Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Nancy Drew #4: Treasure in the Royal Tower (2002)

This week, I'm returning to a more contemporary series, as we tackle Her Interactive's Nancy Drew: Treasure in the Royal Tower, fourth in the long-running series.  The point-and-click detective game was originally published in 2002 but has remained in circulation in budget compilations and still be purchased and downloaded at the Her Interactive website.

The Nancy Drew games are marketed as casual adventures, but in my experience they're usually fairly challenging and thematically adult without being unsuitable for a family audience. The technology hasn't changed much over the years -- the games use pre-rendered graphics with clickable hot spots for navigation and interaction, and limited animation for fully-voiced dialogue scenes and important moments.  The visuals are presented in first-person perspective, and we never see Nancy herself in this game.  All the spoken dialogue is also presented as onscreen text, along with dialogue response choices.  The game's illustrations are credible enough, in 640x480 resolution, though they tend toward the overly-clean, plastic look of early CG, and character animation is often stiff.

Of course, interested readers are encouraged to seek the Treasure in the Royal Tower firsthand before reading through my comments below.  I wouldn't advise using my notes as a guide to the game, as there are several more concise walkthroughs available online and I spent a lot of time beating my head against apparent dead ends until something shook loose.  But that's also part of being an adventure gamer -- just be aware that there will be comprehensive...
***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****

The game offers two levels of difficulty, Junior and Senior Detective; we'll be playing on the Senior Detective level, which reportedly only affects the difficulty of the puzzles, not the plot.

The game begins with Nancy writing a letter to her (female) friend George -- Nancy is on vacation at a Wisconsin ski resort called Wickford Castle, but a bad storm means the hill is closed and few guests are present (both factors convenient for game design purposes!)  It's an effective intro, as photos of people and landmarks are displayed as Nancy discusses the situation.  Owner Christi Lane is a friend of Nancy's dad, though she never appears in this game; we also learn about caretaker Dexter Egan, the eccentric chocolate milk millionaire Ezra Wickford who built the "castle," and Jacques Brunais the ski instructor (and failed Olympian.)

Nancy needs to find a mailbox to send her letter out, which gives us a reason to go exploring, but before leaving the room, we should point at and click on everything of interest.  The desk contains a locker assignment -- locker #310, with combination 5-1-7, probably worth noting.  Nancy's card key is for her room, #205, so we should take that along.  There's a Wickford Castle brochure in Nancy's luggage, worth reading for some background -- the castle reportedly features a lot of dead ends and secret passages, in keeping with its original owner's mental state.  Ms. Lane is Ezra Wickford's great-niece, who inherited the castle and opened it to the public, except for the mysterious Royal Tower, which Wickford moved here from France and then sealed off.  Wickford also imported a library of antique books formerly belonging to a French revolutionary officer named Le Boeuf.

There's also a room service menu in Nancy's dresser -- the resort seems to have no actual dining room -- and a few detective magazines on a table, with instructions about dusting for fingerprints to extract an access code from a keypad, which we will probably need to do at some point.  The night table has an alarm we can set to move time forward, and a phone Nancy can use to call out to boyfriend Nick Nickerson and friends George and Bess, likely to be useful for recapping and seeking hints.  But nobody is answering the phone at this point, not even the operator, and the only voice mail left for Nancy is a hang-up... odd.  The closet door can't be opened, and the radiator near the window is actually broken -- I thought the constant hissing I was hearing was just poorly-compressed audio on the background music, but once we step out of the room, everything clears up nicely.

It seems a good idea to map out the castle before we get too deeply into the plot.  The castle's structure is a bit odd, and matters aren't helped by the pre-rendered point-and-click navigation approach -- there's a lot of awkward movement required to get ourselves pointed at something we want to see or interact with.  For example, we can only get back to Nancy's room by walking a bit past it and turning around, -- we can't turn to the door when we're standing directly in front of it but not facing it.  Long hallways also tend to be inconsistent about hot spot placement, making fast travel difficult to pull off in places.

But we can, with some patience, explore the top floor where the rooms are -- one staircase leading down is too dark to traverse, one door opens on a blank wall.  There are several ways down to the first floor -- elegant steps in the large entrance hall, and a vintage elevator mentioned in the resort's brochure, whose presence is revealed by banging noises as we pass by.  There are also a number of small alcoves decorated with stained glass and tapestries -- we can't interact with the decor, but these areas help provide castle atmosphere.

