I promise, this will be one of the last Nancy Drew articles I write…maybe. Ok, it’s not likely. I like the games and there’s lots of them to talk about.
But what I want to talk about today is not about my experience. Instead, for those who haven’t played a single game in the series and don’t know how or when to jump in, I’d like to help you out. These are the things you need to know and accept before you jump into HeR Interactive’s long-running Nancy Drew series.
1 – Barely any connection between games
This is the best bit for new players in the Nancy Drew series. While there are recurring characters in the games and sometimes you meet people who you’ve interacted with on an earlier case, you don’t need to have played any of the games to jump into the series later on.
My first game was number 16, Nancy Drew: The White Wolf at Icicle Creek. And though they mentioned and I interacted with a useless police detective—more on this below—named Tino Balducci, not having played the game where you meet this character didn’t impact my experience with this Nancy Drew title.
If there are narrative threads, they’re tenuous, as each game is meant to be a standalone experience. At least as much as possible.
2 – All adults and authorities are useless
No matter the investigation, you’ll interact with law enforcement or some form of authority. They’ll be in charge of the people you’re interviewing and will fire you if you cross any lines, but the truth is, they’re useless.
The cops are ineffectual, which often leads to people hiring Nancy in the first place, but it also means that when things really start turning ugly, any request for help will be ignored, and the same applies to all other adults in charge.
At best they’re just there, incapable of helping but at worst they’ll actively obstruct you, and it’s those you have to look out for, at least until you find a way to go behind their back, at which point their usefulness returns to zero.
3 – Faceless Drew
Nancy Drew doesn’t have a face. You will never see her reflection nor will you find photos of her. In fact, when there are photos, someone managed to fumble it in some way to hide her features. In Alibi in Ashes, you control the rest of her friends and while they have photos of each other on their phones, Nancy is the only one without one.
I always thought it was strange, and would love for HeR Interactive to someday answer me that question.
In Shadow at the Water’s edge there’s a scene with a tricked mirror, only when it happened and I didn’t see Nancy’s reflection, I jumped out of my seat and said, “I knew it! She’s a Vampire!” to myself…maybe.
4 – Everyone is a master puzzler
It doesn’t matter if they’re an outlaw in the wild west, a theoretical physicist obsessed with the works of Nicola Tesla or the people running a famously haunted Ryokan, every character present in the story, even as a backstory reference will be a master in designing puzzles, with perhaps a few degrees in engineering. Some of them seem straight out of a Steampunk setting with their complex contraptions.
If they’re not making strange machines, then their cryptography skills are unparalleled, creating complex codes to baffle even Bletchley Park.
I’ve called it contrived in the past, but have since then learned to love it as part of the series’ unique charm. Everyone is a master puzzler, you just have to accept it!
5 – There’s always a jerk
It doesn’t matter the game, the assignment, if there’s a body or just a mystery to solve, Nancy will deal with a large cast of characters, all of them shady in a different way, thus earning their place on her suspect list. But as certain as the existence of a culprit is the fact that one of the characters will be a raging jerk, a character so obnoxious you’ll want to jump through the screen and strangle them.
From a tabloid reporter in Nancy’s hometown to a grumpy cowboy on the ranch, these characters will test the limits of your patience and will make you wonder how Nancy can be so good when dealing with such astonishingly horrible people.
On my end, I wonder why there isn’t a “slap” button in the games, because some of these characters deserve a whooping!
6 – It’s never supernatural
If Nancy’s investigating an old Irish castle with Banshee sightings, a Ryokan where a ghost drawn from the best of Japanese horror films haunts the halls, or just a decrepit house on Blackrock Island, you’ll think for a minute that there are monsters around, ghosts haunting the halls or dark curses at work. But there aren’t, that’s the absolute truth.
Every case, every mystery has a rational explanation, even if it’s a complicated one. The villains will abuse local folklore to scare people off properties and convince everyone there really is a monster in the woods, but it’s just them or their accomplices committing the shenanigans.
I’d love for them to play the supernatural elements straight at least once, just to see the character’s reaction. Also, Nancy, dearie, some villain revelations deserve a bit of a snarky attitude. Some plans are too complicated not to mock!
7 – Ned is a Saint
Nancy’s boyfriend is the either the most amazing guy in the world of the biggest chump, and your opinion on him will sway between games. Constantly left behind, always making romantic plans that will turn to ash when his girlfriend finds a new mystery, Ned just takes it and keeps going, his love for Nancy undying.
I’ve only seen him lose his cool in one game and want it to happen more often. The dude deserves a lot better than being second bananas to random mystery number 235.
He’s nice, attentive and puppy-loyal.
He deserves better.
If you’ve never played a game in the Nancy Drew series, you’ll need to wrap your head around those, same as you would have to wrap your heard around the fact Pro Wrestlers can’t climb ladders before you can enjoy WWE.
Granted the Ned point isn’t necessary to accept to enjoy the games, but it has to be said!
If you have played the Nancy Drew series, you’ll probably go through that list and know exactly what I’m talking about!