PC Game -- Nancy Drew: Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon

For those unfamiliar with Nancy Drew, she's been around since the 1930s solving mysteries in a style reminiscent of the clan from Scooby Doo - albeit with less Combies, humour and masks. Despite being in her 75th year, Nancy Drew appears to have no trouble keeping up with the times, and her latest title welcomes the Hardy Boys, two teen sleuths who have been solving crimes since 1927.

Mystery number 13 is "last train to blue Moon canyon". To get gamers in the mood for solving mysteries, Mindscape made the title on the box sufficiently hard to find, covering it with a ghostly black fog. Once I found that clue, I was ready to take on the mysteries that lay in Blue Moon Canyon.

The story takes place aboard a haunted train, hiding a century-old secret of a man named Jake Hurley who set off long ago on a luxurious (ghost-free) train to find an exorbitant amount of gold during the mining days. Things went awry after Jake's wife died, but Jake continued searching for riches. Years later, when the train was found, Jake had vanished and the train engineer was dead.

Now, a crack team of Nancy Drew, the Hardy boys, and several other sleuths have been brought together by popular socialite Lori Gerard to solve the mystery that's kicked off by Lori's own mysterious disappearance.

The story isn't as gripping as other adventure games I've played, but it does remain true to the Nancy Drew franchise which has thousands of followers. I was astonished by the 43,000 messages on www.herinteractive.com just about this game, which is the latest in the series.

Graphically, Nancy Drew succeeds with its first-person perspective, 3D rendering, and easy-to-handle interface. It plays much like a younger version of the Zork series of adventure games, with puzzles that range from very simple to the cerebral, and may even have you hitting the Internet for help. There are two difficulty levels as well; "Junior" for kids and "Senior" for adults who still haven't given up their Nancy Drew addiction.

Compared to other games in the series, Blue Moon Canyon is a little shorter, with some players completing it in two days. However, the difficulty level does make up for what it lacks in length. Overall, this length is fairly reasonable since it isn't priced as high as most new release PC games.

One thing that did astound me was the fact that I could die in this game. Even playing on junior difficulty, I managed to blow up the train and myself during the early stages - not something I was expecting from an adventure game, especially when there's no auto-save. That aside, it is a fairly fun product that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Verdict: A good adventure game with puzzles to help stimulate young minds. The story isn't too bad and will appeal to the audience of girls aged between 10 and 15.
Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Publisher: Mindscape
URL: www.mindscape.net.au
Price: $29.95

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Damien Donnelly

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