The whole second floor is built around the entrance hall, which stands two stories tall and cuts across the center of the building.  An interesting round room with portraits and potted plants abuts a staircase leading down to yet another dead end.  We can hear typing coming from somewhere in the vicinity of room #214, but a knock goes unanswered.

The elevator door can be opened -- it appears to be in need of some restoration, and there's a trap door in the ceiling we can open and climb through.  On top of the elevator we see the expected cables, and a wooden crate we can't interact with.  There's also an open ventilation shaft, its cover hanging askew, but we can't reach it or the ladder next to it from this location.  The elevator is in working order, so we can use it to go to the first floor or the basement.  It also has stop and alarm buttons, though I never had to use these.

I opted to explore the basement first, guessing it might be a smaller area to investigate.  An archway leads to circuit breaks and an elevator reset lever.  We can play with the breakers, even turning out the lights on ourselves, which makes it fun to hunt the switch down again, though it's the only active hotspot in the dark and we have to flip it back on before we can leave the circuit board.  A stone staircase leads up to the first floor, but is too dark to climb to the second -- probably the same staircase we found upstairs.

We also find a ski rental and locker room area, with a vending machine and displays of skiing equipment.  The rental office is closed and locked up at the moment, but we can acquire a paintbrush sitting on the counter.  This is apparently Jacques' office, but a knock on the door produces no response.

Trying the locker combination takes a little trial and error -- we can't see the locker numbers until we reach the one we can access, and once I found locker #310 I had to figure out how the lock works.  As it turns out, we don't have to turn the lock in any particular direction first -- we have to press a triangular button at the top of the lock for each digit.  And even when we get it figured out, Nancy's narration confirms that we've successfully entered 5-1-7 as the combination, but the lock still won't open.  So we'll have to talk to someone about that.

The elevator appears to have shut down -- maybe because I was playing with the buttons?  The elevator reset lever restores it to working order, so we'll go up to the first floor.

We land in front of a locked set of double doors, and I ran into a few dead ends before finally emerging at a pleasant sitting room with a fire in the fireplace.  A bookcase contains a few titles about the French Revolution -- the brief sections we can read include a brief biography of Marie Antoinette, from her marriage to the King of France until her execution by guillotine, after her capture by M. Le Boeuf.  Le Boeuf himself is detailed a bit in the second volume.

As we turn around after leaving the bookcase, we are surprised to see another human being, finally!  Lisa is a young photojournalist who tells us that someone broke into the library and vandalized it last night.  Dexter is assuming a guest is the culprit, and it's secured more heavily now until the police can arrive to investigate, though Lisa suggests Dexter probably has a key.  The only other guest, one Professor Hotchkiss, claims she has been robbed, though she won't tell anyone what was taken.  Lisa provides further exposition on another scandal -- that Jacque Brunais is "scandalously cute."  I'm not sure how sophisticated Lisa is supposed to be, but her voice acting and general demeanor don't create a great first impression.  At least she provides some unintentional adult humor, saying, "I wonder what we're going to do with ourselves" while the storm is in force.  But she knows nothing about the secret entrance to the French tower, and claims to speak minimal French and poor Spanish.

The large entrance hall features postcards and brochures for Wickford Castle and the neighboring Le Pierre Chateau in Lakepond, Wisconsin, but no obvious clues.  We also see the front desk, where Dexter Egan is busy coping with the storm -- and Resident Evil fans will have to accept that those tempting red herbs in the corner just cannot be acquired:

Conversation with Dexter allows Nancy to ask him how long he's been here -- "a while" -- and complain about her radiator, and ask for a stamp so she can mail her letter, though it won't go out any time soon with all the snow.  Dexter confirms that the "liberry" has been vandalized, though his pronunciation seems to improve later in the game; the vandal put a hole in the wall, and made a general mess of the place.  Dexter's very busy and can't look at the radiator yet, but Nancy can offer to help out by delivering Professor Hotchkiss' repaired ski boots from the rental office.  We can try to explore behind the front desk, but Nancy won't go there while Dexter is at his station.

Jacques is in the basement ski rental office now; he doesn't seem to like being in Wisconsin, but his fiancee is studying at UW-Madison, and he likes being close to the Queen's Tower, given its roots in his homeland's history and Marie Antoinette in particular.  He discourages Nancy from snooping around, and mentions that he crafts wooden hope boxes for keeping secrets.  Asked about the locker combination, he suggests that it's actually for locker #311.

