Ah, bella Italia! Molto bene, Her Interactive!
I love Italy, and the Italian language, and opera, and basically have always wanted to visit Italy and Venice in particular. I love the culture, the history. I love how Italian is such a pleasant language to listen to. Have I mentioned I love opera?
So, how did I feel about this game?
I liked it.
This is one of those games that is definitely replayable (this was my second time finishing the title). I also feel like it’s one of the easier games to get through–I had to use my own notes very infrequently, and only checked online for hints when I got totally stuck on a puzzle, which was about twice in this game. I did have some issues figuring out logically where I should go next, but usually making the rounds of the places I still knew I had puzzles left to solve got me on the right track.
Puzzles like figuring out which pigeon is the one carrying a message for a shady Italian mafioso. Frankly harder than you’d think.
In this game, Nancy is doing a favor for (brace yourself) Prudence Rutherford, my least favorite recurring phone character. Prudence has recently sold her “beloved” house in Venice to Margarita, an equally annoying old woman. Luckily, Nancy only has to deal with one of them multiple times throughout the game. Nancy’s fellow Ca’ mates are Colin Baxter, an art restoration expert who has been doing work for all of Venice’s upper class families with historic homes, and Helena Berg, a German reporter who did a story once in Venice and fell in love, and now returns as often as she can.
I mean, I can see why Prudence loves it, but not gonna lie, I liked it way more because I don’t have to interact with that woman.
Nancy is there to help the GdiF (the Italian FBI, as the game explains it) figure out who is operating as Il Fantome, and stealing priceless works of art from various high society homes, often during parties when attention is directed elsewhere.
Nancy being Nancy, she immediately sets off trying to solve any and all puzzles she comes across. Luckily, though, she is mostly kept on task by the GdiF agent who is her contact. As the game progresses, Nancy has to track a pigeon, spy on a dude in a nearby office, go undercover, and infiltrate a ring of art thieves. It’s a lot of fun, and feels like a more tame version of Mission Impossible.
As usual, the setting was a big highlight for me. I did wish we’d been able to see more of historic Venice, but we were shown just enough of the city to give it a good sense of place. I was a little sad the canals weren’t more heavily featured–it’s possible to play the game without ever even realizing Venice is entirely water-bound and has no real roads–but if you want you can hire yourself a singing gondolier and listen to variously well performed opera arias while being shown the same few scenes of the city until you reach your destination. It’s a feature I mostly used so I knew what it was like, and not because I was actually interested in singing gondola rides.
The characters were fun, but seemed like we’d been there before. Colin was a very familiar feeling character. He particularly reminded me of Dave from Shadow Ranch. Margarita was a fairly obvious Prudence stand-in (presumably so they didn’t have to listen to that horrible voice the entire game–and can I just say thank heaven they didn’t make calling her more than once mandatory, like it was with Franklin Rose in Scarlet Hand!). Helena Berg gave me Lisa flashbacks (from Royal Tower), although I do think Helena is much more well thought out as a character, and I like her a lot more than I like Lisa. Enrico was interesting, and I enjoyed Scopa. I actually got a little too invested in it sometimes, and found myself actually interested and strategizing. This is why I like card games better than board games–they’re easier for me to grasp conceptually because there’s a physical representation of everything that happens during play and for scoring.
The big draw for this one is one hundred percent the spy aspect for me. It reminded me of sneaking around the castle in King’s Quest VI, or this really old game called Castle Explorer where you had to go undercover in a baron’s castle to find out if he was loyal to the king or not. I loved being sneaky, wearing different disguises, and pretending to be the mysterious Samantha Quick.
Once again, we’re not given the option of calling both Ned and Bess, which, as usual, annoyed me, but this game has a fun dynamic with Ned visiting the Hardy’s and letting Joe work on his car. Highly worth calling Ned multiple times, just to see what’s happening now. While I do prefer Frank if I have to pick a Hardy boy, I love Joe, too, and totally love his snarky commentary on everything, and his ability to sound sure of himself when he’s totally not. He’s such a great character, and getting to see him (or, hear him, I guess) interact with Ned and without Frank was so much fun.
This game is probably third on my list to recommend to new players (my number one pick is still Haunted Carousel). It’s a little bit of a departure for the games, but not enough of one that I’d worry new players would get a false impression of the series as a whole. Four out of five stars!
Images are, as always, not mine. Let me know if you want your image credited or removed!