By: Armaan Khan
Before you read this review, you need to know that Tomb of the Lost Queen is the 26th installment in the Nancy Drew adventure game series since its inception in 1998. Let that sink in: twenty-six. You don’t get to 26 releases unless you’re doing something right, and judging from Tomb of the Lost Queen, developer Her Interactive has been doing a lot right.
Tomb of the Lost Queen sticks Nancy in the middle of the Egyptian desert, as part of a team excavating a dig site believed to be the final resting place of a… um… lost queen. An unknown assailant attacks Nancy’s mentor, who also happens to be the dig’s leader, an act that sets the amateur detective on a path to solve mysteries from both the ancient past as well as the immediate present.
The game is played in a typical adventure-game format: you view the world from Nancy’s perspective, interacting and moving between scenes with the click of a mouse. The interface is extremely streamlined, requiring only left clicks, which makes playing very intuitive as well. Every production value screams excellence: the background art is beautiful, the character animations expressive; the ambient sound effects are appropriate, the music subtle but ear-catching , and the voiceovers extremely well-acted. This all supports an intriguing story containing some sharp writing and sharper dialog, as well as the best characterizations I’ve experienced in an adventure game in a long time. The end result is an entertaining experience from start to finish.
Tomb of the Lost Queen is an adventure game, so you’ll be expected to solve lots of puzzles. There are two difficulty settings, amateur and master, with amateur mode offering simpler versions of most puzzles as well as a hint system that I’ll discuss in a bit. Overall, the puzzle design and variety is strong. Standouts include some cipher-substitution puzzles–which I loved to bits and wish the entire game was made of–and a wonderfully tense path-connection puzzle that completes the game. A few puzzles were vague and obtuse to the point of sending me scrambling for hints and walkthroughs, and the second-to-last puzzle didn’t make any sense to me at all, but the quality still stands head and shoulders above most other adventure games I’ve played.
The biggest surprise about Tomb of the Lost Queen is that is doesn’t hold your hand, even on amateur mode. You need to be paying close attention to what’s on screen, and use all the tools at Nancy’s disposal—including a handy cameraphone—to successfully complete the game. This lack of coddling was frustrating for me at times when I didn’t know what to do, but adventure game purists should enjoy it immensely.
I mentioned the hint system available to amateurs, which doles out answers to the various puzzles in the traditional way of starting vague and getting more and more specific each time you access it. The system was a nice feature in principle, but in practice I found to be fairly useless. The problem is you have to wait a couple minutes between getting hints, and the first few for any given puzzle were so painfully unhelpful that I either solved the puzzle on my own–by randomly trying things while waiting for better hints could be unlocked–or caved and looked up the solution in a walkthrough. Fortunately, most of my problems were a result of not noticing some important item that was lying on the floor or on a wall, and not due to poor design.
And that’s the biggest complaint I have about the game, really: it’s easy to miss stuff. The hotspots don’t stand out at all so exploring boils down to entering a scene and slowly moving the mouse over everything in order to see what’s interactive. Very small items do get an eye-catching gleam on them, but anything larger than an earring or a key won’t.
Conclusion – Is It Worth The Money?
I’m not sure what the price of Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen is. I could look it up easily, but I don’t see a point to doing so. No matter what the cost, it’s a well-designed and well-written adventure that belongs on your virtual shelf right next to any other member of the genre. If you really need a number, though, it’s $20, and worth every penny.
Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen Technical Summary
- Time Played – 8 Hours
- Widescreen Support – No (Widescreen option results in side black bars)
- 5.1 Audio Support – No
- Control Scheme – Mouse
- DRM – Activation Key or Steamworks
- System Specs – AMD 1.6 Ghz, Intergrated Radeon HD, 6 GB RAM
- Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
- Availability – Her Interactive, Steam, Local Retail
- Demo – No
- Version – v1
- Platforms – Windows and Mac
- Bugs/Crashes Encountered – In the scene with the golden sarcophagus, I lost the ability to interact with the environment. This was resolved by saving and reloading.