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Patrick Hope: Nancy Drew mystery a cheap, effective title

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columns Dickinson, 58602
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

This week we have an actual, live request for a game to discuss, and it's not something you'd expect either. As an added bonus, it happens to be in a genre that I haven't even touched on, so new ground all around.

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So what is this game? It's a point-and-click PC adventure from the multimillion-selling Nancy Drew franchise from Her Interactive.

The one I'm playing is The Deadly Device, a descriptive title if there ever was one, and is the 27th(!) in the series, released in 2012. I imagine most of the series is similar to this one, so what do Nancy Drew's adventures hold? Let's get after it and find out.

?Point-and-click adventures aren't very common anymore, usually being restricted to awful "horror" games and pretentious outings where the plots are almost exclusively "This girl won't go out with me! Better grab my fedora and make a Flash game! #niceguy."

Thankfully, Nancy Drew avoids any of that sort of nonsense and provides us with a mystery to solve. While you will question witnesses and suspects and collect evidence, the bulk of the game is spent in puzzles. This feels like a bit of a lost opportunity to have battles of wits with suspects like the interrogations in L.A. Noire or the courtroom scenes in a Phoenix Wright game. But hey, I'm not the target audience here and it's not like puzzles are a bad game design choice. Plus, focusing heavily on puzzles avoids some major pitfalls of adventure games, like forgetting an item and rendering the game unwinnable, a la every Sierra game ever.

?So the puzzles are the main attraction of the game, and there are a lot of them, ranging from fun to sometimes tedious, as exemplified in a Simon puzzle which you need to do to get a crucial item. As a sidenote, Simon puzzles need to be banned from games forever. The solutions to the puzzles also vary depending on your difficulty level.

The game has two difficulties: amateur and master. As the game is intended for kids, I assumed master was a better option. This was a poor assumption. After spending about half an hour getting absolutely worked by a puzzle involving color swatches, I was about ready to throw in the towel. Make no mistake; this game does not mess around with its puzzles. There were multiple times while playing that I thought, "There is no way I could have done this when I was a kid." But that may be due more to that around the time I was the age of the intended audience, I was blowing most of my gaming time playing GoldenEye. The developers put a lot of effort into the puzzles and it shows. They're definitely the strong point here.

?But this adventure is also a mystery, so the plot merits some discussion. Nancy gets called into investigate the death of a physicist who was researching wireless transmission of electricity by that fun, fun device, the Tesla coil. While it get the job done as Nancy goes from Point A to Point B and figures out the murder at the center of the case, it's nothing particularly special. But I can't really complain. As an avid reader of the Hardy Boys back in my salad days, I can say the story definitely brought me back to those books. It's no 999 or Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, but you'll want to find out the truth and get the real killer just like a good detective.

?The Deadly Device and its many companions in the Nancy Drew series aren't the flashiest of games, but they're fun and, as an old edutainment aficionado, I can say I definitely would have enjoyed them as a kid.

Plus, a cursory Amazon search reveals this one costs a whole $10. If you're looking for something that you can plow through in five hours or something innocuous to play with your kids, this is a perfectly fine option.

Special thanks to R.E. for the request and letting me borrow the game.

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