Many computer gamers – even casual ones – may recall the popularity of “adventure” games in the ’90s. These story-based titles, from the likes of Sierra and LucasArts, whisked away players to interesting locations to solve puzzles and interact with characters.
At some point over the years, computer gamers turn their backs on these slower-paced point-and-click adventures for more action-heavy shoot-em ups, fantasy role-playing games and strategy titles.
But for those who long for a game with entertaining characters, a good story and lot of puzzles will enjoy clicking though Nancy Drew: Danger By Design, the latest in the series that appeals to young women who want walk in the shoes of the famous detective (created in 1930!).
It’s a tad tough, and at 840MB in size, it’s one heck of a download, but this lengthy single-player tale should satisfy armchair sleuths in search of an entertaining adventure.
In Nancy Drew: Danger By Design, you arrive in Paris, France, to go undercover as an intern at a prestigious fashion design studio. Except when you arrive, you find your boss, Minette, has been acting a tad, er, odd. As her assistant, Heather, tells you, she undergoes strange tantrums to cleanse herself from stress and has worn a white porcelain mask for months on end. Her investors are concerned about this erratic behavior – specifically, if she’ll be on time with her new designs – so Drew swoops in to investigate.
But things are even more complicated as they seem when we hear about those in Minete’s life with enough of a motive to mail threats and send dead flowers to her regularly, namely ex-employees, a nasty fashion critic and an ex-boyfriend who is a fashion photographer with the best name ever to appear in a video game: Dieter von Schwesterkrank. As if this wasn’t enough, the old Moulin (windmill) that serves as Minette’s design studio also has some mysteries of its own, involving WWII secrets and alleged treasure hidden within.
Gamers navigate around these worlds from a first-person perspective one step at a time, but you can rotate in 180 degrees before deciding which way to walk or zoom in on an item, such as a newspaper clipping or computer screen. As in real life, getting around Paris can be tricky, so Drew can click on a map before boarding a train to choose where she needs to go next. When engaged in a conversation, players can select a desired response from a dialogue tree, each producing a different response from the person you’re chatting with.
While some missions are straight-forward – deliver such and such or pick up this and that — puzzles can get quite tough, especially for younger or novice gamers (be sure to choose the Junior skill level, rather than Senior). At least they are relevant to the situation at hand, unlike some classic adventure games, such as Myst, where a bunch of levers or buttons must be manipulated, yet it has little or nothing to do with where you are.
An example of a hard puzzle in Danger By Design is at the beginning of the game. Minette asks you to pour her a cup of tea. Sounds easy, no? Well, a recipe card written by some naturopath includes 15 ingredients and you must add the right herbs depending on her mood, what she’s wearing, favorite color at that time, and other factors. If she doesn’t like the concoction, she berates you, and you must start again. Even opening up your email on your work PC is a little overwhelming at first as you have six messages in your inbox with info that will be relevant later on. Some advice: keep a pencil and paper beside your computer when you play this game. Mini-games, however, some of which are timed, prove to be fun breaks in the story.
Nancy Drew: Danger By Design is an entertaining and challenging game that should be a refreshing change for casual game players. If you don’t mind the huge download and some tricky puzzles, you’re in for a fun adventure with well-written dialogue, many locations and a clever mystery to solve – if you’re smart enough, that is.