    1 GB or more of hard drive space
    32 MB DirectX 9.0 compatible video card
    16 bit DirectX compatible sound card
    24X CD-ROM drive, mouse, and speakers

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