Sunday, November 29, 2009

Aimless Island - a review of Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships!

My wife and I have played almost every Nancy Drew adventure game to date. We just finished Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships. Want to know what I thought of it? Read on!

What I liked

  • Some good puzzles
  • Setting was nice

What I didn't like

  • Hard to figure out what to do next
  • Very few characters
  • Minimal music
  • Weak conclusion
  • Teeeeeedious

Quick Plot

Nancy's friend is missing! Go to the island and find her!


  • Standard point-and-click travel and environmental interaction
  • New sailing feature
  • New scuba diving feature (gotta keep that tank filled!)
  • Rock-climbing (this might be new)
  • Driving, as seen in other games
  • Playing games with monkeys
  • Metal detecting and digging
  • Puzzles


For some reason, the music didn't do much for me this time around. There is very little variety in the music for most of the game. It provides some accompaniment, but it's nothing special. The composer for the Dossier series is pumping out better music for that line of games.


The story was one of the best parts of the game. It involves some old Spanish ships and some treasure.

Playing the Game

This is where the game falls short of previous Nancy Drew adventures. I can imagine the developer meeting where they planned the game:
Developer 1: "You know, we just need to get this game done. Any ideas for speeding up the process?"

Developer 2: "Well, what gamers want is a good chunk of time spent in a video game. Time equals value for the gamer."

Developer 3: "That's right. How about this: What if we just make a lot of the mechanics tedious and repetitive so that it feels like the player is doing something even though he really isn't!"

Developer 1: "Brilliant!"
And so they got to work. And it shows. You spend a huge portion of the game not solving puzzles, gaining new insight, or discovering new fascinating locations. Rather, a hefty majority of the game is spent driving a golf cart around the island. And wouldn't you know it - the map of the island isn't with you for easy access - no - it's all the way back at the resort where you're staying - so you have to memorize it!

When you're not driving, you're climbing (and getting pelted by rocks), sailing around an expanse of water, playing boring games over and over to win prizes from monkeys, scuba diving, and traveling all the way back to the resort to fill up your scuba tank! Doesn't that sound like fun? No? That's because it isn't really. Good adventure games keep you playing by leading you to
  • participate in interesting conversations with interesting characters,
  • discover clues in interesting locations, or best of all,
  • solve (challenging or interesting) puzzles.

This brings me to the best part of Seven Ships. There were, thankfully, some fun, amusing, and challenging puzzles in this game. That was the part where I told my wife, "Okay, let me take the mouse now!"

Oh, and to top it off, they give you one of the all-time adventure game no-nos: a maze. Sure, you're scuba diving, and there are symbols which are supposed to guide you, but it's still a maze.

To avoid spoilers, I won't go into much detail, but I'll say that I was dissatisfied with both the resolution to the mystery, and with the ending.

Suitable for the family?

The kids sat with us for much of this game. There's a talking parrot in the game, which is great for the weefolk. And, of course, the monkeys.

The family man's final ruling

This game often leaves you with little direction. Usually, I like to solve these games without looking online for hints. This time, we had no choice. We had to visit UHS multiple times. You're supposed to get your direction from an old journal you find. This just didn't work well.

Honestly, I was disappointed. I have been having a lot more fun with the newer Nancy Drew Dossier series than with the long-lived adventure series. My wife is the primary Nancy Drew fan in our house, and she was disappointed with this game too. I would recommend trying some of the older entries if you're new to the series.

You'll like the game if...

  • You're a die-hard or completist Nancy Drew adventure fan
  • You love a tropical island setting for an adventure

You won't like the game if...

  • You want lots of good puzzles and gameplay that provides constant forward momentum

My rating:

If you want to play Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships, click below:

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