Reviewed: September 26, 2009
Released: September 3, 2009
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Franklin W. Dixon are all childhood heroes of mine. Two of these authors are known the world over for their creations Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. The third author, Franklin W, Dixon is the creator of the amateur detectives “The Hardy Boys.” Frank and Joe Hardy are perhaps one of the greatest fictional teen detectives of all time in my book so it is no surprise that I really enjoyed the newest video game to feature them.
The DS is fast becoming the perfect handheld device for the adventure genre. Her Interactive has had a handle on the Nancy Drew games for quite some time now on the PC. Now they set their sights on the DS with their first release, The Hardy Boys: Treasure on the Tracks, based upon the characters of the longest running book series of all-time.
Treasure on the Tracks takes the boys on an adventure in Europe aboard the Royal Express to solve the mystery of the missing Romanov fortune. The events in this point and click adventure are loosely based upon the unfortunate lives of the real Romanovs including Grigori Rasputin. As the boys travel from Paris to St. Petersburg, you must aid them as they search paintings, solve puzzles and question their fellow travelers to find the next step in the path to solving the mystery. Along the way you will uncover treachery and deceit and a little bit of Russian history as well. There are even hidden references to other not so historical events as well.
The interface is pretty much standard fare including the much cherished PDA in many of the more modern era adventure titles. Treasure on the Tracks uses the stylus almost exclusively with the exception of the L and R Buttons occasionally for reading text on the upper screen. Navigating aboard the “mystery” train as well as the towns are pretty easy though takes a bit of practice to get down. You basically have to rub the stylus tip around the screen to reveal different interaction icons and then double tap the one you want to use. The only real issue I ran into occasionally was when two or more icons were right next to each other. I would often hit the one I didn’t want.
Players will get a chance to play as Frank, the dark haired one, and Joe as well as the mysterious Samantha Quick (sound familiar) throughout the adventure. The puzzles range from easy to medium although sometimes the clues on where to go next is really easy, that and the PDA, literally tells you were to go and what to do there. Despite that feature the PDA also serves as your central hub for your inventory, menu, journey log and the notepad. The later is fairly useful if you need to remember certain pieces of information for later on.
As far as the story and puzzles there are no “dead ends” to be had. If you fail a puzzle or event you can retry until you get it right. I did get hung up a couple times throughout the game but nothing that will make you want to break your DS. The developers actually did a fairly good job incorporating the use of both screens for this adventure. There are certain events that require you to follow commands on the lower screen while you keep an eye on the upper screen to know when to stop doing the required action. One such execution was when you play as Samantha while hiding in a chest, which I thought was really cool.
Treasure on the Tracks features an interesting cast of characters reminiscent of Murder on the Orient Express including a Russian art scholar, an established British historian, and a waitress names Isabelle DuPont. What secrets do they hide, and who can be trusted is up to you to decide. The one character that I have to mention in this adventure is the train itself. Each of the carriages that you visit screams of old world style proper of a train furnished in the early 20th century.
Graphically, I’m pretty impressed with Treasure on the Tracks. The character models are okay and serve their purpose but lack in the detail a bit. The graphics that I really liked were with the train itself. Each carriage had its own style, some more extravagant than the others but all nicely done for DS graphics. Little details like the sparkle of gold pieces of furniture to the blinking light of security cameras in corners to the swaying of ceiling lights with the motions of the train are well done. While you move about you can even see the effect of a moving train in the upper screen, which adds to the immersion a bit.
The art galleries in each of the major cities you visit are also well done as well as the different landmarks that you can see at various points of interests. I also thought that the ribbon containing the cities name that shows when you enter that city was kind of cool. I noticed that when in Prague and Warsaw, the name was actually written like you would expect it to be while actually visiting there.
Treasure on the Tracks offers little in the sound department beside the varied background scores you hear repeatedly and the sound effects such as the ringing of your PDA. All the conversations are text based so there is no voice acting what so ever. The music is decent and is more upbeat in moments of danger but overall not to memorable.
It took me about 5-6 hours to solve this mystery, which is decent for the $20 dollar budget price. This title is clearly geared towards younger kids and teens which makes it great for casual gamers on a lunch breaks, car rides or even a commute via bus. I will note that there is no auto-save feature so saving often is a good idea. There are three save slots available so if you share a DS you can have multiple game sessions.
The Hardy Boys: Treasure on the Tracks was a trip down memory lane worthy of the price of admission. I was always a fan of the books growing up and my love for them apparently has not died, even now. I recommend this title to any fan of the books as well as any casual gamer looking for a fun adventure. It’s time to hit the golden tracks with Frank and Joe Hardy in this Russian mystery. Good luck sleuths of all ages!