Last time I wrote about the Nancy Drew series, I had said it was the end of the road for me, at least until the release of the now almost mythical Midnight in Salem.
But I left out many of the series’ titles as I didn’t really enjoy some of the elements in them, particularly the need to repeat menial tasks such as using keys on doors, the lack of tooltips on items to know what they are (something that gets very annoying when you’re juggling keys around), no mouse wheel support and the overwhelming amount of gimmicky arcade mini games, mostly for undercover nonsense reasons.
Over the Easter weekend, I decided it was time to clear out the entire series, take the plunge and just complete and crack all the mysteries Nancy Drew had left for me, not just because I had nothing better to do, but I figured I might be missing out on some gaming gems by not giving the older titles are fair shake. And a part of me wanted to shut up some of the more vitriolic fans on the Nancy Drew sub-reddit, who claimed my opinions, on the series as a whole and on the development of Midnight in Salem were somehow invalid as I hadn’t played all the titles, so clearly I wasn’t a fan. Now I’ve played them all. I consider myself a fan, just not a sycophant.
One thing I have enjoyed now that I’ve played every game in the Nancy Drew series, is watching the stylistic, narrative and mechanical evolution of the series, the feeling of a new developing studio dipping its foot in the water before taking the plunge, with each game showing a greater overall degree of maturity in design, storytelling and complexity, even if the quality of the games themselves often takes a few hits.
But along with it, I’ve come to recognise the crutches Her Interactive constantly leans on to add game-time to a title and complexity where there would be none otherwise. The driving segments in some titles, progress hidden not behind logic and inventory puzzles but mini games with very random or frustrating elements and made up economies to keep you busy collecting funds, are some of the more common elements in the Nancy Drew series that Her Interactive leans on far too often and which drive me up the wall! There’s also the fact that every character in the Nancy Drew series, from politicians to dead pirates and cowboys all have degrees in engineering, creating complex yet contrived puzzles.
In my last article about the Nancy Drew videogame series, I explained what I thought were the causes for the delay of the latest game, Midnight in Salem. Since then, however, the developers behind the Nancy Drew series have released nothing concrete to even show a modicum of progress in the game’s development. In fact, up until late last year, Her Interactive pretty much ignored any and all requests for information, from fans and journalists alike, only to release a press statement that gave a vague “2019 release,” to placate some of the fandom, and boy some people praised the vague news like gospel.
Sadly, I’m not that gullible, nor am I a sycophant. I’ve spoken to enough developers and publishers since creating this little site and have seen many videogames never see the light of day or get pushed back so far that when they do release, they can’t possibly live up to the expectations. And that’s where I think the Nancy Drew series is at the moment. There hasn’t been any concrete information to even believe the Midnight in Salem 2019 release is truthful, or even possible. And it’s going to have to be very good, spectacular even, to feel worthwhile for most of the eager followers.
Between reading claims of management changes, layoffs and the sudden silence from a developer that apparently—according to what I’ve read from those hot on the Her Interactive trail—used to be very open about their products and development with their fans, along with the near constant special sales and discounts, I can see the clear marks of a company struggling to keep itself, if not afloat, relevant. It’s no surprise that one of the reasons for the delays—at least according to Her Interactive—is to make Midnight in Salem compatible not only with PC and Mac but also mobile devices, consoles and even VR and AR. Pretty much every option in the market.
If Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem actually releases in Spring 2019 as they’ve stated, I’ll be shocked and pleasantly surprised, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ve heard from and witnessed developers attempt to target too many platforms, spread themselves too thin and eventually either completely abandon some of those proposed platforms or release a subpar product.
I hope I’m wrong, I really do, but as I said, I’ve seen all of this before. I would consider it doomed outright if there had been a Kickstarter at some point of the process. After all, crowdfunded games failing to deliver is almost a trend nowadays.
With that said, let me push away some of the negativity and focus on the Nancy Drew games I’ve played over the course of a couple of years, with the last handful played just a short few weeks ago.
