Written by  :  Jeanne (76520)
Written on  :  Feb 09, 2002
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars

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A must play for adventurers (of any age) who love a good mystery

The Good

Even though this game takes place in San Francisco in an old Victorian mansion, the theme is distinctly Chinese. The entire house is elaborately decorated with oriental furnishings and wallpapers, and the whole place is gorgeously presented to you on screen. The history of the house itself is intriguing all by itself, and learning about the mansion’s previous owners is Nancy’s first order of business. The suspense is compounded when Nancy learns that the mansion could be haunted!

The puzzles in this game all center around a cryptic poem found on an intricate tapestry in Nancy’s bedroom. Each room in the mansion holds at least one mystery that must be solved, all connected somehow to that poem. Talking to other characters in the game is of major importance in finding out the truth behind strange incidents happening in the house as well as what that poem means.

All well integrated into the story, the puzzles are different in the manner they are presented in the game and are, for the most part, very creatively done. They include object-oriented ones, a jigsaw, a sliding puzzle and a maze, and even one that requires playing a few notes of music. None of them are particularly difficult if you have found the clues.

Junior and Senior Detectives will see definite differences not only in puzzle difficulty, but also in the clues for those puzzles. Nancy is more verbal for Juniors too, providing them more information than she does for the Seniors.

It is nice to see a game developer learn from their mistakes. The dramatic improvements in this game versus the one before it (Stay Tuned For Danger) are astounding. Flawless design and clean, easy-to-learn controls make this an absolute pleasure to play.

Soft themed music plays in the background, and appropriate sound effects add to the realism. Voice acting, tones and facial movements of the characters are all excellent.

The Bad

Overwriting saved games is just not my style. Limiting the number of slots in an adventure game is a way to frustrate players, and detracts from the overall enjoyment.

Setting the clock to change from day to night is sort of neat, but it becomes tiresome when you’ve accomplished everything you need to do and it’s still the middle of the day (or night). You then must travel all the way up to your bedroom to reset the clock.

A Maze and a Slider … oh my! The maze is presented as a lock-out for a laptop computer which Nancy must hack into. Unnecessary, in my opinion, but the story supports it. The slider is just one of a group of layered puzzles at the end of the game. The Junior level slider is much easier than the Senior. I simply think that this type of puzzle has been overused in adventure games.

The Bottom Line

I highly recommend Message in a Haunted Mansion for anyone who loves adventures – especially mysteries. If you are new to computer adventures, choose the Junior Detective level. Experienced gamers will find the Senior level very challenging. Although the target audience is “girls age 10 and over”, don’t let that stop you. Everyone will enjoy it, no matter what gender or age.