Stay Tuned for Danger: A Nancy Drew Review #2

image from HerInteractive.com
image from HerInteractive.com

Story

Mattie Jensen, a star on the popular soap opera Light of Our Love, invites Nancy to stay with her in New York in order to investigate a series of death threats aimed at her co-star. The victim, Rick Arlen, seems unconcerned about the threats and refuses to go to the police, despite the increasing severity of his stalker’s actions.

One Giant Problem

Stay Tuned for Danger is quite old for a computer game. 18 years old, in fact.

My computer is not old. It is very new.

The two didn’t play well together.

I played off my hard-copy disk and my computer refused to support the game’s sound, even while running in compatibility mode. Even my partner – magical computer genie that he is – couldn’t finagle it into working. But I’m stubborn, and knew that I wanted to play every single game, so I decided to play it without sound.

Turns out, sound is a big part of what makes the Nancy Drew games fun for me. It just wasn’t the same without the background music, character voices, and sound effects. It was so much less fun that I ended up starting my Senior Detective game over with the difficulty at Junior Detective, just so things would go by a little faster. And I used the forums way more than I should have for the same reason. I just wanted to move on to the next one.

But, I do want to give credit to Her Interactive for their work on subtitling the game. STfD’s closed captioning is truly exceptional, and allowed me to enjoy the dialog even without the sound. Thank goodness, because a great deal of the game is spent in conversations.

Also, the game is now available in a remastered edition from HerInteractive.com, so you don’t have to worry about any of that!

Characters/Suspects

The first person Nancy meets is Mattie Jensen, her hostess and the reason Nancy even has her second case. Mattie is a successful actress and it was nice to have a successful young woman in a place of prominence in the roster. She cares for others and is into traditionally “girly” things, but never comes across as a caricature of young women in general. I remember liking Mattie a lot as a kid, and that hasn’t changed.

Mattie Jensen
Mattie Jensen

Rick Arlen is Mattie’s co-star and the center of the case. Because he stars as the romantic lead of the show, he has a large base of adoring female fans, but if they ever interacted with him, they would maybe be singing a different tune. Rick is skeevy and always seems to be trying to get some from every woman he meets. Including Nancy. When I was younger, I thought it was kind of funny, but now that I’ve met people like this in my own life, I just kind of hated the guy.

Rick Arlen, reminding you to
Rick Arlen, reminding you to “stay beautiful!”

Besides co-staring on Light of Our Love, Rick and Mattie share an agent. Dwayne Powers met Rick and Mattie during the early days of their careers, when they played small theater shows together. Dwayne doesn’t stick out as a character, since Nancy doesn’t interact with him nearly as much as the Rick or Mattie. He’s just kind of there, you know?

Dwayne Powers in his sad office.
Dwayne Powers in his sad office.

Lillian Weiss is the director of Light of Our Love and lets you know it. From square one she makes it known that she doesn’t like you, or anyone really. She’s the stereotypical cold woman of business who will do whatever it takes to get things done. She serves as a barrier for much of the investigation, which stacks the deck against her as a character.

Lillian and her resting ***** face.
Lillian and her permanent scowl.

Above even Lillian on the food chain is Millie Strathorn, the owner of World Wide Broadcasting. Though you’d never know it from the way she keeps herself sequestered away in the prop room. Sometimes it’s hard to know if she even knows she owns the studio. Her sense of reality has become skewed.

Millie is by far the most memorable character of STfD. Even outside of her dottiness, she’s funny, with a genuine sense of humor about everything. The prop room was my favorite area in the game, and a good deal of that was because of Millie.

Mad Millie, owner of WWB and fearless guardian of the prop room.
Mad Millie, owner of WWB and fearless guardian of the prop room.

Gameplay

Getting past the lack of sound took some time and the bug certainly lessened my enjoyment of the game, but it wasn’t the only problem. Her Interactive was still getting into the swing of things with STfD, so the gameplay is rough.

It’s hard to move around in STfD: A big problem when Nancy is constantly moving from one place to another. A lot of times I would click somewhere, thinking that I was going to move in that direction, only to zoom in on something I didn’t care about. And vice-versa. This may be fixed in the new remastered version, but it was certainly a bear to deal with using the original game.

There’s also a lack of puzzles in this game when compared to others in the series. Rather than having Nancy solve something in order to move on, the game was more concerned with having Nancy talk to people and see clues in the correct order. At one point, tired of running around trying to figure out how to activate the next segment of the game, I looked at the forums – only to find that I had done everything, I just hadn’t zoomed in far enough on one item for it to count. I’d read the information on the thing without actually having Nancy read it. Ugh.

Dangerous, but lovely set.
Dangerous, but lovely set.

Recommendation

While I’m glad I played STfD in order to return to the Nancy Drew series’ roots, I’m happy to move on. I don’t recommend it to anyone new to the franchise, as there are so many other games that are much more polished and enjoyable.

 

Does this post look familiar? It was originally published on my old blog back in October 2015 and has been transplanted here with some light editing.

Stay Tuned for Danger: A Nancy Drew Review #2

Secrets Can Kill: A Nancy Drew Review #1

In an attempt to go back and examine my gaming roots, I’ve decided to replay all of Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew mystery games in order of release. I played these games a ton as a kid and am convinced they’re a big part of the reason I like gaming today. I’m not sure how they’ve held up with time, but I’m excited to try them out.

