Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand

Developer/Publisher:  Her Interactive
Year Released:  2002

Review by Emily Sheehan with a little help from Steve Ramsey (October, 2002)
Steve says ...
A new Nancy Drew game is always well received in our house. My 13 year old daughter Emily is the biggest fan. Upon receiving this game she retreated into her brand new bedroom, loaded it on her computer, and got stuck straight in. It was school holidays so she played with a visiting cousin of the same age, but of the opposite gender.

I have not as yet played the game at all. Whilst I am sure Her Interactive are happy about anyone playing and enjoying their Nancy Drew games, my daughter is far more their target audience. It seems appropriate therefore to let that audience tell you about the game. Emily wrote the following herself.

Emily says ...
This was the third Nancy Drew game that I had played and in each one the game play has the same structure. I played it with my cousin, Aaron, who enjoyed it. It was his first Nancy Drew game and he said he would gladly play another.

The game is about Nancy Drew (you) who has to find out who stole a priceless artefact from one of the newest exhibits in the Beech Hill Museum, Washington DC. The only clue you have is a scarlet handprint which was found at the scene of the crime. Everyone is a suspect and each one has a reason to commit the crime.

As well as investigating in the museum you also visit other places in Washington. You move from building to building by the Washington Metro System which I found hard to adapt to from the previous games but after a short time I became more familiar with it. Whilst cracking the case you not only need to interview suspects in person, you also need to contact people by phone. As well as calling people useful to the case you can contact your friends to keep them updated about the case and receive hints if you request them.

Whilst playing the game you should always have a pen and paper handy to take down any useful information that could pop up anywhere.

The dialogue is helpful because as well as being spoken it's also in text. When talking to people you may choose from various comments to ask questions and/or reply.

Your home base is your hotel room which gives you access to a phone (used to contact people) and a computer (used to access information that you may find in disc form) and an alarm clock (used to sleep and make time pass faster). The alarm clock is useful if you need to contact someone during a specific time frame (business hours) and it is not currently that time. Set the alarm and the minutes will flash by. There is no time limit on how long it takes you to crack the case.

The graphics are impressive, the people are realistic and have good movement and things are able to be closely inspected. The people doing the voices for the characters have good expression. I thought Taylor Sinclair was annoying and Alejandro at the Mexican Consulate was interesting because he didn't tell you much about himself so it made him more mysterious.

In the game there is a temple which requires you to make your way to the bottom level. In order for you to get there you need to complete a variety of tasks. These can include mini-games and quizzes, some of which will require you to look through the museum exhibits for answers and some will provide you with up front instructions.

There is some Spanish counting and you can find the translations but I can count in Spanish so that was easy. There is a maze that is a bit difficult but you only have to do it once if you do things properly.

You can die and you can also break your leg and go to gaol. If you do, the game takes you back to just before you made a mistake and lets you try again.

We played on junior level and only had to get hints from the internet twice. I thought Secret of the Scarlet Hand was harder than the other Nancy Drew games I have played, a bit more grown-up. There was a lot of writing things down. I didn't write down very much except phone numbers in the other Nancy Drew games. I particularly liked playing this one with Aaron because it meant we could discuss what we were doing and come up with more ideas about what to do next.

So it was a bit different to the other games. I didn't like it more or less than the others. All the games have been good and have made me a bit interested in reading a Nancy Drew book. I will play the next one too.

Steve says ...
It is clear from talking to Emily that she enjoyed this game as much as the others, although in a slightly different way. I asked her whether it was too much the same as the others and whether that was a bit boring and she was adamant that it was not. As she indicated above, its differences were such that she wasn't able to compare it to the others in terms of how much she liked it - when I asked that question she responded "it wasn't better or worse, it was different".

She is already looking forward to the next one, so Her Interactive must continue to be pleased with their product.

Finally, when discussing the Nancy Drew novels she asked me what they were like. I confessed I had never read one, but had seen the TV series a few times. I said I had read the "male" equivalent, being the Hardy Boys. Emily then said that amongst the people Nancy can phone in this game for help are two brothers named Hardy who are detectives also. She was not aware of the connection until I mentioned the novels. Perhaps a more overt crossover might be down the track? rating:  

Copyright © Emily Sheehan with a little help from Steve Ramsey 2002. All rights reserved.

System Requirements
Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP, Pentium 200 MHz processor (Pentium 2 300 MHz recommended), 16 MB RAM (64 MB recommended), 160 MB disc space (250 MB recommended), 16 bit colour graphics card (*MB video RAM recommended), 8x CD ROM (24x CD ROM recommended), Mouse and speakers