Genre: Mystery Adventure
Release Date: July 2006
Note: Originally published 14 April 2006
Fourteen games! Has Her Interactive really released that many Nancy Drew computer games?! Well, it has, and Nancy Drew: Danger by Design is #14. For the second time in the series (Curse of Blackmoor Manor being the first), Nancy Drew, ace amateur detective, is headed to another country. This time, she’s off to Paris, France. It seems that one of the best high-fashion designers, Minette, is having major problems. She throws temper tantrums, has recently fired three fashion designers and has taken to wearing a mask just as she released her Fall Collection. Now she’s really behind in designing her Spring Collection. Is it just because she’s also doing work on the dress that the First Lady will wear to the World Summit, or is there something more? Amy Grunhild, an investor, has sent Nancy Drew to work for Minette undercover to find out the answers.
However, once Nancy arrives in Paris, she discovers that there are more than just temper tantrums that need investigating. Minette has been receiving mysterious letters: someone splattered red paint on three large gears: someone else with a German accent calls for Minette, but won’t accept the response that the designer is unavailable: and finally someone sends Minette a box full of cockroaches! What’s more, Minette’s design studio is located in a moulin or windmill, and before she turned the windmill into a design studio it was the home of Noisette Tornade, a woman who recently died and may have hidden a treasure during World War II. Is there a connection between Noisette’s activities during the war and what’s going on with Minette? Nancy has to uncover the answers and fast!
While I don’t pay as much attention to the fine details of animation and graphics as some other reviewers, I still pay plenty of attention to characterization. And boy, do we have some good characters in this story! First, there is Minette, of course. She is so eccentric, what with using special tea and resorting to unusual ways of relieving stress. She’s also frustrating to work with, which probably explains all the firings. And then there’s her use of the word “rude” to mean “cool.” Still, that makes her fascinating if frustrating. And you’ll never guess why she wears that mask!
Heather McKay, Minette’s senior assistant, is a fine long-suffering assistant, but she has her breaking points, as you’ll see when you actually play the game. Then there’s Dieter von Schwesterkrank, a photographer. As someone who dated Minette (until she broke up with him), he turns out to be someone who’s connected to both the mystery involving Minette and the back-story involving Noisette. I won’t reveal how he’s connected though as that would be spoiling it for others.
Nancy stays with Jing Jing Ling, an Australian model who is Minette’s finishing model (someone who has to try on the garments a designer works on to make certain they fit.) Jing Jing is a fun woman, but she tends to lie for fun a lot, apparently she was tricked into becoming a fitting model, and she has engineering books in her cupboard. She also bakes cookies since Minette designs for plus-size women and she has to be a size 12. Finally, there’s Jean Michel Traquenard, a fashion critic who writes nasty reviews for a fashion magazine called Glam Glam. He sees Minette as an unthinking, socially inept egotist. Could that lead him to try to hurt her in the fashion world?
Generally speaking, the voices are almost as good as the characterizations. Lani Minella is – of course - always good as Nancy Drew and there is a subtle improvement in the overall voice acting from game to game. More obvious though are the graphic improvements. I can remember how bad the graphics were in early games such as Secrets Can Kill andStay Tuned for Danger. Those for Danger by Design, by contrast, are – for the most part - very realistic.
The plot is very interesting, more so than those of the previous two games, Secret of the Old Clock and Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon. This is largely because the back-story is more interesting this time around. The German occupation of Paris during World War II forced many to choose sides, although some simply tried to stay out of the way and be neutral. Some collaborated with the Germans, and others became members of the French Resistance. Noisette apparently was a double agent – she pretended to be on one side while secretly being on the other. Unfortunately, this caused her huge problems after the war, when some weren’t certain whose side she was really on and also led to rumors that Noisette has a cache of hidden treasure.
The fashion aspect of the plot wasn’t quite as interesting for me, but was still enjoyable. It allowed Nancy to ride the Metro and visit various places in Paris, including a park where Nancy has to purchase objects from three vendors. At first, what Nancy has to buy are items that will inspire Minette for her Spring Collection, but she later purchases items that will help her investigate more areas in Paris, including the catacombs! The only problem I had with the plot itself – both the fashion mystery and the back-story involving Noisette – is that the back-story turns out to be only tangentially connected with the mystery itself. The only real connection is that Noisette lived in the windmill and hid her treasure under it, and the connection with Dieter.
The puzzles were fairly easy for the most part, requiring minimal hair-pulling. The main exception was trying to develop the films for Dieter in the darkness! You must click in the right areas to put the film in the chemical baths or else the whole thing would blow up and then you are forced to start all over again! It was a regular pain in the neck at times! Still,Secret of the Old Clock had more frustrating puzzles than this one did.
There were also a few suspenseful moments. One involved diving underwater and navigating my way to a secret location before running out of air! This has yet to happen, but I’ve come close a couple of times. Also, when Nancy confronts the villain, it becomes necessary to block martial arts punches. It’s not an easy task, and one time I failed to block often enough for the baddie to run out of energy and collapse. Fortunately, there’s always Second Chances.
The Final Design
Generally, I liked this game better than the last two Nancy Drew games. It’s not quite the best Nancy Drew game out there (I think that honor goes to Curse of Blackmoor Manor), but Danger by Design is just as fascinating as Minette, and far less frustrating. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Nancy Drew, and many who like adventure games.
Final Grade: B+
300 MB hard drive space
16-bit color graphics video card with at least 16MB of VRAM
16-bit Windows-compatible stereo sound card
12X CD ROM
Mouse and Speakers