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Game Review

Nancy Drew knew all about haunted mansions and old clocks. But time travel? That was probably a little outside her bailiwick. Another girl detective, however, will soon find that she's got some family history on that subject.

In the downloadable PC and portable game The Perils of Man, schoolgirl Ana Eberling comes from a line of prodigious inventors and geniuses. Of course, that family tree also happens to contain a long branch of mysterious individuals who happened to go missing just as their greatest discoveries showed the most promise. It started with her great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Eberling, a scientific mastermind who in 1888 said he had discovered an incredibly potent power source while experimenting with something called a Bavarian Crystal … and then straightaway disappeared. That trend continued right up until her scientifically minded rock star dad checked out just 10 years ago.

If you think that means Ana is also likely destined for some kind of exotic adventure, well, you're picking up all the right clues. But you're still not as good at it as Ana!

Ana Eberling, Girl Detective
Young Ana may appear to be just a bright young girl stuck with her overly nervous and paranoid mum in a leaky and creaky old family mansion. (A mansion Mum thinks is haunted, by the way.) But our winsome heroine is more than that, using her voraciously inquisitive mind to explore the nooks and crannies of that 150-year-old manor, eruditely finding explanations for the sounds and whispers that her mother frets over. And she really gets digging after an unexpected gift from her father shows up on her 16th birthday.

Could this strange colored cylinder hold the key to her dad's disappearance? Does it have something to do with the ancient dormant diorama that Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Eberling built long ago? And what about the arcane markings on the fountain out in front of the house? Or the grandfather clock that's never worked in the library? Could all of these clues and gadgets somehow be linked to mechanical wind-up wonders from the age of steam … and possibly even actual time travel?

Ana is determined to find out.

Ana Eberling, Playmaker and Risk Taker
Set in creatively animated rooms and labs full of centuries-old gadgets and dusty whiz-bangs, this point-and-click adventure/puzzle-solving game is fun to explore and relatively simple to play. Gaming action is generally all about searching every inch of a given area and then combining any discovered items to unlock a current conundrum. For Ana must assemble and operate steampunk-like contraptions, break codes, experiment with chemicals and lab equipment, and break out of locked rooms to solve her ongoing string of small mysteries.

Once she discovers a certain family heirloom called a Risk Atlas, time-hopping moves into the mix. This gives Ana a chance to work her puzzle- and mystery-solving skills to the benefit of others as she attempts to avert a fiery theater disaster, say, or find a cure for a ship full of deathly ill crew members.

It's these kinds of in-game actions that also offer up the title's short list of minor content issues, of course. There's no blood or mess, but we do see, for instance, a young woman fall to her death in a shadowy crevice, watch as a man slips from a great height, spot an individual lying lifeless on the floor and witness a building being maliciously set ablaze. A ship's captain and a theater manager both swig back mouthfuls of booze.

Thankfully, that time travel opens things up for a few story twists that challenge players to consider the price of their choices. If, for instance, you could go back in time and save a group of innocents, but that rescue could mean the death of thousands of others, is it worth the risk? For that matter, is the ability to see the future and choose someone else's fate even a power worth having?

Add those kinds of thought-provoking questions to well-constructed visuals and lots of brain-teasing puzzles, and you've got a game that, while not perfect, still has quite a bit of Drew-like girl-detective fun to download.

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Episode Reviews

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