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Low-Spoiler Hints for Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion

Welcome to my Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion hints page. (-: If you're new to my series of low-spoiler computer game walkthroughs, the idea is to point gamers towards things they might not have thought of in each game rather than divulging puzzle solutions or giving step-by-step instructions. There's not much point in playing an adventure game if you know the puzzle solutions in advance, and there's no point at all in investigating a spooky mystery like Message in a Haunted Mansion's if you've already had the story spoiled for you.

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So these pages are as close to spoiler-free as possible while still providing some valuable Haunted Mansion hints and game recommendations. If you are looking for the solution to a particular puzzle, I recommend UHS--due to their unique website setup you can only see one hint at a time, so you can get the answer to one pesky puzzle without ruining all the others for yourself. Here's the UHS link if you're interested. My site here focuses on exactly the things traditional walkthroughs don't: the non-critical bits of Message in a Haunted Mansion, detours you can take, little things you can do to smooth the gameplay out for yourself, extra details you might miss if you did only what was strictly necessary to complete the game. If you want even fewer spoilers--you're considering whether to buy the game, for example, and want to know whether there's anything you're going to detest in it--please try my Nancy Drew Review page to find all the pertinant information in one convenient spoiler-free package.

Now, on with the game!

Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion Hints and Tips
Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion Walkthrough
Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion Game Spoilers and Easter Eggs
Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion Plot and Character Information
Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion Cheats and Links
Backseat Game Designer: Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion Critique

Message in a Haunted Mansion Hints and Tips

Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion is a modern PC adventure game in the popular Nancy Drew series. Like the other Nancy Drew games, Message in a Haunted Mansion offers a simple 1st-person point-and-click interface with which to navigate a small gameworld, solving puzzles and interrogating suspects. This one is set in a spooky Victorian mansion once owned by semi-mythical historical figures and appropriately stocked with secret passages, slider puzzles, and hidden treasure. These are relatively easy games, designed with young teens in mind, and Message in a Haunted Mansion is very much plug and play. However, there are a number of things you may want to be aware of before beginning to play in order to get maximum enjoyment out of the game. Without spoiling anything:

Difficulty Setting: I've never seen a game with such an irrelevant difficulty setting as the Nancy Drew series has. There are no additional puzzles if you play on Senior Detective--the in-game hint system (i.e. Bess and George) is scaled back, and you have less time to complete timed challenges, and that's it. If you've played the game on one setting, there is no need to go back and play it again on the other. I might actually recommend going with Junior Detective for this game simply because the awkward movement interface makes finishing the timed challenges such an annoyance.

Savegames: Like other games in this series, Message in a Haunted Mansion is well-constructed and does not suffer from serious bugs; in fact, the Nancy Drew games have a "second chance" feature that allows you to automatically replay any scene in which Nancy dies or fails at her mission, so you theoretically shouldn't need to worry about savegames at all. Though there are a few potentially critical glitches in some of the other Nancy Drew titles, I have not found any in Haunted Mansion. It's impossible to lose this game other than becoming bored and quitting.

Time Management: Message in a Haunted Mansion runs on "Ultima time"--there's a game clock, and NPC's move in and out of rooms at the same time every day, but the number of days that pass is irrelevant to the game, so it's OK to go to sleep for a few hours every time you need an NPC to move (you use the alarm clock next to Nancy's bed to accomplish this.) There are also two timed puzzles in this game, each of which will result in Nancy losing the game if she doesn't move quickly enough (something that can be aggravating with the inelegant movement system)--but if you run out of time in either case, the "second chance" feature will restart the timer and let you try again.

Interrogation: You have a selection of different dialogue choices during most conversations with suspects in Message in a Haunted Mansion, but in no case do your choices affect anything in the game. This is somewhat unfortunate (it would have been nice for the amount of information you decide to reveal to the suspects to affect their behavior), but it also means you really needn't waste your time reloading or replaying any conversations. You should, however, make an effort to exhaust every line of conversation with every character (except Bess, George and Hannah, who are completely optional), both because it gives you more details so that you can figure the mystery out for yourself, and also because the act of conversing with an NPC often triggers an unrelated plot event to happen somewhere else in the mansion.

Movement: The movement controls in the Nancy Drew games are very inconsistent and often unintuitive--sometimes it is hard to see an exit to your left or right, because the cursor does not shift to show that you can turn that way unless it is resting in the precisely correct location (which is not always to the far margin of the screen where you'd expect it). The same cursor (a red magnifying glass) is also used for examining something, moving forwards, and sometimes (most confusingly) even turning and stepping forwards at once. Luckily the area available to explore in each of these games is very small,so you can get used to the movement possibilities in each location quickly. The first hallway is the most frustrating part (one of the doors is a hotspot that you can move towards and examine, and the others are not, so clicking on them causes you to move forward past them, which is very disorienting.)

The Phone: Nancy can only use the phone in the parlor to call her own friends, Bess, Hannah, and Emily. No other telephone numbers work in this game. Bess and Hannah are optional, but you'll need to call Emily for a translation near the end of the game or the plot will fail to progress.

Problem Spots: There's not much that could possibly go wrong as you play Message in a Haunted Mansion. Other than giving up and quitting, there's no way to lose this game. In fact, it doesn't even matter if you never read or pick up any of the important evidence. There is only one ending cutscene, and it is not affected by any choices you make. Of course, the game is more fun and makes more sense if you bother collecting the evidence and conversing with suspects.

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