Nancy Drew: The Final Scene Review

It seems that no matter where Nancy Drew goes, something mysterious is sure to happen. This time she is visiting Maya, a high school friend, in St. Louis, Missouri, who reports for the University newspaper. Nancy and Maya have tickets at the historic Royal Palladium Theater for the premier of a new movie Vanishing Destiny (how appropriate!), and Maya has an appointment to interview the star, Brady Armstrong. Just as soon as Maya goes inside his dressing room to do the interview, you guessed it, she disappears without a trace! It is as if she vanished into thin air. Shortly after the disappearance, Nancy receives a telephone call from the kidnapper that if the demolition of the theater (scheduled in 3 days) is not stopped, Maya's life will be in jeopardy. Nancy has quite a time convincing the authorities that a kidnapping has indeed taken place. In fact, they are sure it is just another teenage prank.

The Final Scene is the fifth in the series of Nancy Drew games, and I've played all but the first one. It has been a pleasure to see the overall quality of the games improve over time, as is evidenced by the flawless playability of this game and the one before it, Treasure in the Royal Tower.

The Dreamcatcher release of The Final Scene ships on one CD-ROM and comes with a no-frills, but well-written, manual explaining the icons, cursors and gameplay actions. The interface is clean and simple with a main menu and sub-menus that look, act, and sound like those in the preceding Nancy Drew games. There are still only 7 game save slots which I personally find annoying, but if you are frugal that number might be enough. The gameplay screen consists of the main interaction one at the top, which takes about three-fourths of the area, with the conversation and inventory screens below it.

Subtitles are automatically on, so you can read along while a conversation is taking place. You can change that in the "Game Setup" screen if you prefer playing without them. When you are in the middle of a main topic of conversation, the choices for replies or additional questions appear at the bottom left. Your selections do not change the non-player character replies very much, if at all, however, and it is impossible to make a mistake. While talking, the characters on-screen mouth the words very well and even use body language (shifting positions, hand movements) to make their point.

In my personal opinion, adventure games should have many interesting non-player characters with whom to interact and converse. The more, the merrier, I say! But, as is typical in the series, there are only four "suspects" whom Nancy can actually meet face-to-face. The presentation of the characters is very good -- their features, clothing, and voices are appropriate to each one -- and they each have distinct personalities, histories, and interest in the theater. The voice actors did an excellent job of portraying their characters, even the ones on the phone. The policeman Nancy calls sounded a lot like Dan Akroyd and had a comical tone to his voice.

Graphic-wise, the inside of the theater (where you play the entire game), is nicely rendered and realistically drawn. The old theater is rich in artistic details with carvings, plush seating, and many wall hangings to catch your eye. It includes everything you would expect including dressing rooms, back stage areas, a plush lobby with amusements and a refreshments stand, a large balcony, and a projection room. There are "secret" passages and rooms to be found, all of which were used by the performers in the early days of the theater.

While the game appears to be in 3D, you are not free to look all around at the rooms since there is no 3D panning. Rather, you are limited to where the arrow cursors will allow you to look. This is fine, but there was a time or two when I would have liked to look up to see what was there (from the main level of the auditorium up to the balcony, for instance). There are cut-scenes which show other spots of interest where you cannot normally look -- the overhead lighting area back stage, is one example. The cut-scenes blend in well with the other graphics of the game.

I was a little disappointed with the music. Much of it sounded like a carnival and reminded me of some I heard while playing Faust: 7 Games of the Soul. Since magicians were frequent performers in the theater in the 1920s, I can understand why this type of music was chosen, but I felt it was not in keeping with what I was "feeling" while playing. Since the music was mostly for background, the majority of the time I did not even notice it. The exception to this was during the "end game" section. Since time was running out, the end-game music became utterly suspenseful and evoked the appropriate atmosphere of panic that the player should be feeling during those fretful moments.

I always play a Nancy Drew game twice -- once as a Junior Detective and once as a Senior. Why? Because the puzzles vary in difficulty and, sometimes, in design -- and because I just like to see the difference between the games. Like in its predecessors, Final Scene offers no difference between the two in the overall mystery, the story or the final outcome.

In Final Scene, the puzzles are of the same types for Junior and Senior Detectives, only differing in difficulty (and layout) depending upon the detective level you choose as you start a new game. It is obvious that the designers put a lot of creative thought in the overall design and object of the puzzles. Logic, intuition, and pure guessing works on the majority of them, so in-game clues are not provided, or even required. There is box on which you must rearrange the pieces to form a picture, an innovative board game, a slide-the-tiles puzzle (but not a true "slider"), a game of concentration and a tile flip puzzle (very similar to the spindles in Haunted Mansion and the chain puzzle in Royal Tower). In addition, you will be working with a few pieces of equipment that require certain objects or codes to operate. Even for Senior Detectives, the puzzles in this game are pretty easy.

A minimal amount of reading is required to get you through the game. There are more people to call on the telephone than just Nancy's friends, which is a change. Those conversations can be rather lengthy but are important in order for other things to happen. Other event "triggers" happen mostly with puzzle solving and conversations. You will be doing quite a bit of travelling back and forth between characters (at the front and back of the theater) to accomplish one task.

Final Scene is divided into three days, but you have plenty of time to accomplish everything before the wrecking ball hits. Within each day you can solve puzzles in any order, so the game itself is fairly non-linear in that respect. In fact, you can go back and play a puzzle again if you wish. Elimination of the "day to night" clock is also a welcome change. Depending upon how you play, the game can be fairly short, though. I would have like harder puzzles (some that require hard-to-find clues) and more evidence for Nancy to find. More characters would have added much to the game as well.

In summary, I may have enjoyed The Final Scene more if I had not played any of the previous Nancy Drew games. I liked it well enough, but as stories go, it did not intrigue me the way Message in a Haunted Mansion did. The story is somewhat interesting and you don't know who the kidnapper is until the very end of the game (although the player has a pretty good idea). Ultimately, I developed no feelings for the characters and didn't care who did it or what happened to the theater in the end.

-- Jeanne Muse