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Children's Software Review:    The Secret of Shadow Ranch

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Computer Software Game Review: Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch

For Windows 95/98/2000/Me/XP & Mac

By Her Interactive

Released: 2004

Reviewed: August 2004

Our Recommended Age: 10-up

Our Rating: A






Buy: Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch



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Mystery number ten in the exceptional Nancy Drew software game series, Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch, is an all-new story with some new features, and essentially another satisfying game. Although the atmosphere is a little less edgy, the game nevertheless draws kids into a mystery that requires brains to solve and doesn't rely on violence or other sensationalism to appeal to kids.


Nancy and her friends, Bess and George, are headed to Shadow Ranch for a vacation, but Bess and George are stranded at an airport and Nancy arrives alone. The Rawleys, otherwise known as Uncle Ed and Aunt Bet and owners of the ranch, are also absent when Nancy sets foot on the ranch, due to a rattlesnake bite. 


Soon enough, Nancy hears of a "phantom horse" and a legend involving a tragic love story. Of course, she wants to get to the bottom of it. Moving about the ranch, finding clues, doing chores, and talking to potential suspects is involved in order to solve the mystery.


Characters in the game include a hunky but somewhat aloof Dave Gregory, a chatty cook, a cranky cowboy named Tex, and a quiet owner of a gift shop. Players refer to Nancy's laptop journal in order to organize their thoughts. On the Junior Detective level, the journal includes a task list that helps players know what they should do next. In both the Junior and Senior levels, the journal summarizes key events and clues. Children use the cell phone to contact both the Hardy Boys and Nancy's friends for hints. When Nancy dialogues with others in the game, players select her replies and questions from a multiple-choice list. 


One of the first tasks Nancy performs is picking ripe vegetables in order to help Shorty, the cook. This is not as straightforward as it sounds—there is not a lot of margin for error with this activity (and, in fact, the game's "Second Chance" feature comes in handy when too many unripe vegetables are picked and Nancy is sent packing!). Players need to refer to articles on the web browser on Nancy's phone in order to select the ripe veggies. There is to be a cookout, and Nancy needs to prepare the campfire, which is a multi-step process. She needs to run an errand for the Rawleys, which involves riding a horse, but the head wrangler, Tex, requires that Nancy prove she can ride and take a horse quiz before she heads out. 


Puzzles, decoding, baking, and a treasure hunt are other highlights of this mystery adventure.


This game is based on the novel of the same name, published in 1931, and the best-selling Nancy Drew book of all time. 


We found the game's atmosphere different than previous installments in the series. Other titles sometimes left players on the edges of their seats, but this title was considerably less moody. The new larger windows are easier to see, but we weren't sure whether it hinders or improves gameplay because there are extra steps involved when moving inventory items onto the screen. Also, the chores that Nancy needed to do on the farm were felt to be somewhat monotonous. Nevertheless, the game is satisfying and commendable. All Nancy Drew software games are challenging but ultimately "doable". Shadow Ranch is no exception. Recommended for children ages 10-11 or older (girls and boys).



  • Enjoyable and challenging mystery.
  • Non-violent, non-sexist content.



  • The game's atmosphere is less dramatic and intriguing than other games in the series.




Our Rating:




[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch]




Reviewed August 2004

















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Buy Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch



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