Nancy Drew 2: Stay Tuned for Danger review
I find it slightly amusing and very self-revealing that a 34-year-old male can sit down and enjoy being Nancy Drew. No, not the Nancy Drew in her austere dress, coiffed hair and delicate 30’s etiquette. The sleuthing, inquisitive, alert, intelligent and ever-vigilant revealer of mysteries! In such a way, this creation of Edward Stratemeyer (of Hardy Boys fame) will ever be “For Adventurous Sleuths,” and not just for girls!
Her Interactive is certainly making good use of the license from Simon and Schuster and Carolyn Keene’s familiar heroine silhouette. In the adventure Stay Tuned For Danger, the second of the Nancy Drew game series, we are treated to a fun peek into the public and private lives of the stars of daytime soap Light of Our Love.
Like any good Nancy Drew novel, this is a five-W adventure (Who, What, When, Where and Why). Mattie Jensen has invited you to her New York townhouse, gets you a job as an extra, and allows you access to the WWB studios to find out who is threatening to cut soap heartthrob Rick Arlen from more than just the script!
The game is a slide-show format point-and-click adventure, featuring seriously clean photo-realistic imagery. The density of the images alone makes playing this game fun. The detail, ornamentation and design of each area are a welcome sight compared to some of the more Spartan interiors you may have explored in the past. Warning: this can work to your disadvantage at times when searching for clues. There is one in particular in the prop room that is considerably elusive.
Don’t expect any breathtaking FMV, as these adventures don’t play around with movie introductions or cut-scenes. Taking into account the target audience, HI has made the assumption that if you’ve bought the game you know who Nancy Drew is, and what mischief she has a penchant for getting into. So without further ado, you’re off and snooping.
I have to say that the menu screen is not much improved from the first game in the series, Secrets Can Kill, which is to say that it is just plain clunky and at times unresponsive. A revamped menu is in order.
When you begin a new game, you get the option of choosing between Junior, Senior and Master Detective. The difference is in the hint system. In Junior detective, Nancy will audibly speak her thoughts or mention a previous clue that is intrinsic to your next move. Less so in Senior mode, and rarely in Master. Her phone conversations with various friends also prove to be more revealing with the lower difficulty settings.
The plot moves along nicely, though not as smoothly as in say, The Final Scene (the fifth and substantively better game in the series). Eventually, you have access to three places from your street map each time you exit an area. Yet there may be times when you stand around lightly fingering your coiffed hair, wondering what to do next. This can be remedied most of the time by ascending the stair of Miss Jensen’s townhouse and selecting between ‘Day’ and ‘Night’. You learn that night facilitates snooping when no one is around, and daytime is for querying your suspects. This seems to work well in creating a sense of, well, urgency. This is what this game is all about, Rick Arlen’s time is running out! Get to sleuthing!
The voice acting is very generic and at times I felt as if Nancy Drew were going to digress for an aside about fabric softener or plug the acoustic wave radio. Yet these ears are jaded and generally the voices seem to fit the confines of the premise, but just barely. Some (Ned Nickerson) were downright cringe-inducing.
The characters themselves are rendered in 3-D but movement is jerky and reminiscent of Howdy Doody. Lack of fluidity notwithstanding, it certainly is an improvement over the first game in the series, so HI is moving in the right direction.
The music in STFD is thematic and enjoyable, even especially catchy in Mattie’s apartment. The only exception is some mind-numbing Muzak in the WWB studios, but thankfully your jaunts in those halls are not needlessly extended.
The ending comes with a timed puzzle that I didn’t feel sufficient time was given to complete before that fun-killer, frustration, set in. Make it challenging, please, but the climax of any good adventure should never bring game-play to a halt. Luckily, HI has made available a time-patch that will extend (in Master Detective mode) the time you have to complete it, available under the ‘Tech Support’ tab on their website.
For all the criticisms I’ve given this game, I had lots of fun playing it. It’s an excellent diversion from the longer games out there, and doesn’t ask a serious investment of your time or money, both of which are increasingly scarce commodities. I’m very excited to see where HI and Infogrames will take the new adventures of Nancy Drew!
A great follow-up to Secrets Can Kill with many improvements, including better story and characters and a more challenging premise. HI has found their gravy train and with STFD they’re on the right track!