Release Date: July 2009
Note: Originally published 22 July 2009
Poor Nancy Drew. She travels the world cracking codes, finding stolen goods, and unmasking criminals, but can never seem to get a vacation. Well, maybe her luck has finally changed, for her friend Bess Marvin has won a five-day vacation at an ecotourism resort in the Bahamas and invited Nancy to join her and their friend George Fayne. The lure of white beaches, turquoise waters, and sun and surf seems almost too good to be true – and unfortunately, it is. When Nancy arrives on the island a day late, George is frantic: Bess has been kidnapped, and her captors have a high ransom demand: the lost treasure of the notorious pirate “El Toro” and his Seven Virtues fleet.
And so begins another typical working vacation for our intrepid teenage detective in her epic twentieth interactive adventure. It’s the details that make this game shine, from the beautiful graphics that bring the paradisal setting to life, to the gestures and facial expression that make George – who appears for the first time in all her 3D glory, and whose role players assume at one crucial point in the story – look and act like a real person rather than a caricature. The puzzles are carefully planned and the clues carefully laid, the dialogue typically witty, and the plot intriguing. And how could you resist an adventure game set in the Caribbean?
The tasks Nancy faces in this game are more challenging than average, even on Junior Detective level. Rather than tedious chores, which took a lot of fun out of previous entries in the series, the puzzles here are longer and more involved: digging for treasure, decoding a pirate’s journal, navigating an underwater maze. They required some thought and note-taking, probably more than a younger gamer could accomplish on his or her own without the help of an older friend or parent. There were a few puzzles that I thought could have used a little more explanation or clues, though the only one I had a major problem with was a timed Sudoku-type puzzle that seemed virtually impossible to solve in the limited time given. I saved my game numerous times, took up several sheets of paper trying to figure it out, and eventually had to go back from an earlier saved game and play from there.
When you’re not mulling over a difficult puzzle, there are a variety of fun activities to try: playing games with monkeys; sailing around the island collecting messages in a bottle; rock climbing; scuba diving for lost treasure. You can do most of these activities at your leisure, which provides a good break from the game if you ever get stuck. As a Junior Detective, you still have a notebook and to-do list to keep you on track, while Senior Detectives are expected to be more independent sleuths. There is a witty parrot to pester for assistance – worthwhile if only to hear some of his rhyming wisecracks (“Nancy Drew belongs in the zoo!”).
For truly experienced gamers, the adventure may seem shorter than usual, but such is usually the case with Her Interactive’s summer titles, and I think they did an admirable job creating detailed, multi-layered puzzles to add to playing time. Everybody will find something to like about this game: whether it’s the intricate puzzles, the 3D splendor of the Bahamas, the summer activities, the pirate history . . . there are lots of reasons to get hooked on the Nancy Drew series now – although longtime fans will find a special surprise waiting for them in this installment.
As the franchise continues to grow and improve, with a casual game series, Nancy Drew Dossiers, also gaining popularity, now is the time to get on board with the ubiquitous teen detective and her international crime solving. The little touches that the developers and artists include make the series stand out all the more, and after twenty (yes, twenty!) PC adventures, it is clear that Nancy Drew is still going strong.
Final Grade: A-
1 GHz or greater Pentium or equivalent class CPU
256 MB of RAM
1 GB or more of hard drive space
32 MB DirectX 9.0 compatible video card
16 bit DirectX compatible sound card
24X CD-ROM drive, mouse, and speakers