ND: Midnight in Salem

I finished Nancy Drew’s 33rd installment “Midnight in Salem” last night and what a journey it has been. I began playing the game on release day so technically it has taken me almost 7 months to complete this game.

A Bit of Back Story 

In case you’re new to the series, there has been a lot of attention (good and bad) on this particular game. I believe mentioning this information is important because it played a significant role in people’s reception and opinion of the MID.

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As is customary, HerInteractive was in the habit of releasing two games a year (yes, you read that right- two). Every time a game is released, a sneak peek trailer at the end of it is thrown in to reveal the next one. This went on for a very long time. So after Sea of Darkness (ND’s 32nd installments), fans knew that there will be a new game and it’s going to be Midnight in Salem.

However, in 2015 HerInteractive underwent big changes. In a letter to their fans, the company announced they will be shifting to Unity as the next game’s engine. As a result, this will affect the development schedule of MID, but that will also ensure better and smoother graphics…etc.

In addition, Lani Minella– who has been the voice behind the character Nancy Drew in the series for almost 20 years, was let go and Brittany Cox was hired. This resulted in an uproar in the community. Not to mention Lani, herself, has been… hmm, how do I say this? — very “vocal” about this decision. Based on what she was sharing with her fans, it was deduced that the reason she was let go was because she didn’t sound  “young enough”. HerInteractive denied this and banned one of Lani’s statements claiming she was sharing too much confidential information with the public.

Fans were sympathizing a lot with Lani because she does have a distinct voice and embodied THE Nancy Drew they’ve known for such a long time. That’s understandable but it’s also only her side of the story. It didn’t help that HerInteractive was elusive about many of the decisions they were making and frankly that is their right to do; however, fans were anguished for some kind of closure and they weren’t getting any.

To make things worse, in 2016, HerInteractive went completely quiet about MID and focused mainly on ND’s new mobile game Codes & Clues. This annoyed many people.

By 2019, many fans began losing all hopes of seeing MID– ever. However, eventually the company released more information about the characters and graphics as the game reached closer to its release date. And after several further delays just a couple of months away from its launch, the game finally came out.

With these factors taken into consideration you can imagine the amount of anticipation, expectation and suspense fans were slowly amassing over the course of 4 years waiting for this installment.

The Game 

Upon the request of a familiar ND character, Nancy flies to Salem, Massachusetts. There, she investigates an estate that is undergoing arson. The estate has roots in history and belongs to the Hathorne family, which was constructed by Judge Hathorne who in turn took part in the Salem witch trials. Drew races to uncover the truth with the aid of her friends and bold return of the Hardy Boys.

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The first thing that caught my attention in the game was the minimal interface. Icons and items are colorless and simple looking, mimicking most modern devices today. The second obviously being Nancy Drew’s voice. To my relief, it sounded suitable. I didn’t feel it was alienating from what we’re used to. It was definitely different as Lani’s voice is distinct but not distracting at the same time, which is good.

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Massachusetts looks stunning. The level design, the buildings, the music– it’s all nice. The characters on the other hand look less polished. I personally didn’t mind, because I don’t usually play ND games for their nice graphics. It’s the content that matters to me.

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The story is interesting but it could have been better. Unlike previously themed ND games, I didn’t feel like I learned a lot about Salem and the trials. There’s so much to work with here pertaining to that time period and history but sadly wasn’t utilized well.

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Bess and George, Nancy’s best buddies almost didn’t play any role in this game. Instead, the Hardy boys and Deirdre took their place. It’s a nice addition to have characters actively engage in the investigation. For instance, Deirdre is the detective’s Watson every step of the way. That’s a new experience in the series to have characters collectively piece things together. Usually, they’re a dial away to give you hints when needed but in MID, they’re physically there. Although I have to say that Deirdre’s presence can get a bit annoying at times especially when you’re trying to navigate a scene and she’s just too close to your face. It can get in the way of clicking and exploring things.

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As a result of having more characters involved, the conversations were interesting but it was also mentioned that they lacked interactiveness, which I’m afraid I kind of agree with. Usually the player is given the option to choose an answer that can affect the outcome; however in this game, the replies feel like they have little influence.

