I can’t stop solving mysteries. It’s not going to be long before it starts to bleed into my real life.
I played and beat the first of the two Nancy Drew games I bought back when I got Sherlock Holmes. This one is “The Shattered Medallion.” Nancy Drew is reluctantly competing in an Amazing Race rip-off with George, and it is run by Sonny Joon, the series’ closest thing to a recurring character that didn’t originate from the book series. Throughout the different games, you seem to consistently be two steps behind him. In multiple games, you are his job replacement, and you can look through all of his old drawings and leftover candy wrappers. Here you can finally put a face to the UFO doodles—and it doesn’t disappoint. The best way to describe him is purple. Really.
(via Her Interactive)
He is also the vaguest character in a sea full on reality show contestants who don’t know what a straight answer is. All of the competitors you get to talk to take this competition seriously. They keep everything about themselves for the confessional booth, afraid of giving away a weakness or accidentally letting Nancy see through their ultimate plan to win. One is a girl who has been on multiple reality shows and either straight up lies or uses sarcasm in every conversation. Another just refuses to answer any questions. She at least has the excuse of working a job with high security clearance; she’s used to keeping secrets. Then her partner gives nothing away because he has no depth. He will constantly answer yes or no questions with both yes or no and refuse to pick. Honestly, he is actually the most likable purely because he has nothing potentially sinister lurking beneath the surface.
Considering I have played these games since elementary school, I have spent a lot of time debating whether or not I will ever grow out of them. The last Sherlock Holmes game did make me realize that I can appreciate a mystery simulator (we’re going to pretend that’s a genre since many are doing away with the pointing and the clicking) that isn’t riddled with logic puzzles—pun intended.
What made this one harder to swallow was the format. Since the main gameplay was participating in this game show, there were loads of disjointed puzzles. I’m used to these games having some straightforward brainteasers and then more where half of the mystery is in figuring out what the mystery even is. For example, here you are constantly finding comics that Sonny drew and left lying around, each with a hidden message, meaning you have to interpret these before you even know what puzzle you need to be solving. Sadly this is one of the only instances of this mechanic. The rest are variations of different kinds of traditional conundrums. I can tell I have played these games for a long time when I’ve lost count of how many times I have solved a “don’t let any like colors touch” jigsaw puzzle. Same goes for using both hieroglyphs and zodiac signs.
I remember back when this game came out in July. I was hurting for money and trying to talk myself out of buying it, so I went online to read user reviews, knowing anyone who bothers to review a Nancy Drew game for free is a lifelong player like me. All of them had similar complaints to what I’ve discovered on my own. The disconnected set-up of the puzzles makes it feel like there is no mystery. Throughout the game you are trying to figure out Sonny’s motive for essentially hijack the season of a popular reality show. He’s obviously trying to figure something out and using the contestants as his minions, but you aren’t really fully clued in to this plot until close to the end of the game. The more research you do, the more it is hinted at, but it’s never clear until it’s almost all over. Usually you know from the game’s introduction—and sometimes even the back of the box—what you are going to be solving.
Honestly this wasn’t one of my favorite installments. It’s definitely not the worst one I’ve played, but the set up with the puzzles felt more like a watered-down Professor Layton title than a Nancy Drew mystery game. I think I looked up the solutions more times than I ever have purely because the puzzle wasn’t fun enough for me to waste my time on. As a hardcore fan, I obviously wouldn’t suggest skipping this installment, but it definitely wouldn’t be where I would choose to introduce a newcomer to the games.
But hey, with over thirty games out now, they can’t all be home runs. I will gladly admit to being a Nancy Drew apologist. Except for the hidden picture games. That’s one bandwagon they didn’t need to hop on.
Now off to the other Nancy Drew I have lined up.