With the boots in hand, we can talk to Professor Hotchkiss -- she seems hard of hearing, and suspicious of Nancy's motivies even though she can't get her name right.  She's not willing to talk about the robbery, and won't answer a second knock.

Exploring some more, Nancy gets stuck when the elevator jams between floors -- we have to go up through the trap door and stand on the crate to reach a door above, but it's not a secret door, just the normal first-floor elevator door.  Nothing seems different in Nancy's room -- there's a second hang-up call on the voicemail, and I took the opportunity to recap the story so far with George and Bess, though I saw no need to ask for any hints yet.

Returning to the basement, we open locker #311 -- yes, Jacques was right -- and find Lisa's camera bag... with extra passports and driver's licenses under a number of aliases.  A letter in Spanish is a mundane update from friends, but gives the lie to Lisa's earlier claims of ignorance about the language... a discrepancy that might be worth noting.  But she's no longer sitting by the fire, so we can't confront her about it. 

Character appearances seem to be clock-based, so sometimes we have to wait until someone is available or gone.  As it turns out, after we've failed to find Lisa we see that Dexter has stepped away, giving Nancy an opportunity to check his desk.  His to-do list suggests nothing sinister, though an item to "KEEP SEARCHING" is potentially interesting, and a note that he needs to change the alarm code on the library suggests more security than usual.  We can also steal a key from his desk drawer, just in case we need to open a locked door or anything.

We might as well try to open the library, and the key works, but the alarm goes off and before we can find a hiding place or examine anything of substance, Dexter arrives and throws Nancy off the premises.  Whether she simply can't continue investigating the case, or freezes to death outside the hotel with no hope of transportation, we'll never know -- but it's the end of the game, at any rate.  Fortunately there's a "Second Chance" option available, safely depositing us just before we tried to break into the library, so we can pretend it was just a passing thought and continue our efforts elsewhere.

Can we shut off the alarm with the circuit breaker?  It appears they're laid out by floor, looking at the scrawled notations on the breaker box, but I didn't succeed in doing so, though I did manage to turn the lights in the dark stairwell back on, between the first and second floors.  My attempts did, at least, establish that the alarm shuts off if we close the library doors without entering.  Looks like we'll need to find that keypad and the code.

Wandering around some more, I find that we can look down at the foot of Professor Hotchkiss' room door, and leave the boots there -- as we walk away, we can hear the door opening and closing, though we can't see her emerge under any circumstances I could find.   Returning to the dead-end staircase near the round room, we hear some banging noises that seem louder at the bottom of the stairs, but there are no clickable loose stones or anything we can interact with.

If we had some dust, and access to the library keypad, we could probably use the paintbrush to get a good guess at the code -- but we only have one of those three covered at the moment.  We no longer hear typing from Hotchkiss' room, but she doesn't answer the door either.  I made another attempt at entering the library -- the keypad is on the left, provided by "Achilles Security" for a little extra humor, but my attempts to punch in random codes were unsuccessful.

Playing around in the elevator shaft, I got Nancy to say that she sees something below the elevator, but I couldn't find it or get her to repeat the message.  The elevator doors are locked when the elevator isn't present, so we can't sneak in from another floor through the obvious route.

Stopping by Dexter's desk, Nancy complains about getting stuck in the elevator.  He admonishes her for climbing around in the dangerous shaft area, and asks her to help get the lights in the stairway on, which we've already done.  Next, he wants Nancy to get Prof. Hotchkiss' dinner order -- she wants couscous, and Dexter tells Nancy she needs to order from the menu.  After retrieving the menu from Nancy's room (I don't think we were allowed to put it in inventory earlier, but I might be mistaken) we get her real order -- fifty chicken drumsticks.  Nancy's next errand is to go downstairs and tell Jacques to get some more out of the freezer -- he complains but complies, and Dexter has promised he will fix Nancy's radiator as thanks for all the help.

So is Nancy's radiator still hissing?  The elevator needs to be reset again, so it's easier to get there via the stairs, and we find that it has indeed been repaired.  There's also an oil can left behind, which we'll put in inventory should we run into anything rusty and stuck.  I felt like I was running out of puzzles, and in need of a hint, so in the interest of staying within the game world I had Nancy call Ned Nickerson -- he suggests that there might be another entrance to the library. 