I mentioned before that I had played all the titles in the Nancy Drew series but that’s not entirely accurate. There is one title among them that I couldn’t even install on my computer, it just would launch. Stay Tuned for Danger is the game, which from the sheer number of messages begging Her Interactive for help, might be infamous for how difficult it’s to install. Speaking of which, I wrote their tech support for aid, and received an automated message stating they’re still catching up on holiday messages. But then I went on the site and saw a similar message as a reply to someone asking for help in January, with no follow up.
As someone working in the IT industry and often having to provide support to clients and customers, I find Her Interactive’s support staff and capabilities, frankly, pathetic.
And I didn’t even touch the hidden object games because I don’t touch those. Hate them all.
Ok, once again, let’s push the negativity aside. As you may have noticed, getting into a ranting mood is fairly easy for me, so I’ll just focus on the games now.
With the rest of the Nancy Drew series under my belt, I figured it would be fun to review each of the titles, but since there are so many, let’s do something fun. I’ll list the game, the score I believe suits it best and a little message about something memorable about it, even if the memorable thing is the bit that drove me insane!
- Secrets Can Kill – 5/5 – Fantastic environmental puzzle, with clues right under your nose.
- Stay Tuned for Danger – ?/5 – Don’t know, can’t install. Seems I’m not worthy!
- Message in a Haunted Mansion – 2/5 – Not much of a mystery. House setting wasted.
- Treasure in the Royal Tower – 3/5 – Surprising depth, but subpar villain.
- The Final Scene – 4/5 – Clever use of the cinema. Predictable plot.
- Secret of the Scarlet Hand – 3/5 – Uninstall the Maze!
- Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake – 4/5 – Fun but repetitive.
- The Haunted Carousel – 2/5 – Short and easy.
- Danger on Deception Island – 4/5 – Free Nancy!
- The Secret of Shadow Ranch – 3/5 – Can I kill the horse wrangler?
- Curse of Blackmoor Manor – 3/5 – Puzzle house, not much character depth.
- Secret of the Old Clock – 2/5 – Minigame: The Game!
- Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon – 3/5 – Hardly Boys. Old West Super Science.
- Danger by Design – 2/5 – Overused market. Monkey Kombat end.
- The Creature of Kapu Cave – 3/5 – Just how naïve can Nancy be?
- The White Wolf of Icicle Creek – 1/5 – Chores: The Game!
- Legend of the Crystal Skull – 2/5 – If you’re gonna do NOLA, do it properly. Emo kid is funny.
- The Phantom of Venice – 1/5 – Lame characters, convoluted story, annoying economy, dress up nonsense.
- The Haunting of Castle Malloy – 2.5/5 – Jetpack Nanny!
- Ransom of the Seven Ships – 3/5 – Bad golf cart, damn monkeys! Love the ending though!
- Warnings at Waverly Academy – 3/5 – Too much demerit nonsense. Vicious villain!
- Trail of the Twister – 3/5 – Why so much driving? Also, screw Pop coins…
- Shadow at the Water’s Edge – 5/5 – Surprisingly scary!
- The Captive Curse – 3/5 – Tries too hard to be scary, subpar mystery. Ned is a doormat.
- Alibi in Ashes – 5/5 – Great plot, great puzzles, fun teamwork.
- Tomb of the Lost Queen – 4/5 – New interface! Nancy has a smartphone!
- The Deadly Device – 4/5 – Great puzzles, interesting mystery.
- Ghost of Thornton Hall – 4/5 – Great “haunting” elements.
- The Silent Spy – 3/5 – Nancy’s mom has got it going on!
- The Shattered Medallion – 1/5 –Nonsense plot, bad characters. Also, no option to murder Sonny Joon.
- Labyrinth of Lies – 5/5 – THANATOS!!!!
- Sea of Darkness – 4/5 – Great puzzles, dumb villain. Finally, some Nancy/Ned character progress.
There, that’s my official reviews for all of them! Disagree? Want more of an explanation? Hit me up in the comments and I’ll let ya know!
I have no more Nancy Drew games to play, so I suppose the only thing left is to join everyone else in waiting for Ragnarok, an alien invasion, or the release of Midnight in Salem, whichever happens first!