You hear the name Nancy Drew and you're bound to think of an independent teen detective who follows every mystery she can down the rabbit hole even if it takes her to the ends of the earth. And she does all this, time and time again, without the aid of her parents. However, in Her Interactive’s newest adventure, The Silent Spy, Nancy will desperately need her father’s help if she's to get to the bottom of her mother’s death in a car crash years ago. In an entry that unearths dramatic family dynamics previously unexplored, the developers have given players a truly emotional and thrilling story set amidst a bounty of fun, challenging puzzling, even if the familiar look and feel of the game haven’t made any significant advances.
Nancy has sleuthed her way through 28 mysteries already. In the past, she has called on her friends George and Bess, her boyfriend Ned, and even her dad Carson occasionally. But her mother Kate died when Nancy was young, so she’s never had that maternal advice or support to turn to. This time around, Nancy receives a call that promises her more information about the accident that took her mother’s life. That one call pulls Nancy into a deadly world of spy craft and international terrorist organizations where no one she meets with or talks to, including her own father, can be trusted.
With the promise of learning more about her mother – and very much to her father’s disapproval – Nancy hops on the next flight to Glasgow, Scotland. Upon arrival she’s mugged, and the thieves make off with her luggage and information she brought with her about her mother. Soon after, Nancy discovers that she’s being watched by a regional MI5 (the UK’s version of the CIA) office called Cathedral. It’s all a bit overwhelming, but you quickly learn that Nancy’s mother was much more than your garden variety journalist working abroad.
It seems that everyone Nancy meets in Glasgow is eager to help her and may know more about her than they should. There is Alec, the skip tracer. He enjoys hanging out at the local train station, ready to track down people who are trying to skip out of arrest or detection. He aids Nancy after she’s mugged, but at times you question why a total stranger wants to be so helpful (ah, the cynical times we live in). You’ll also meet an old colleague of Kate’s, a fellow journalist. She helped convince Kate to come out of semi-retirement and come back to Scotland on her fatal trip. She’s harboring a large secret and seems worn down and just tired of life in general. She has information about Nancy’s mother, but you’re not exactly sure what she had to do with Kate’s death. Ewan is Nancy’s MI5 Cathedral contact. He’s pretty laid back, but has curious ways of interacting with Nancy, such as locking important documents away for her in her hotel safe and providing tricky locks for her to open. And there’s Bridget, the absolutely crazy Scottish native who hangs on Nancy’s every word and goes out of her way to find out why Nancy is visiting town.
Finally, there’s the mysterious Revenant. Revenant is the name of an amorphous terrorist organization that MI5 had been investigating when Kate Drew died. Kate’s death coincided with the organization’s dormancy, but they appear to be active again. Every so often, they will send Nancy creepy messages on her phone and even ask her to participate in activities to gain information about her mother. You get to help Nancy decide just how far she’s willing to go to learn more about Kate’s death.
It wouldn’t be a Nancy Drew game if you didn’t also learn a bit about local history via copious amounts of books, notes, and letters – about Scotland, its history, and spying, this time around. (Though these historical tidbits take a back seat to Nancy’s family story.) It’s convenient that you can bring many of the books with you, so you’ll have them at hand when you need to look up how to play the bagpipes, for example, or remember an obscure bit of Scottish royal history to help solve a puzzle.
You won’t just explore Glasgow through books, of course. While in the city, you’ll have limited access to the well-appointed rooms in your hotel, the Glaucus Lodge. And Nancy will get some high-tech spy help to zip into other resident’s hotel rooms. You’ll even get access to Cathedral’s local command center in the hotel’s basement. You’ll also make the rounds of the Wyvern’s Gate train station and several locations along the railroad stops, including Loch Lomond with its small cozy cabin in the woods (replete with an archery practice center and a very high-tech secret), a pub serving good old-fashioned Scottish fare (though you never get to go inside to order), and a small cottage hidden off the beaten path. All of these environments are rendered in Her Interactive’s typical realistic slideshows. Though there are a variety of cinematics breaking up your node-based exploration, the graphics haven’t seen any improvements from previous outings, and there are really no ambient animations to speak of.
As you explore these somewhat limited environs, you’ll encounter music that is soothing at times and actually plays an important part in some backstory and one of the puzzles. Variations on a main theme wend their way through the game, and the music picks up on the local flavor, including wind instruments and the requisite bagpipes. There is some ambient sound, such as the distant echoes of laughter and song through the closed door of a pub, and occasionally it helps to ratchet up the tension, such as the incessant beeping of an alarm set to go off at a certain temperature. The voice acting is serviceable with some notable treats. Carson displays his frustration with Nancy as she forever courts danger with sharp tones and resignation, knowing that his daughter has turned out to be exactly like her mother. The other characters aren’t as memorable, and there is an obvious cheat as Lani Minella plays double duty – the same actress who plays Nancy also clearly plays Kate Drew, only with a lower pitch.Continued on the next page...