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The biggest let down for me was the lack of mini-games. It’s the aspect of the game that I usually look forward to the most. ND games are challenging and fun unlike many mainstream detective games out there. Each installment has creative mini game design. For instance, one game that comes to mind always is Shadow at the Water’s Edge, which is in Japan. That game seriously has a lot of cool mini games such as Sudoku, Kakuro and Bento puzzles. In comparison, MID is bland. There’s the “cooking” puzzle, which is slightly becoming an ND tradition by now, but other than that, there are hardly any well-crafted mini games to think of.

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And with that being said, the player can easily feel there’s little to do in this game aside from the main plot line. With previous games, you can leave one task or puzzle to pick up another. Your to-list is full and the game world feels rich. In this one, your iPhone’s check list is laughable. There’s usually only 1 or 2 tasks to accomplish. Kind of defeats the purpose of having a list really.

Without saying too much, the ending was appropriate. It wasn’t too obvious but neither was it too creative. And instead of a sneak peek trailer, Nancy drops a hint or two about a possible next game set in Austria (or maybe a sequel?).

The Verdict 

Although I’m sure many fans are happy to finally get their hands on MID, the uproar and negativity is understandable to a certain degree.

Having said that, I don’t think many people realize how difficult it is to roll out 2 games a year. I think what HerInteractive has done in the past is seriously commendable. It took a lot of effort to provide that level of consistency. As a result, fans developed a schedule. When things change, which are inevitable in any business, it’s normal to project a level of concern (especially with the Lani situation and her role in the games). And when there are a lot of delays justified for the sake of improving quality, fans’ expectations will soar.

Not many people were happy with the end result and some claim the character designs were even worse than previous installments. It makes me wonder if HerInteractive didn’t issue those promises, would people still think the same way? I think the game is a definite improvement from previous installment but not enough to justify the time spent on it to some people.

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I choose to take a more lenient position with the game. I’m certainly disappointed with many things in the game but I also understand that big changes in companies are not easy especially for small developer companies like HerInteractive. The company’s past accomplishments are enough for me to continue to want to have faith in what they do and I’m choosing to stay optimistic.

It’s going to take some time for them to maintain a schedule again, especially with old staff out of the building and new ones in (not to mention the pandemic situation).

So is it worth playing MID? Absolutely. If you’re new to the series; however, I would suggest starting with earlier ones. Not too early in the series though. Somewhere between games 21 and 32. The old games are an absolute gem but to new gamers, they might be outdated. Once you’re done with those 10 new installments, it’s certainly worth going back to the original games.

My final score is 4/5 ★★★★

  • 3/5 for gameplay
  • 4/5 for design
  • 2/5 for Puzzles
  • 3/5 for plot
  • Game Platform (played on): Mac
  • Game Link | Click Here (Also available on Steam & Mac Apple Store).
  • Trailer | Click Here

 

Another hidden object game in the same week (I don’t learn, do I?) Especially when I’ve said it a thousand times on here how I’m not a big fan of hidden object games but sometimes you’re just in the mood for an easy point and click game to pass time, you know?

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Well anyway, I heard the Dark Tales series are popular so I gave this one a shot especially when it’s an Edgar Allen Poe game. I knew it wasn’t going to be The Dark Eye material in any way (THIS Dark Eye in case it skipped your radar; a fantastic classic Edgar Allen Poe game back in the 90s). I figured at least we might get a fun twist of Poe’s poem. I even read it before playing it to be prepared; it really made no difference.

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Story wise, I suppose the plot is slightly more interesting-ISH than the average H.O. game. The plot has a couple of twists, though predictable. There were also a few hysterically funny moments like the punching scenes, although now that I think about it I’m pretty sure they weren’t meant to be funny.

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The way you find and collect your items inventory also resembles a hidden object game in a way, which is a nice change. The mini puzzles; however, were laughably easy except for the final puzzle which I spent a really long time trying to solve. It wasn’t even that difficult but required a reset which didn’t occur to me. I guess in puzzle games the RESET button is the equivalent of kicking a vending machine when it swallows your coins and nothing comes out. I need to make a mental note of that.

Is it worth playing? Maybe. If you like hidden object games, then you might enjoy this one. The graphics are nice, there’s that. And while it’s considered a short game, they do give you extra content upon completion (which I’m afraid I didn’t bother to try). That says everything I guess.

