September 27, 2009

Review: Nancy Drew: Resorting To Danger

game format: casual hidden object adventure

puzzles: hidden objects | inventory | arcade | jigsaws | numericals | logicals | object matches | misc

playtime: 15 hours | difficulty: moderate

developer / publisher: Her Interactive

links: Official site  |  Buy this game  |  Strategy Guide

Nancy Drew: Resorting To Danger
game brief: You, as Nancy Drew, must stop a bomber from ruining the Redondo Spa clients’ rejuvenation and relaxation. The high maintenance clients won’t be happy if they find that their retreat is about to explode, even if the bombs are more prankster gross-outs than dangerous. From celebrities who escape here to the receptionist at the front desk — everyone is a suspect! Who is sabotaging the spa and can Nancy catch the culprit before the spa loses all of its clients? (Official website)

review: And the culprit is... Mr. Mingles! No, seriously.

But let’s not jump the gun... or the bomb, as is the case this time. The latest Nancy Drew game by Her Interactive starts with a bomb blast at the posh Redondo Centre for Rehabilitation in Northern California, one in a series of many that has Manager Nick Bleski worried even as he assures his privileged guests that the blasts are ‘construction accidents’. Teen sleuth Nancy is requested to investigate, and she promptly visits the Centre, armed with her formidable skills and a bomb-detecting device built by her gal-pal George Fayne, which is expected to ‘almost certainly work’.

She is met by Cassidy Jones, the hoity-toity receptionist at the Centre, who starts the tutorial that demonstrates the various aspects of the game. The instructions are clear, easy to understand and remember, and get the story going while showing the ropes.

Nancy goes undercover as a General Assistant, and must do various tasks ordered by the Centre’s visitors and employees in addition to her detective work. Her dual role, combined with the out-of-control antics of pampered pooch Mr. Mingles, easily takes the game to an averagely-challenging but thoroughly-entertaining 15+ hours of hidden object hunts, jigsaws, arcade puzzles, mini-quizzes and a step-by-step unravelling of the whodunit.

The screens - the rooms and garden of the Centre - are drawn in comic book style: 2-D, vibrant and detailed. The hidden objects are all relevant to the case, often forming parts of inventory puzzles, and appear in multiple layers i.e. at different times of the game serving different purposes. The arcade puzzles – which have detailed tutorials and increase in difficulty / complexity as the game progresses, cover jumbled words, match twos / threes, pipes-based alignment games and a seemingly girly but deceptively tricky game where Nancy has to give ‘facials’ to the residents of the Centre. Chats with characters and navigating the Centre require Nancy to answer questions that test her grasp of the case. There are some logical puzzles as well, including an interesting one involving a Chinese carving and matching marbles, and a long, complex and slightly vague romp around the garden hedge maze fixing the statues of Greek gods, goddesses and philosophers that may require one or two peeks at Google or Wikipedia.

The characters, represented as toons, have distinct personality quirks and expressions, and add considerable charm to the game. Besides uber-professional Bleski and dandy Cassidy, there is super-rich, super-neurotic Mrs. Montague, the owner of Mr. Mingles; silky-voiced, breezy diva Jasmine Ivy; frustrated and blustering biochemist Helfdan Helgason; and the creepy janitor Joanna Brown. Each of them has secrets and agendas and is a suspect at some or all points of the game. In fact, the game is designed to have six different endings depending on how it's played – yes, that’s right! Besides adding replay value, this fact also stands testament to the tight storytelling that is the hallmark of the Nancy Drew games.

The game has many tools to aid Nancy’s quest, such as a journal detailing the chapters, a hints system and in-game clues and descriptions that nudge the player towards the solution. A points system called the Krolmeister Sleutho-Meter leads to detective rankings starting from Amateur and ending at Ultimate Private Eye, achieving which rewards the player with the ‘Special Credits’. As a bonus, the arcade puzzles appear as stand-alone games along with the main adventure.

Her Interactive steps away from long-format adventures to the currently popular casual-HOG-adventure format for this title, part of the ‘Nancy Drew Dossier’ series. This makes the game easier and linear, with one screen leading to another, and nothing to be ‘deduced’ as such. Players used to the demanding long adventures may find this a bit of a walkover, and may even be mildly turned off by the arcade puzzles that cannot be skipped (but can be attempted over and over again).

But by retaining the features that set these games apart from run-of-the-mill offerings - a robust storyline, perfect voiceovers (the same team that does the long-format games), music that is suitably moody and urgent, and extreme and intelligent attention to detail – Her Interactive makes this game a must-play for existing fans, and will certainly entice a new set of fans, who may be intimated by ‘serious adventures’, to be part of Nancy's cases and enjoy the talent and charisma that has enthralled many generations of mystery buffs.

And as they say, the more the merrier!

g@mrgrl rating: 5/5

This is an original review written by me. Please do not distribute / adapt the text and images in any way without my written consent.