You meet three people during your stay at Moon Lake, which means you’ve got three suspects. Suspected of what? That’s not clear right off, but it sure looks like someone doesn’t want Sally staying in her new cabin. Emily Griffen runs Em’s Emporium and makes money on the side selling artifacts left over from Malone’s days running a speakeasy underneath his cabin. She might want Sally out of the way to continue her collecting. Red Knott, avid birdwatcher, would much rather spend time with avians than people. If Sally’s land could be turned into a nature preserve, he and several thousand birds would be much happier. Ranger Jeff Akers wants ten more acres for the Moon Lake state park so that he’ll qualify for an assistant. Sally bought the old Malone place before he could convince the park board to put in a bid, but if Sally were out of the way, he’s sure he could enlarge his empire.
So everyone has a motive for scaring Sally away. That is, assuming the ghost dogs aren’t really ghost dogs. Legend has it that the dogs died on Malone’s property while he was locked away in prison, and that they now make sure no one but Malone himself will ever occupy the cabin.
Even though Nancy’s restricted to the cabin and its grounds, plus Em’s Emporium and the Ranger Station (both reachable by boat), there are plenty of places to explore. The woods are full of birds, worms, trees … and a cemetery. It’s got tombstones for about a dozen people, Marbles the cat, and Malone’s four dogs, Iggy, Lucy, Vitus and Xander. The dogs all seem to have died on the same day — the day Malone went away to prison. The dogs’ tombstones are far better than any of the people’s, except for Malone’s mausoleum. (We’re not sure about spooky, but it’s sure getting weird.)
And so we’re off on another enjoyable adventure. There is much less information to write down this time around than in the Scarlet Hand — we got by on a page and a half for Ghost Dogs, while Scarlet Hand took four pages. In fact, Ghost Dogs is shorter than Scarlet Hand all around — fewer puzzles, less running around, not nearly as many interviews. However, we had as much fun as in Scarlet Hand.
There are two major interface improvements in Ghost Dogs. First, the pocket watch (that we complained about in the last adventure review) has been eliminated. Rather than a watch that tracks time around the clock, you simply choose whether you want it to be daytime or nighttime. You climb the stairs in the cabin, then click the button you want when the time window pops up. Of course, the specific time of day isn’t as important when you don’t have to worry about when the subways run, but we’re hoping that future ND games will be able to keep something similar.
The second improvement (at least for those of us who miss honking big clues every once in a while), is Nancy’s PDA. She keeps track of important developments, and important next steps, so when you’re stuck for what to do next, you can usually find a nudge in the right direction from the PDA. In general, the interface now allows you to review maps and other clues that you’ve found, something you couldn’t always do before. In fact, we didn’t even look up the always-excellent Kuderna and Shaw walkthrough until the very last scene, when we didn’t realize two nearly identical grates were not the same thing.
It doesn’t feel as much like cheating when we check out the PDA, but that probably contributed to getting through the game faster, since we checked it out about a half a dozen times when we were stuck. The animations of people are about as good as in the most recent games before it. It seemed like there were other animations that were somewhat better than in previous games (when moving down a new tunnel, or other times when the game’s animation took over). The music and sound effects were as good as they always are, if not a cut above; Evie particularly enjoyed the “Happy Music” that tended to greet each new day — we sometimes went back and forth between locations just so that it would trigger again.
For the most part, the puzzles were devised by Malone to protect his secrets. That meets Dad’s desire that puzzles make sense in the context of the adventure. They nearly all focus on his dogs (Malone really liked those dogs), which makes Evie happy. As we mentioned before, there wasn’t as much note-taking required as in Scarlet Hand, and it wasn’t nearly as educational (unless you want to know about hantavirus, Lyme disease and other pitfalls of rural living).
Ghost Dogs doesn’t make us jump out of our seat with excitement, but it holds its own in the series. Perhaps we’re getting too used to the quality of this series — Her Interactive has definitely worked out the major kinks and has delivered a really enjoyable game once more.
I like to analyze and optimize while playing games, so I much prefer games that require thought rather than action.
Evie is twelve years old and is an avid reader, especially of fantasy. Favorite authors include J.K. Rowling (of course), Brian Jacques, Cornelia Funke and Tamora Pierce. These reviews are her first published writing.
Will is nine years old and loves to investigate, especially dinosaurs and astronomy. These reviews are also his first published writing.
Jesse is seven years old and has just started reading chapter books. He likes Hank the Cowdog and cartoon books, especially Calvin & Hobbes, Baby Blues and Donald Duck.
If you're interested in the (roughly) thousand-year-old triceratops stone in our pic, check out the Dino Art. Some of the accompanying text can be a bit strident, but it's still a puzzle why Central and South American Indians knew pretty precisely what dinosaurs looked like over a thousand years ago.