None of the castle's many dead ends seem pliable enough to grant entrance.  The professor will talk about her theory but won't leave her room; she wants information about the castle and asks Nancy to find out Marie Antoinette's age when she married King Louis.  This is easy enough to find out from the books in the sitting room -- it appears she would have been 14 or 15 when the wedding took place, as we have a date for her birthday but not for the wedding.  After doing this bit of research, we can talk to Lisa again -- she complains about the pay she earns as a photojournalist, and Nancy can ask her about the multiple identities, though Lisa says she just needs them for her work.

Hotchkiss wants the answer written down -- she slides a piece of paper under the door, and we can type our answer on it; I went with 15, which proves to be correct.  Hotchkiss offers to meet us in the sitting room during her normal "office hours" -- 3 AM to 6 AM.  It's 2:30 PM in my playthrough, so it's a good time to use the alarm clock to nap until the appointed hour.  The professor tells us she is a scholar of French history, looking for evidence here -- she gives Nancy permission to look in her room, handing her a pass key, apparently thinking Nancy can be a useful research assistant.  We have to be out by 5:59 AM when she returns to work, however.  It seems that Professor Hotchkiss wants to rehabilitate Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake" image, whether the facts align with her "theory" or not.

Entering #214, we find some notes that suggest she romanticizes Marie Antoinette a bit.  We can steal her camcorder battery... or better yet, replace it and watch her P.O.V. video exploring the round room.  We confirm that a portrait on the wall is of Marie Antoinette, and then the camera pans down a bit as Professor Hotchkiss gasps -- before the playback stops.  The battery has run down, so we can put it on the charger nearby -- but it will take a while to recharge, 24 hours if I'm interpreting the label correctly from a distance, so we'll have to come back here later.  We also find a letter in the dresser from some distant Marie A. relatives in Germany to the professor -- it mentions a medallion and a stained glass window.  Interesting.

A trip back to the round room turns up nothing obviously gasp-worthy.  But now can we climb the elevator shaft?  Yes -- when the elevator is on the first floor we have access to a landing, and can use the ladder to climb up and navigate past the open vent cover through the shaft to... the library!

Nancy can climb out of the shaft, but it isn't long before we hear keys in the door -- hiding again behind the library-end vent cover, we see Dexter come in and enter a code to turn off the alarm, muttering something about "the old man" before leaving again.  We can climb down and look around -- there are a number of books strewn about which provide some clues and background information.  The Diary of Hans Axel von Fersen indicates that Marie Antoinette's jewels were confiscated by Le Boeuf before she was beheaded.  A book by Professor Hotchkiss waxes rhapsodic over Marie Antoinette's love of the color purple, and mentions four values she allegedly held dear -- loyalty, dignity, wisdom and truth.

A sign above what looks like an erstwhile fireplace reads, "A sly rabbit will have three openings to its den."  It covers a sextant puzzle, but it seems we'll need some information to set the values correctly.  A book on famous portraits describes a certain painting of M.A., painted in the tower transplanted to Wickford Castle... and that painting turns up here, in the library!  It's on the floor, and the hole in the wall Dexter mentioned earlier appears to have been punched behind its hanging place, though we can't see anything interesting about the hole.

An atlas opens to a page locating Wisconsin at 90 degrees west longitude, and we can pick up some dust from below the hole in the wall using the paintbrush.  Great -- we dust the access keypad, determining that the code is 372 -- no wait, actually, 3*72, I hadn't dusted the bottom row.  We can enter any code we like while the alarm isn't going off, confirming that the right one is APPROVED by the system.

A globe has a longitude dial at the north pole, currently set to 60 degrees.  We move it to 90 degrees west, and the globe can be opened with the handle on top, providing a clue to the sextant puzzle.  It's easy enough -- we set the sextant to -15, 10, and -5 degrees, pressing a button between each setting like the combination lock earlier, and a creaking noise is heard.  We have to look around a bit, but there's a secret panel now open, near the vent entrance on the library's second level.

Nancy finds a lighter on the desk in the secret room, which we can use to light a candle and remove a key from the melting wax.  There are some insects mounted in frames on the wall, and a couple of scrapbooks about.. Dexter Egan?  They appear to have been kept by Ezra Wickford, who... we now learn... was Dexter's adoptive father!  It seems like Dexter became a bit of a juvenile delinquent, then a petty criminal, and was cut out of his father's will later on, which is why Christi inherited the castle instead of him.  The plot thickens!

