Nancy Drew has been
a perky young go-getter detective since the 1930s and for 70+ years
she has been a role model for young women, several notable ones
among them, such as Hillary Clinton, for example. Well the books
have been generally critically acclaimed, but how would she fair in
the newer medium of computer games? Judging from adventure #17:
surprisingly well, actually.
The old point-and-click adventure games have pretty much gone the
way of the dodo, and the only ones that crop up tend to be
simplistic and make little sense – I can think of one particular
example that was also trying to cash in on a serial. Nancy Drew
could easily fall into the same trap, but it seems she has stuck to
the age-old traditions and gives a nice pulp-detective tale with
some wickedly nefarious puzzles.
Nancy and Bess are visiting New Orleans when Nancy stumbles across
the mystery of one of the legendary crystal skulls and resolves to
locate it – hidden somewhere in the mansion of the late Bruno Bolet.
Meanwhile, Bess is in New Orleans proper, but they are cut off from
each other due to a nasty storm. This leaves you playing as either
Nancy in the mansion, or Bess in town and you switch between the two
by making a phone call. As with most of the production values here,
it is minimal, but quite well done.
For a budget, serial, title you could be forgiven for thinking that
it would be very poorly presented. Certainly, it doesn’t compare to
the latest GPU-hungry or multi-million dollar games available today,
but it is still surprisingly effective. The still graphics are
passable, but most importantly they’re clear, so it is obvious what
is what. Particularly important when navigating 3D space with clicks
otherwise you can be easily confused when you look at the same image
from a different angle.
The characters and their animations are a little rough – seeming
more like claymation than real people – but again they’re quite well
done, even to the point of solid lip syncing. The only real gripe I
have about the look and feel of the game is the voice actors for
Nancy and Bess... and unfortunately they’re probably in all of the
Nancy Drew games. They sounded like older women trying to play the
part of 18 year-olds, who have forgotten what that was like,
clipping off each word to make it sound sweet an innocent. It came
across as grating.
The story, as has been mentioned, was typical pulp-detective fair.
It was interesting enough, but nothing terribly ground breaking. The
puzzles, however, were surprisingly difficult. The game seems to be
pitched at very smart teens – perhaps wannabe detectives, or a group
of them putting their heads together. There is a “junior detective”
mode which makes the puzzles a little easier, but certainly on the
senior detective setting you can expect to spend many, many hours
puzzling out some serious tricks.
They’re not all in the form of mini games, either, which is nice.
Many of them require you to skip between several locations, or read
found books, or solve riddles – or a combination of all of them.
They’re quite the challenge and it makes for a good reward when you
resolve it. Many situations seem unrealistically set – such as all
the hidden locks and keys scattered throughout the mansion – but
that’s what happens in detective novels.
I can really see these Nancy Drew games being quite the hit in the
classroom – I would have liked to have sunk a few hours into one
with school friends – preferably instead of English class. It’s a
point and click adventure / puzzle game, which is going to
immediately turn off the hard-core gamer, but for puzzle game
aficionados this one is sure to give you your money's worth.