Genre: Mystery Adventure
Release Date: November 1999
Note: Original publcation date is unknown
I admire Her Interactive, the company who licensed the Nancy Drew character for a series of computer games. How could you not root for a company whose slogan is "For girls who aren't afraid of a mouse?"
I'm an admitted Nancy Drew fan. I grew up reading my sister's Nancy Drew books (so much more fun than those dry Hardy Boys stories). I'm also a fan of the '30s film series featuring the plucky teen detective. However, I was pretty disappointed with Her Interactive's first Nancy's outing, Secrets Can Kill.
Therefore, I'm pleased as punch to report that their new game, Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger, is a real treat. It's a huge improvement over the first game in almost every single area.
Like Secrets Can Kill, STFD is an accessible, modest mystery game targeted to girls. But, as I've said countless times, there's nothing wrong with "modest" if it's well done.
Which this game certainly is. In the first game, the characters seemed sterile and immobile, as if they were merely puppets marking time waiting for Nancy to come back and talk to them. In STFD, I got a real sense of characters moving around, having their own lives that progressed during the story. Another difference is that this time around the characters are attractive 3D models instead of 2D drawings. The voice acting isn't half-bad either, with one very notable exception of a character who's heard but never seen.
The story in the first game felt flat and mechanical to me, and the setting (a Florida high school) didn't spark my interest. The story in STFD is immediately interesting, however. Death threats on the set of a hit soap opera! Great setting, entertaining setup. In this game, I actually looked forward to uncovering each new clue.
The interface in the first game is clunky in a couple of areas, and this problem has also been eliminated. Navigation is much smoother, and point-and-click responsiveness in menus (an annoying problem the first time around) is excellent.
The artwork in the first game was excellent. In STFD, it's absolutely superb. Using a rich palette of colors, the artists have created a beautifully detailed world. The game provides environments so rich and pleasing it's fun to move through them slowly, to enjoy all of the available eye candy, whether or not it pays off in the actual story or not.
The gameplay in STFD is significantly more challenging and involved than in the first game. This is not a complaint. The developers took a risk in making the puzzles in this game more chewy than in the first game, and the risk pays off. While not too hard for their target market, the game's level of difficulty made the game a more compelling and fun experience.
The most important thing that STFD gets right, however, is atmosphere. All of the elements--story, art, music, dialog, puzzles--work together to create a charmingly mysterious environment. As I worked through this highly enjoyable game (generally with a stupid grin on my face that I reserve for really fun games), I kept muttering to myself, "This is it! This is the Nancy Drew experience I was hoping to have the first time around!"
My main criticism of the game is in the third act of the story. I wish Nancy could have a more active role in settling the mystery. The red herrings are so plentiful, and the identity of the guilty party is revealed so abruptly, it left me wishing that Nancy would have had some time to evaluate all of the info she had gathered and had different choices on how to proceed with that knowledge. Oh, well, something for the third game!
Also, there is a timed puzzle at the end of the game that I really had trouble with.
However, Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger is a huge leap forward for Her Interactive. I can't wait for the third game in this very promising series, and I congratulate everyone at Her Interactive for challenging themselves to make this second Nancy outing so much fun.
Final Grade: B
166 MHz Pentium processor
16 MB RAM
42 MB available hard disk space
16-bit color graphics video card
8x CD-ROM drive
16-bit Windows-compatible stereo sound card
Mouse and speakers