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Low-Spoiler Hints for Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch

Welcome to my Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch 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 deadly mystery like The Secret of Shadow Ranch'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 Secret of Shadow Ranch 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 The Secret of Shadow Ranch, 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: The Secret of Shadow Ranch Hints and Tips
Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch Walkthrough
Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch Game Spoilers and Easter Eggs
Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch Plot and Character Information
Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch Cheats and Links
Backseat Game Designer: Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch Critique

The Secret of Shadow Ranch Hints and Tips

Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch is a modern PC adventure game in the popular Nancy Drew series. Like the other Nancy Drew games, Secret of Shadow Ranch 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 on a dude ranch in Arizona. These are relatively easy games, designed with young teens in mind, and The Secret of Shadow Ranch 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, George, and the Hardy Boys) 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.

Savegames: Like other games in this series, The Secret of Shadow Ranch 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; even in practice, one savegame should suffice. Which is good, because the savegame mechanism in the Nancy Drew games is extremely annoying and Secret of Shadow Ranch is even worse than most!

Time Management: Unlike many Nancy Drew games, there is no game clock in The Secret of Shadow Ranch. If another character tells Nancy to wait for something to happen, the only way this will ever occur is if you take some in-game action to trigger it. If a game event isn't happening, it's your responsibility to walk around talking to all the NPC's and picking objects up until the plot progresses. The sun will not set in this game without some unrelated help from you.

Interrogation: You have a selection of different dialogue choices during most conversations with suspects in The Secret of Shadow Ranch, 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 the Hardy Boys, 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 sometimes triggers an unrelated plot event to happen somewhere else in the ranch.

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, right, or even straight ahead (!), because the cursor does not shift to show that you can go 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). Clicking to the left or right will sometimes rotate your view 90 degrees, and other times cause you to rotate and move. Clicking a down arrow will sometimes cause you to look down, sometimes cause you to move down, and other times cause you to back up. There's no way to predict any of these things in advance, and it can be very disorienting. Luckily the area available to explore in each of these games is very small, so you can get used to the arrows in each location quickly.

The Phone: Thank heaven, Nancy has finally gone and invested in a cellphone. This means you don't need to trek back to the living room every time you want to make a call. Sometimes, however, you will find yourself unable to use the cellphone. Usually this is because there is another person in the immediate vicinity (well, what detective would want to give everything away to the suspects by yakking away on her cell phone?) Sometimes the phone is unavailable for plot reasons. But other times, the phone won't work and there simply is no good reason as far as gameplay is concerned. I guess the designers just wanted to give the feeling of being out in the wilderness so remote that there is no cellphone coverage there. In those cases you'll just need to go back to the ranch.

The Internet: This is a neat feature. I don't believe you ever HAVE to use the Internet in Secret of Shadow Ranch, but if you happen not to know something pertinant to the game-- the color a tomato turns when it's ripe and so on-- you can learn it online using Nancy's cellphone instead of going off to look it up in real life. Like the cellphone, Nancy's Internet connection is not accessible in outdoors areas or while standing next to an NPC.

Problem Spots: There's not much that could possibly go wrong as you play The Secret of Shadow Ranch. There's no way to lose this game that Second Chance wouldn't undo. 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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