 

image from HerInteractive.com
image from HerInteractive.com

Secrets Can Kill threw me a bit of a curveball, right off the bat. Technically, it’s the first of the series, but Her Interactive recently released a remastered edition. I debated whether to move the game in my timeline to reflect its re-released date, but decided to go ahead and keep it first.

Story

SCK is Nancy’s first case, and her darkest so far. While in Florida visiting her aunt, Nancy is asked to go undercover at the local high school to investigate the recent murder of a student. Now, my memory could be failing me, but I’m pretty sure this is the only Nancy Drew game that involves murder. The victim is never shown and there is no detail given about the crime itself, but murder is a gruesome cause for Nancy’s involvement. And worse, it’s the murder of a high school kid.

But the horror of the crime works for the game. After reaching a certain point in her investigation, Nancy receives threats from an unknown menace. These threats are genuinely scary when viewed in the light of the recent crime. Whoever killed Jake Rogers knew him. If the murderer was willing to kill a local high school student that they knew as a member of the community, they’re almost certainly going to be willing to kill an outsider the majority of the town doesn’t know.

But the most disturbing aspect of the case is the potential involvement of other students. It’s bad enough that there was a murder, but it’s so much worse to think another kid did it.

Suspects

The characters in this game had completely slipped from my mind. All of them are decent suspects, but none are interesting enough to be “sticky” like some of the characters in later games. A big part of this comes from the lack of depth each possesses.

image from herinteractive.wikia.com
Hector “Hulk” Sanchez

The first person I met was Hector “Hulk” Sanchez, the local football star. That one sentence tells you pretty much everything you need to know. Hulk is a shining example of the high school jock stereotype. He’s cocky, loud, and unapologetic. He doesn’t hide the fact that he didn’t like Jake because he was a “dweeb,” which suggests he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. He has zero sense of self-preservation, probably because he’s convinced the town is in love with him and he’s untouchable. Granted, he’s probably right.

Daryl Gray
Daryl Gray

Daryl Grey is another side of the popular kid coin. He works at the local hotspot, Maxine’s Diner, and has plenty of money from his internship with his father’s multi-million dollar company. He’s popular enough to be student body president and is quite proud of the fact. Daryl also considers himself a bit of a wizard with the ladies, if his flimsy attempts at flirtation are any indication. He puts a lot of faith in pick-up lines.

Connie Watson
Connie Watson

Daryl’s none-to-subtle approach works for Connie Watson, a hall monitor who considers him “the only guy worth dating.” When asking Connie about any of the other suspects, her opinion tends to revolve around their date-ability. I did appreciate that she practices Judo and has something defining her other than the fact that she’s the only girl (besides Nancy herself). All too often, games put in the token girl character and there’s nothing interesting about her besides her sex.

Hal Tanaka
Hal Tanaka

Hal Tanaka is the only boy Connie doesn’t seem interested in thinking about in terms of his relationship status, probably because he is nothing but stereotypes. I thought Hulk was an uninteresting stew of stereotypical portrayals, but he’s got nothing on Hal. Hal is an exchange student from Japan who has come to America to become a doctor. He is concerned with nothing but his studies and talks about nothing but his studies, except for some brief forays into talking about bringing honor to his family. Oh, God.

Detective Beech
Detective Beech

The only character Nancy interacts with who is not a student is Detective Beech, the undercover detective who hired her. Detective Beech doesn’t seem to be a very good undercover cop, since he doesn’t have a cover story prepared for talking to Nancy all the time, he’s completely unwilling to share details about the case with her, and does nothing except sit at the diner and drink coffee.

Gameplay

Aside from the lackluster characters, SCK is a pretty fun game. Rather than a number of smaller puzzles, there’s one very long, very involved puzzle that spans the entirety of the game that involves secret messages hidden by Jake before his death. These messages must be decoded and acted upon in order to advance the plot.

The intricacy of the puzzle was a lot of fun and involved taking a lot of handwritten notes, which I love doing. The only thing I didn’t really like was the lack of communication with other characters this created. The puzzle is very self-contained, and Nancy isn’t required to talk with other characters as much as in other games. Talking with others is my favorite thing about the Nancy Drew games, so this was a bit of a bummer for me. Totally valid, but still a bummer.

As far as controls go, the remastered version blows the original out of the water. I remember having to switch disks all the time with the old one, which is no longer an issue. In fact, I didn’t use a disk at all with this one: I bought a digital copy from Steam.

There’s also a lot less clicking with the remastered one, since they added in the auto-scroll features at the edges of the screen like the newer games have. Thank goodness. That little scroller is a blessing because it saves me from my obnoxiously loud mouse.

Recommendation

SCK is a solid game that fans of the Nancy Drew series will enjoy, but I wouldn’t recommend it to those new to the series. There are a ton of other games to choose from that are more engaging and have much better characters than SCK. 

Does this post look familiar? It was originally published on my old blog back in October 2015 and has been transplanted here with some light editing.

Secrets Can Kill: A Nancy Drew Review #1