My final score is 2/5 ★★

  • 2/5 for gameplay
  • 3/5 for design
  • 2/5 for Puzzles
  • 1/5 for plot
  • Game Platform (played on): Steam.
  • Game Link | Click Here

 

Poisonous Promises is part of the Family Mysteries series, developed by Brave Giant and published by Artifax Mundi. It’s a hidden objects game that centers on Emma– a detective who tries to unravel the mystery behind several incidents where survivors show up with traces of poison on them. And much like many of the Family Mysteries series, the incidents involve several people/suspects and their connections to each other.

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Steam did a fantastic job in writing up the game description. Sadly I didn’t really find enough “oozing coolness” to keep me entertained. It’s a straight forward hidden object game with a few mini games on the side. The graphics are nice. They also focused a lot on technology, which I suppose is a cool feature. You can use your mobile phone as a flash light (which never occurs to other games), collect data and inspect evidence.

Poisonous Promises

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The game is very short but once you’re done they give you a bonus chapter, which I thought was great– only it didn’t really add much to the original story.

Not worth the full price for a PC/Mac unless you’re getting it cheaper on the iOS.

My final score is 2/5 ★★

  • 2/5 for gameplay
  • 3/5 for design
  • 3/5 for Puzzles
  • 1/5 for plot
  • Game Platform (played on): Mac (Apple App Store).

Resident Evil 3 Remake

I have been meaning to upload this for a while now but didn’t have the time. Let’s hope I remember everything. Let’s start with a little bit about the game’s background.

After surviving the Spencer Mansion incident, S.T.A.R.S. team members were now targeted by Umbrella for knowing too much. As a result, a new intelligent bio weapon was created named Nemesis-T whose sole objective is to hunt down S.T.A.R.S. members.

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Resident Evil 3 Remake’s main female character is Jill Valentine. The game kicks off with Valentine trying to escape Nemesis and stumbles on Umbrella’s UBCS member Carlos Oliveira. Much like many of Umbrella’s UBCS members, who are used by Umbrella to give the public a good image, are oblivious of the corporation’s bad workings and therefore helps Valentine escape. The two make their way through several chains of chaotic events to take out the enemy on their tail and uncover more of Umbrella’s hidden secrets.

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The level of design and overall quality is not much different from Resident Evil 2 Remake, which is nice because it makes RE3 a good transition. What’s more is that while RE3 allows the navigation of new territories, some locations are revisited to give the gamer a different perspective of what took place (or more specifically what’s going to take place in RE2).

The timelines of Resident Evil games can be confusing. Not to mention the remakes have minor changes compared to the originals. After working on the primers, I feel I developed a better grasp of things but I still feel sometimes like I need to go back to put two and two together. But anyway, I thought using the two games to complement each other to explain events was a really nice technique; however, that kind of felt short for me at some point.

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The suspense and thrill level was cranked up pretty high with this one, which is great. The battles sequences were fun but then the game almost fizzles out. The same technique used creatively to give you insight of RE2 become repetitive.

Having said that, I can never get enough of the game experience. I find it an absolute joy to navigate through the level designs and explore the lore and overall world. I just wish the game felt better tied up, especially when it ended on a slightly abrupt note. I wasn’t sure whether it was because I took a small break during playing the game to finish FF7, but I did feel the game was perhaps shorter than usual?

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Another thing, at some point my collectibles became overkill. I had ended up having more rations, ammo (and even weapons) than I really need. For a survival game that just didn’t feel right. It made me feel the game wasn’t planned right. I’m usually a very good organizer when it comes to planning out how to use my inventory but I can’t possibly be THAT good. I ended the game with over a dozen different varieties of herbs and a bulk load of unused ammo. Some weapons like the magnum I haven’t even used in fear of saving it for the right moment, which I’m afraid just never came by.

Once purchased, you also unlock a second online multiplayer game- Resident Evil: Resistance. Unlike previous RE games, the online multiplayer game is not in-game but they decided to make a completely new game for it. It’s a good bargain I suppose but I care little about multiplayer games in general so I would have preferred a much fuller and longer experience of the remake and only a fraction of the latter. For new gaming generations; however, I see this selling better.

Overall I definitely had fun playing the game and at this point I’m not really sure what’s the new direction for RE remakes. I believe this could be the last strand, unless they decide to remake 4 and 5, which aren’t so bad as they stand. A better bargain would be to remake the spin-off games.