Returning to the elevator, we notice a lever behind us on the landing -- one of those odd navigational contrivances, we couldn't really turn to look at it until we're facing this way at the foot of the ladder.  The lever is stuck but can be oiled, opening a passage down to... well, it's blocked by the elevator right now.  So how do we handle this?  A sign in the elevator indicates its maximum load is 640 pounds, but that doesn't seem useful right now.  Can we use the alarm or stop buttons to halt the elevator partway, so we can still open the basement door and get into the passage?   Nope.

Oh, of course!  We can go through the library now that we have the code, moving the elevator up out of the way and then coming back in through the vent to reach the passage again.  We hear some coughing during our travels -- I think it's just Dexter at his desk, making noise so we can notice him earlier in the game -- and manage to make it to the area behind where the elevator was, in the basement.  There are counterweights here -- we can mess with them, but Nancy can get crushed by the descending elevator if we're not careful.  A door nearby exits back out to the basement -- it's just the elevator exit, and it's a one-way trip, so I had to make the whole roundabout journey back to this point again.

When we press the red button near the counterweights, they rise up out of the way and we have a limited time to solve the puzzle behind them before the elevator kills us.  It's a simple puzzle -- we have to pull 6 bars in the right order, and after one bar sticks in place we can find the second bar, then with two stuck find the third, etc. -- but we have to do it fast to make it through a secret panel before the elevator comes all the way down.  It took me a few tries -- what I should have done was park the elevator on the first floor instead of the second, so the weights would just have been out of the way, but I was able to do it the hard way.  The combination changes each time, but it's easier to solve it in future trips with the counterweights safely above and not moving.

In this passage, we hear the sound of sawing and discover Jacques hacking at some metal bars.  He says he's doing it for his family honor -- looking for a historical French document his great-grandfather found but left in the tower shortly before it was dismantled to move to Wisconsin.  Jacques has a medallion in his locker, and gives Nancy the combination, planning to meet her there.  A tunnel takes us back to one of the "dead ends" in the first floor hallway -- we can see the faint outline of the secret door now, but still can't open it from this side.  Going to the locker room, Nancy is able to open Jacques' locker -- but just before she examines the medallion, someone knocks her out from behind!

We wake up in our room to the sound of the phone ringing -- Jacques is calling to see how Nancy is doing, and is dismayed to learn the medallion is not in her possession.  Nancy also has a few voice mails from Dexter and Professor Hotchkiss; Dexter asks about the red dirt on Nancy's shoes when he found her, and Hotchkiss says her room is in disarray again.  Going downstairs to the sitting room, Nancy talks to Lisa, who somehow knows that Nancy has been in the library; she also mentions that Hotchkiss is not well respected by her historian peers.

Returning to the Queen's Tower area where we saw Jacques earlier, we find that our old key from Ezra's secret room doesn't work to open the gate; there's a dungeon area nearby, but nothing much we can interact with despite the chains and portcullis trappings about.  We can't light the old torches on the walls, but we can take a spike from the top of a halberd held by a suit of armor.  We can also see the partial cut in the bar Jacques was working on, though we can't break or cut the bar either.

We haven't talked to Dexter in a while -- Nancy confesses that she found a passage to the tower, and Dexter reveals he already knows about it.  He says that the storm has passed, and Nancy has earned the right to explore some more -- he tells her there is a skeleton key in the maintenance shed that will open the gate, though we have to be careful about the cold when we go out there.  On the way to the basement door to the outside, we can visit Jacques -- he is working, still upset, and doesn't have much to say.

It's definitely possible to freeze to death on the way to the shed -- or in the shed -- or on the way back -- so we'll ignore a few puzzles in here, opting to just grab the key once we've found it and run.  The key does open the grate, so Dexter wasn't trying to undermine us.

The tower's first obstacle is a bit pit -- some shackles on the wall nearby have to be pulled until they match the inverted "V" pattern on the opposite wall, and it's one of those largely trial-and-error puzzles as most of the chains are interconnected.  Once that's done, a row of large stones rotate into place and Nancy can traverse the pit.

Next, we arrive at a prison cell -- a game board here challenges us to slide four marked discs into their matching slots.  We can only slide a disc in four directions, and the disc will keep moving until it hits a barrier.  It takes some creative use of the layout to find the right ordering and get everything into place -- only one disc can be moved successfully into its spot without using at least one other disc to help steer it into place.  Once this is done, we hear a grinding noise, and we can travel up a long circular stone staircase to the royal tower!

