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Shadow Ranch HD
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Shadow Ranch HD is an interactive Nancy Drew mystery. The story has Nancy and her friends visiting a ranch in the American Southwest that is being plagued by problems -- problems which may or may not be being caused by the proprietors of a rival ranch. The app itself is a blend of genres: it's a full book to read, but it also comes with interactive sounds, animations, and choose-your-own-adventure decision points that allow the reader to guide the flow of the tale. Plus it's full of mini-games, including hidden object puzzles and word games. There are several mini-mysteries that can be unlocked as well. The story is on the same reading level (and content level) as the classic offline Nancy Drew book series. There are tougher vocabulary words -- though many can be defined with a tap -- and some scary moments, but nothing too violent. Be aware that there is less expensive version of the app for iPhone.
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Is it any good?
SHADOW RANCH HD takes the interactive book genre to new places. As you read through this full-length Nancy Drew novel, it's fun to activate little animations and sound effects. But it's far cooler to be able to make decisions as to what Nancy will do at different points -- and steer the story to completely different scenes when you do. Plus, some choices lead you to hidden object puzzles; and though they're sometimes tough puzzles, they all fit very neatly and coherently into the story -- Nancy will actually be looking for the things you need to find as part of the plot. And then there are also hidden, highlighted words in each chapter to find (some of which will only be found by making the right story choices); find them all and you can unlock anagram word games and new mini-mysteries. It's all brilliantly put together; a true blending of book and game.