My final score is 4/5 ★★★

  • 4/5 for gameplay
  • 4/5 for design
  • 3/5 for battle system
  • 3/5 for plot
  • Game Platform (played on): PS4
  • Game trailer

Related Posts 

  • Resident Evil Primer I | Link
  • Resident Evil Primer II | Link
  • Resident Evil Primer III | Link

 

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Let’s start with the disappointing stuff first. I try not to read or watch too much about a game I know I’m going to play and therefore I had no idea that FFVIIR was going to be one installment of many. By the time I reached halfway I thought it was strange how slow things were progressing. I had no complaints though because I loved the pacing and I appreciated how the narration took its time to unfold events and allowed the gamer to cherish every minute of it. By the end of the game; however, I felt a little disappointed at the lack closure. There was a reasonable progression towards an ending and things escalated to make you feel you’re going to face a final boss and receive a conclusion; however, many parts were left totally unexplained.

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It’s a little hard to delve into without getting into too much detail but it’s safe to think at this point that the storyline of the remake will not follow the original. There were changes pertaining to the fate of some characters and also the use of time travel or parallel universe which wasn’t used in the original. I think I’m okay with the former but I’m not really a fan of parallel universe especially when it has been deployed in Kingdom Hearts and it got to the point where it became so convoluted, complicated and overdone in a way. I really hope that won’t be the case with this remake although I think that’s where it’s headed.

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The other thing I didn’t like was the succession of battles in the latter segments of the game. Bosses were hurled one after the other in a short span of time. It’s common sometimes to get two bosses back to back in FF games but it felt slightly rushed towards the end and it made me feel worn out as opposed to feeling excited to take on the challenge.

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Now for what the game did right; there’s plenty. The world of FFVII is simply breathtaking. The level of detail that went into designing is mind-blowing. In addition, the contrast between the industrial parts and slums was fantastic. Midgar felt massive and had a unique personality. And I never knew slums could be portrayed in a cozy endearing way, and it’s not just nostalgia. The new characters, side missions and conversations added a lot of life to the city enough to make you care about their world and what happens to it.

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There were also clever mechanics around Final Fantasy hallmarks. For instance, it’s customary in Final Fantasy games to go on particular expeditions, fight GFs in order to unlock them; however, in the remake GFs are considered almost as a techno battle upgrades that you attain through a battle specialist and researcher. You are given a VR headset to battle the GF and then equip it. I thought this was a really creative method that made some aspects of the game seem believable as weirdly as that might sound given that the game is a “fantasy” but I guess it made it more grounded.

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Similarly, in order to learn about Shinra and Mako energy, the game deploys an exquisite experience embarking on a Shinra “tour” down to the tiniest detail to get background information. I was hoping that they added more lore to this particular segment but I guess they didn’t want it to overwhelm the player. As open world as an FF game can be, it is linear in the end.

Another interesting change is the skill grinding aspect. In most FF games, players visit dungeons or some enemy infested areas in order to grind and level up and it is very easy to find and do it whenever you need to upgrade but in the remake, aside from the main plot, these areas are limited. You can still revisit old places to level up but the game almost doesn’t expect you to like previous games. Instead, you can use colosseums, gyms or battle arenas to test your skills and level up. I think that’s a fantastic way to break the redundancy of needing to grind in order to level up. As for the battle system itself, it’s flawless. They combined both turn-base and live action into one in a very smart but simple system. I absolutely love it.

Finally, the music. Where do I start? The soundtrack is absolutely STUNNING. It’s everything a FFVII would want. It’s true to the classic, nostalgic, yet contemporary and relevant! Many of the old scores are refashioned in a jazzy, bluesy, even reggae way. It’s actually fun collecting records to add to your juke box.

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Overall the world of FFVIIR is rich and fantastic and it was wonderful going through the journey. Ironically I couldn’t say the same about the main direction of the game. I still worry where it’s headed and how it is going to unfold but I guess we will just have to wait and see what Tetsuya Nomura has in mind.

If you’re toying with the idea of playing this game- it’s definitely worth it! Just do it with an open mind.

My final score is 5/5 ★★★★★

  • 5/5 for gameplay
  • 5/5 for design
  • 5/5 for battle system
  • 3/5 for plot
  • Game Platform (played on): PS4
  • Game trailer