A stone switch by the tower door removes and restores a section of staircase -- we have no reason to cut off our own path, but it might be useful if we need to keep someone from chasing Nancy up here later on.  This looks like the place, with a portrait of Marie Antoinette dominating the view (this screenshot is from later in the game, but the location looks the same):

There are a few puzzles in the tower -- some symbols on the floor appear to align with Professor Hotchkiss' work, presenting 3 symbols flanked by purple griffons with a square keyholein the center.  There's also a tile puzzle on the wall, requiring us to lay out square pieces in the correct position -- it took me a while before I realized the pieces can be rotated, which made it a lot easier, though the feathered, brown-and-gold pattern is still tricky to work with.  It's easiest to line up all the border pieces before getting the 8 interior ones aligned and placed.  After this is done, the panel opens up, revealing a book -- most likely the journal Jacques' great-grandfather had run across many decades ago.

We get some special music when the journal is found, but clearly the game is not over yet.  We can't open the journal to read it, and I wonder if we need the medallion to go into the keyhole.  But I have no real information, so we have to go back to the castle and see what's what.

Dexter knows about the floor puzzle but asks Nancy to call him about it later -- which may be difficult as we don't know his phone number and the Wickford Castle brochure has no front desk contact information either (that can't be good for business!)  The camcorder battery is charged, and we can see the rest of Hotchkiss' video -- she mentions that she has a medallion which fits into the wall in the round room, where a peephole provides a glimpse of a stained glass window.  We saw a corner of this window while climbing the tower, but couldn't get a good look at it due to the navigational system in that section, so we may need to use the peephole as well.

Doing so, we can see the stained glass window in full -- it appears to reference Truth, with a symbol of a crown?  Dexter's to-do list indicates he has changed the library access code, but he must have changed it before we found it so our access is still good.  We can't use the lighter to see into the hole in the wall, but we can still open Jacques' locker to find a note from his fiancee begging for a tangible symbol of his love, probably an engagement ring judging from the diamond flyer also in his locker.  He's also received a warning letter from the United States immigration authorities, as his visitor's visa will soon expire.

We'll wait for Hotchkiss' 3 AM office hours, to learn that a diamond tiara Marie Antoinette received (but refused to wear for the portrait mentioned in the book we found earlier) disappeared shortly before the Revolution.  The journal excites her -- she agrees to translate it for Nancy if she can have it to publish.  She agrees to translate it by this time tomorrow, so we'll use Nancy's alarm clock to do the time warp again.

The next night, Hotchkiss has completed the translation and found Marie Antoinette's long lost decoder, but she doesn't give Nancy either item or provide much more information.  We have to visit her room again to find the translation, which indicates the soon-to-be-ex-queen had the tiara dismantled and the stones fashioned into three medallions corresponding to her values: blue for Honor, red for Courage, and green for Loyalty.  We know Hotchkiss has a medallion, or had one, but she won't talk about it.

So, it seems we have to find these medallions.  The blue one is easy, as further poking around finds it under a pillow on the sofa in Hotchkiss' room.  Dexter's not at his desk yet, so we'll go look at the puzzles in the shed -- except Nancy won't go out there at night, so we'll go to sleep for a bit.

At 9:00 AM, Dexter is on duty, but he still won't talk about anything new, and Jacques won't either.  We'll go out to the shed again -- solving a lever puzzle here turns on the lift, which earns Nancy nothing but an angry dressing down from Dexter.  But does anything change in the shed after we do this?  Not that I can see, and we can still freeze to death.  Poking around the shed does show us another machine, but there aren't any features we can interact with visible.

Lisa's back in the sitting room, but has nothing to say.  Nancy has no new voice mails.  We can call George and Bess, and asking for a hint gets a suggestion that we need to do some more reading in library's secret room.  Aha!  Ezra wrote a poem, a farewell message that Dexter never received, in which he forgives his estranged adopted son and mentions secreting a "luck charm" for Dexter "in the back of my old troubled head."  

Now Dexter will talk about the secret garden -- he tells Nancy to look for a wrought-iron gate concealed by foliage, and now we can click on a "No Trespassing" sign near the maintenance shed to access a new path.  Rotating an arrow sculpture turns a bust of Ezra Wickford around, we pull a lever in the back of his head and use the key from the secret room to open a box concealed in the base -- we now have the red medallion!

