Disclaimer: I posted a rougher version of this post on my (very) short-lived Squarespace site. If you run across a review that sounds super similar to this one, that’s probably it.
Just in time for Halloween, we have the first in my favorite category of Nancy Drew mysteries — hauntings! Though I wouldn’t call the Nancy Drew series scary as a whole, Her Interactive knows how to set up a creeptascular mystery.
Rose Green, a friend of a friend of Nancy’s, is turning a Victorian mansion into a bed and breakfast in San Francisco. Renovations have been moving much more slowly than anticipated due to a large number of accidents occurring in the house. It’s up to Nancy to discover if the problems are being caused by someone within the house, or the ghostly spirits rumored to walk the halls.
Rose Green is the main character of this game, as she owns the house and will run the B&B once it opens. She doesn’t believe the stories being thrown around about ghosts and spirits, and suspects that choosing an inexperienced handyman is the root of her troubles. Rose is a very practical person, and I found myself drawn to her for her down-to-earth approach to all the problems she encounters. It’s also worth noting that Rose is a woman of color, and a woman of color in charge of the whole operation. Good on you, Her Interactive, for starting to introduce some diversity!
The aforementioned carpenter is a college student named Charlie Murphy. He came to Rose looking for work: Work Rose couldn’t refuse at his low prices. He claims to know nothing about the accidents and insists that his work is top-notch, despite his relatively short time in the carpentry business. Though he is the most likely suspect for all the things that have gone wrong around the house, it’s hard to argue with his baby-face and friendly nature. Plus, I’m pretty sure his voice actor is the same one who voices Nancy’s boyfriend, Ned, so it was difficult to not think of him as a source of good information and support. But that’s player knowledge, and player knowledge must be resisted!
Louis Chandler is the resident expert on all things Victorian and has been helping Charlie and Rose ensure that all renovations are as accurate as possible. He came to Rose as an adviser and has offered her a break in his consulting fees in exchange for unfettered use of the house’s original library. He seems unconcerned with the recent plague of accidents and doesn’t think Abby’s stories of unsettled spirits hold any water. Though he doesn’t appear to have a motive for causing the accidents, he is guiding Charlie’s inexperienced hand and often dodges Nancy’s questions.
The only one who truly seems to believe the talk of spirits is Abby Sideris, Rose’s friend and co-owner of the mansion. All Abby ever wants to talk about is the spirits haunting the house and barely acknowledges the upcoming opening of the B&B at all. She doesn’t concern herself with renovations or the business side of things like Rose does, but instead focuses her time and energy in getting in touch with the ghosts of the mansion. But does she really believe in the ghosts, or is she trying to divert suspicion from herself?
The entirety of MiaHM takes place within the mansion, which works both for and against the game as a whole. The lack of travel shortens the game considerably, but in a way that subtracts little and adds a great deal of convenience for the player. My least favorite part of Nancy Drew games is always the travel between locations. However, having only one location does make the game feel a bit claustrophobic. Granted, this helps enhance the feeling of creepiness and danger that comes from playing around in a potentially haunted old mansion.
Haunting games are my favorite category of Nancy Drew games, and replaying the first of this type was great fun. There were a couple of genuinely creepy moments, but it’s obvious that Her Interactive is just getting started with the scary games. There’s so much going on that suggests a haunting that I became numb to the stimulus. Every time I crossed a certain hallway, I saw a ghost out of the corner of my eye. There were often spirits visible within the mirrors of the mansion. But, because the game takes place entirely in the mansion and the player runs around the area a lot, these events are triggered a great number of times, and seeing the exact same thing so many times takes the creepiness factor way down.
If you’re looking to try out a Nancy Drew game, but don’t want to commit a lot of time to it, go ahead and give MiaHM a shot. It’s super short and a great way to get your feet wet. It has held up decently well over the years and provides a good number of puzzles with just the right amount of challenge for players unfamiliar with the genre.
If you’re familiar with the series, you might want to skip this one. It’s good, but experienced sleuths will blast through it so fast it hardly seems worth the time. Sink your teeth into one of the more difficult/longer later games.