Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock
Believe it or not Nancy Drew turns 75 this year (although she doesn't show her age) and Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock has been released by Her Interactive to celebrate the occasion. Inspired by the book of the same name, the first Nancy Drew novel, this game has Nancy setting out on her sleuthing career.
Despite being the first novel, Secret of the Old Clock is #12 in the Nancy Drew adventure game series. It follows the tried and true formula of the previous games with an easy to learn point and click interface and two levels of difficulty, Junior and Senior Detective, making it suitable for pre-teens up to adults, especially those who read the Nancy Drew stories in their youth and want to do a little reminiscing. It also offers the usual tutorial to set first-time sleuths on the right path, and is completely subtitled making it accessible for deaf and hard of hearing players.
It's 1930 and Nancy is driving her smart blue roadster to the Lilac Inn in the small village of Titusville. I smiled, the narrator sets the scene aptly when he foretells that this might be the start of something big for Nancy and her sleuthing career. She is visiting Emily Crandall who has a favour to ask of Nancy which will surely lead to a tangled investigation. Emily's mother has recently died and she's worried about the family jewels and keeping possession of the Lilac Inn. She wants Nancy (well Nancy's father) to take charge of the precious heirlooms. Of course it isn't that simple, before Emily hands them over they disappear ... who could have taken them?
Perhaps Emily herself, she's been acting strangely lately. Or maybe Jane Willoughby her guardian, or Richard Topham, the shady paranormal expert who lives next door, and who fortuitously inherited that estate despite other expectations. And there is Jim Archer the Bank Manger too, his bank is facing trying times so he has a motive.
Playing Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock involves some diligent detective work. Interviewing the people associated with Emily and the Lilac Inn, searching all locations carefully to pick up clues, and especially taking note of any scribblings in books or on scraps of paper. A highlighted paragraph in a book is definitely interesting, a photograph, a newspaper article, perhaps, there are plenty of clues to be found.
Not surprisingly clocks feature prominently and each one has a more abstract puzzle to solve before revealing its secrets, and there are other such puzzles and games too. Several logic teasers with pieces to move correctly, a dominos puzzle, a golf game, and a sewing challenge which requires some dexterity. As a mature Nancy Drew player with little liking for puzzles requiring dexterity I shuddered at the sight of a golf game and at the sewing machine. Surprisingly the golf is very natural and logical, and with a little practice it's hard not to win. Younger players might have some fun here, getting the angles and propulsion right, although it does demand precision and patience. I won't say much about my poor performance with the sewing machine, though, this 'puzzle' is definitely one for younger players.
A new aspect, too, has been added to Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock. Instead of quick and easy movement from place to place, this time there is the added challenge of driving the car (manipulating it from an overhead view). This as well might appeal more to younger rather than mature players, although it also entails filling up with fuel which costs money.
And money is important, as there are things to buy and Nancy's purse isn't overflowing. If money runs out there are telegrams to deliver for a small payment, but this in turn gobbles up fuel which demands more money, so there is some juggling to be done. Avoid the pot holes whatever you do, or fixing the ruined tyre will also cost. Get stranded with no fuel (yes, I tested it out) doesn't end the game. If this happens then there's a job to do sorting out nuts at the gas station.
Though it might be a special release for an auspicious occasion, Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock isn't the best title in the Nancy Drew adventure game series. Yes it has a good story and a variety of fun puzzles too, but there are some challenges that might potentially frustrate, particularly the sewing exercise. Delivering telegrams, too, gets a bit onerous after a while, although this can be minimised by saving and loading. Some timely advice here, you only need to follow the telegram trail if you need money, otherwise the residents of Titusville can go without their urgent news.
Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock is shorter than the recent Nancy Drew titles too, more interactive locations and a bit more sleuthing would have helped to balance out the collection of abstract puzzles and games. The graphics are as good as ever, especially the detail in the locations although occasionally the characters seem not to be as distinct as in previous games. It does a good job at setting that 1930's feel and to help this along there are some interesting black and white photographs of the period used for some locations with music to match. As well as using an old sewing machine you can tinker with old clocks, a phonograph, and use an old telephone.
The Nancy Drew adventure games have a legion of fans, and even with its few potential frustrations this one still offers a lot of fun and games. Nancy, of course, keeps a diary of events as the game progresses so young players can easily re-cap on the story, and for the Junior level each task is listed and can be checked off as completed, again keeping the player on track.
Exploring the gameword and solving the mystery are what Nancy Drew is about, and Secret of the Old Clock does that very well as usual. Because it does start Nancy off on her sleuthing adventures, it's a good game to start with for players who haven't accompanied Nancy on an adventure before.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2005.
All rights reserved.
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, 400 MHz or greater Pentium II or equivalent, 64 MB RAM, 300 MB Hard Drive Space, 16 MB DirectX Compatible Video Card, 16 MB DirectX Compatible Sound Card, 12x CD ROM.