Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships
First posted on 10 September 2009. Last updated on 21 November 2014.
Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships is 20th title and another solid installment in the Nancy Drew series from Her Interactive. Fans of previous games in the series will undoubtedly enjoy it, even if it does not quite measure up to the standard set by Nancy Drew: Danger by Design, Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch, and Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger. On the positive side, a diverse lineup of creative puzzles in the game is sure to challenge even seasoned adventure fans. On the negative side, the characters in the game are given few opportunities for development, and Nancy spends more of her time interacting with monkeys and an irritating parrot (perhaps a relative to the parrot from one of the earlier Nancy Drew games). Nevertheless, solid production values and a vibrant tropical atmosphere make Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships a pleasurable experience for gamers of all ages.
The game begins when Nancy arrives at an isolated island in the Bahamas, where she intends to meet her best friends Bess and George for a relaxing vacation. Unfortunately, when she arrives, she learns that Bess has been kidnapped and nobody knows what has happened to her or the owners of the resort. George has evaded capture and is on hand to help Nancy (mostly by trying to repair a broken phone). The kidnapper demands that Nancy finds a lost treasure, a quest that will have plenty of mystery and danger for the sassy detective. The key to the mystery is the "seven ships", a Spanish treasure fleet disappeared in the area some 300 years ago. Fortunately, the kidnapper allows Nancy to find the journal of El-Toro, commander of the fleet who has left behind many clues to the whereabouts of the treasure.
Nancy is not alone on the island, but the people she meets there have little to offer. George is frantic and thinks of only finding Bess. While this is understandable given the circumstances, it is a shame that she does not have a larger role to play. Although the player can switch between George and Nancy, there are only a few points in the game where this is necessary. George spends most of the time standing behind a counter and trying to repair a phone; her dialog options are severely limited. Johnny Rolle is a Jamaican beach bum whom Nancy meets on the island; he reluctantly helps Nancy, but only after she performs certain services for him in exchange. Although there is more to this character than meets the eye, Nancy's interactions with him are quite limited. There is also a talking parrot that plays a small role, and the player can feed it fruit to see it perform tricks. However, these tricks are rather unexciting and hardly worth the effort. In fact, Nancy's greatest interaction is with the monkeys on the island, obnoxious creatures who steal equipment and love to play games. Indeed, at several points in the game Nancy must play games with these monkeys in order to win prizes from them. Of all the characters, perhaps the most interesting is El Toro, whom Nancy learns about only by reading his journal. The fate of the fleet and the sailors is by far the most appealing part of the story.
There are many puzzles in this game. Many are based on the classic logic puzzles that are commonly recycled in other adventure games, though this game does a good job integrating them into the story and the theme. As with most titles in the Nancy Drew series, some puzzles in this game are educational, such as a puzzle involving bats. Nancy must explore a series of caves to find a certain species of bat, using clues from a book as well as the frequency of their screeches. Most of these logic puzzles are quite fun. However, several puzzles are made more difficult by short time limits, particularly when the game is played on advanced difficulty. (The game offers 2 levels of difficulty: Senior Detective and Junior Detective.) A challenging puzzle that stands out is a Soduko like puzzle in a chest deep underwater. Nancy's oxygen supply is limited, so the player will need to make several trips back and forth between the chest and the oxygen tanks back in the resort. Likewise, the mini games Nancy must play with the monkeys can be quite difficult, including a game that involves throwing coconuts at a series of targets. The player must move the mouse very quickly and accurately to have a chance at winning. Another mini game has Nancy scaling a cliff face as rocks fall from above; it is very difficult to evade the rocks, and if Nancy's energy bar runs out, she will fall to her death and the player has to start over.
The production values in this game are on par with other titles in the series, with crisp scenery, catchy music, and quality voice work. Character animation is good, with convincing body movements and facial expressions. The action and navigation sequences are fairly well done, though driving a golf cart all around the island quickly gets tedious after awhile; there is no map which the player can click on to zip instantly to a previously visited location. The sailing and diving sequences are fun, though the frequent backtracking to get more oxygen can be tiresome.
In summary, Nancy Drew: The Ransom of the Seven Ships is a quality adventure game that will appeal to longtime fans as well as newcomers. However, I hope that future stories will involve more meaningful interactions with the characters that Nancy meets. George's role is this game is quite limited, and she spends so much time hopelessly working on a phone alone rather than helping Nancy. Likewise, Bess does not interact with Nancy or George at all for better part of the game; the player does not meet her until the very end, so only Nancy Drew fans who are familiar with the books will know anything about her. On the other hand, the monkeys in the game are lively and cute, and there are plenty of fun puzzles for the player to solve. I recommend this game for every adventure game fan, though I also recommend newcomers to try out one of the other titles in the series first.