What about the green medallion?  Well, after much poking around, Nancy finds a voice message from Lisa, of all people, and we can talk to her in person to learn that she saw Dexter going to the shed with a "green ornament thing."  We go to the shed and find it on the machine we couldn't do anything with earlier -- this time, an animated rat wanders through to draw our attention to its location.  So we have all three medallions now... but Nancy is locked out of the castle when we try to return!  We can turn the ski lift on to summon help before freezing to death, and Dexter isn't angry as this second infraction was an S.O.S.

Now we're ready to go back to the tower!  We have to re-solve the elevator and pit puzzles to reach the peak, and now we can place the medallions into the floor -- per color/value coding, I guess, if we knew what the symbols meant.  There are really only six possibilities for arranging the three medallions, but none of them seem to produce any interesting results, and we're still missing the square center key.  Hmmmm.  Back to the castle, I guess.

Talking to Hotchkiss one more time indicates that she had the green medallion originally, so things have been swapped around a bit it seems, but that's all she'll say.  But looking around her room once again, I find the decoder she mentioned earlier -- it's just a list of symbols and words, and we can't take it with us so I'll manually note the Loyalty, Honor and Courage symbols.

Returning to the tower, we place the symbols correctly, but... still nothing happens?  I really needed a hint here, but even the walkthroughs I found online weren't very helpful -- everyone suggests that we should be able to interact with the painting of Marie Antoinette in the tower at this point, but it doesn't show up as clickable for me.  So I began a long series of experiments, punctuated by tedious trips back to the tower, as I attempted to achieve whatever it was the game wanted so that we could continue.  I tried to:

  • Re-read the book on famous portraits in the library
  • Re-view the stained glass window through the peephole
  • View the stained glass window with each of the three medallions installed as color filters
  • Re-solve the sliding disc puzzle (it appears to reset when revisited)

But nothing worked... until I went back to Hotchkiss' room and looked at the decoder again, after having looked at the stained glass window through the medallions.  Nancy's brain apparently works in only one direction, or she took poor notes on the decoder originally, but now, at long last, our heroine gets it!

The rest of the game wraps up fairly quickly -- we examine the tiled portrait on the wall, seeing that we can break away the purple rose tiles (valuable historical artwork? Bah!) with the spike from the halberd, to retrieve a square key.  Inserting it into the center of the floor lock brings up a gigantic diamond on a plinth.  Victory is Nancy's!

But, of course, a final confrontation with a villain is still at hand!  Lisa, who we were seriously beginning to suspect, shows up and sprays Nancy with nasty pepper spray!  Nancy is still able to choke out a few questions, confirming Lisa's general villainy as a greedy jewel thief.  (Why she didn't just steal the priceless antique books and paintings lying all over Wickford Castle, instead of waiting around hoping Nancy Drew would uncover a possibly mythical diamond, remains a mystery!)

Lisa finishes her soliloquy and flees the tower with the diamond, but not before Nancy hits the stone switch near the door, removing part of the stairway again and dumping Lisa into the small prison cell at the tower's base.  Lisa is arrested, Christi Lane makes Dexter her business partner, Hotchkiss publishes the journal to great acclaim, and Jacques and his fiancee elope, his good name restored by his part in the discovery.  And Nancy gets another headline for her scrapbook, though I'm sure she's getting sick of this "girl sleuth" business:

Whew!  Unfortunately, Treasure in the Royal Tower proved to be my least favorite Nancy Drew adventure to date -- perhaps because it's the earliest game I've played in the series, or perhaps because it was based on a book, it all feels a bit linear.  The story isn't very player-driven, and many events have non-obvious triggers that mean the player has to wander around re-poking at everyone and everything until something changes.  Many of the puzzles succumb to trial and error or just finding the right clue, which makes them less interesting than they might have been, and we have to spend a lot of time just finding our way around the castle.  I was good and ready for this one to be over with, and I'm hoping for a better Nancy Drew adventure next time I check in on the series.

1 comment:

  1. A nomination for another adventure to enter into your queue: the 1984 "Earthly Delights" for PC or Apple 2 -- someone on MobyGames asked me for help with it and to my dismay I could get nowhere. It looks like a real underdog, but I know you are an adventuring champion par excellence. There is a CASA walkthrough, but I am told it is a bit sketchy on some important early details.