There’s a certain niche for the old school point-and-click adventure game that continues to be profitable, despite the evolution of the game industry at least in theory making the genre irrelevant. Certainly, the most successful adventure games are either longstanding stalwarts such as Sam And Max or inventive newcomers like Heavy Rain.
The Nancy Drew games fall somewhat into the former. Tomb Of The Lost Queen is the twenty-sixth (yes that’s correct, the twenty-sixth) instalment of the female detective’s adventure game series. It has continued to engage a cult following over the years but coming to the genre, the series and the very concept of Nancy Drew with little experience, I was surprised to find Tomb Of The Lost Queen is a competent adventure game, if a little unspectacular.
GameplayTOTLQ is a straight-laced, unapologetic point-and-clicker the likes of which aren’t seen in mainstream videogames these days. Is this a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not. If you’re the kind of person who still enjoys the old adventure game vibe - clicking through various rooms, then clicking to inspect things closer, and then clicking even more to try and find something useful in the environment – there’s a lot to love here. There’s plenty to explore, lots of obtuse niches to find and puzzles a plenty.
The Egyptian theme lends itself incredibly well to this type of game, hieroglyphs functioning as a puzzle centrepiece as you would expect. There are also some little asides for you to complete, mostly Egyptian-themed. An old Egyptian board game and a standard jigsaw puzzle are two earlier examples, but unfortunately they aren’t all terribly engaging. The board game in particular is a dull experience that is tough to find a way out of once you’re stuck playing it. It occurred so early on in the game and took so much time to finish that by the time I’d completed it I’d forgotten the context.
As it’s a traditional point-and-clicker, it comes with all of the genre’s traditional problems. Some of the puzzle solutions are infuriatingly obtuse, and it’s very easy to miss a key item when rummaging through the environments. Several times I had to backtrack and conduct a forensic search of the map in order to track down the one hand trowel or note I missed last time. I found myself going from room to room and methodically covering the screen in clicks, line by line until I discovered something, like an overly-zealous murder detective. It’s a problem inherent to the genre but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to excuse it in any way. Other than puzzles and clicking on things, you can also interact with other characters. The dialogue trees are pleasingly developed, fully-voiced and with multiple options in most conversations.
Graphics The one adjective I keep finding myself using when talking about TOTLQ is “functional”, and that’s the only word I can use to sum up the stylistic components of this game. It was never going to be a graphical powerhouse, but it does what it has to do to convince the player that you’re in Egypt. The soundtrack once again is predictably well-considered for the setting, but it doesn’t have any great moments and you’ll find yourself quickly forgetting the music entirely.
The menu is generally fine, not too clunky and provides the right amount of information at a glance. One incredibly irritating facet of the menu, however, is that the game neither tells you when you’ve completed one of your many objectives or crosses them off the list. Instead, you have to manually tick each objective after its completion. It’s a baffling design choice, and led me to confusing moments where I was continuing to pursue an objective I’d already completed.
The characters you interact with are given a good amount of personification through animation and acting. Facial models in particular are above and beyond what I’d expect for a small title, movement around the eyes in particular really helping in keeping dialogue interesting. Characters will raise an eyebrow or roll their eyes when you question their beliefs, and if this game can do it, it makes me realise just how lazy Bethedsa were with their dialogue animations for so long.
Whilst it certainly functions as intended, as an adventure game I ended up feeling a little burned out on it by the end. It does everything it promises to do but unless you're a fan of the genre then you might just find yourself getting a bit bored after a couple of hours. It doesn't have the humour, visual charm or story strength of its contemporaries and so I'd only recommend Tomb Of The Lost Queen if you genuinely have no other acclaimed adventure games to play or if you're a hardcore fan of the genre. It's nice and cheap, so if you're in the middle of the summer release drought and have already played every worthwhile Telltale game then you could do worse than to waste some time with this/
If you’re still hankering for some old school adventure game action, then you could do worse than Tomb Of The Lost Queen. It’s hardly the most polished, most attractive title out there but it doesn’t make any grave missteps and just about kept me engaged enough to see it through to its conclusion. I’m not sure exactly who has bought twenty-five of these games before this one, and I certainly wouldn’t hold it in high enough regard to recommend you delve into the clearly humongous backlog, but for a cheap and cheerful point-and-clicker it does just about enough to stay on my good side.