I have never been very good at video games, much to the chagrin of my nerdy father, his best friend and frequent house-guest Mark Jacobs of Mythic Entertainment, and now my equally nerdy boyfriend. I don’t have very good dexterity and frequently run into walls when attempting to use a controller or using the WASD keys on console game. I don’t enjoy violence and love solving puzzle or riddles, so finding a game that I enjoyed took a very long time. However, when I was a teenager, my dad introduced me to the point-and-click adventure game series Nancy Drew, created by Her Interactive.
I love these games and have happily played and beaten all 31 games that they have released. The games feature you as Nancy Drew, amateur sleuth and who has to solve varying types of mysteries. The games have puzzles, riddles, beautiful animation and artwork, and entertaining characters to interact with. My favorite of the was is #11, The Curse of Blackmoor Manor. You spend the whole game in a beautiful castle on the moors in England, finding and solving small mysteries around the building to figure out why your host has hidden herself away and out of eyesight for weeks. The manor is very old and has clues hidden around that date back generations and that have been simply accepted by the current tenants as odd quirks of the house because they do not understand these clues’ significance in solving the mystery.
One my favorite things about these games is how the puzzles are put into the story. They are thoughtfully placed and make sense to the overarching plot. In Blackmoor, your guest room has a tapestry hanging on it. You can view the tapestry at any point in the game and Nancy will read the poem woven into it, slightly emphasizing what seems like random words until you later come across a locked door that cannot be opened until you solve the slide puzzle. You are able to see the tapestry every time you are in her room, which is often, and she will read it out loud every time you examine the tapestry.
You as the player have to figure out that order that the tiles go over the door is reflected in the poem, with the words that Nancy emphasizes represented by the pictures on the tiles. The moon is the crescent moon tile, Charity is one hand handing another a coin, folly being a jester, and strength as Atlas. You have to refer back to the poem to double check the order that the tiles are supposed to be placed in and to try and figure out which tile goes to what line of the poem. The puzzle itself is fairly difficult and repetative as you have to manually click the direction that you wanted each tile to go. It became incredibly aggravating when you had one tile out of place and couldn’t swap two adjacent tiles without having to ruin all of the hard work you got to put the first couple of tiles in place.
The first time I played the game, I could not figure out that the old man in the hood was Father Time. I think that I tried to put the sun in his place, thinking that the rise and set of the sun represented the passing of time. It was very interesting to me, from a literary standpoint, to see non-tangible, non-concrete ideas represented in small icons. The nouns like ‘knight’ and ‘moon’ had obvious representations, but I think the designers wanted to see if they could fool anybody by including a moon in the same tile as the knight. I had no idea what champagne glasses looked like the first time I played so I become very confused when there was not a delicious piece of slightly burned bread as any of the options.
This poem would not exist if not for the video game and it will not exist outside of the tapestry hanging on Nancy Drew’s bedroom. I really wish that I was at HerInteractive’s studios in the meeting where they discussed this poem to figure out how they planned it. Did the poem idea come first, or the puzzle? Who was the unlucky member on their staff that had to write a poem tying together things like geometers and toasts?
I haven’t seen any puzzles like this in later Nancy Drew games, which saddens me. I really enjoyed coming across this puzzle the first time I played it and feel that it was a wonderful, unique addition to the game.