Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger

Posted by David Tanguay.
First posted on 10 July 2000. Last updated on 15 May 2014.
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Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger
Talking with a glamorous soap star is part of the job.
Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger
The director is a dictator, but does she kill to get her way?
Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger
This is the scene of the crime.
Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger
The stage can be a dangerous place.
Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger
Nancy gets around New York by selecting locations on this map.

Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger is the second game in the Nancy Drew series by Her Interactive. This chapter improves on the first in several ways. As before, there are 3 difficulty levels, the most being the Master Detective mode. The game is recommended for ages 10 and up, but any child who can sit still long enough to read a Nancy Drew book can enjoy this game as well.

Fresh off her success in Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill, Nancy heads to New York to visit Mattie Jensen, a soap opera star who is staying at Aunt Eloise's apartment. Mattie's costar, the hunky Rick Arlen, has been receiving death threats, which are now escalating. Rick refuses to take them seriously, even when they start to turn into dangerous acts. Nancy, with Mattie's assistance, decides to get to the bottom of the mystery. Of course, things are not straightforward. There is no shortage of people who bear a grudge against Rick. It is just an issue of finding out who may be homicidal about it. As expected, Nancy's investigation makes her a target of the killer too.

The game system in this sequel is mostly unchanged from the previous title. Visually it is in first person, but you hear Nancy talking in your dialogs. The scenes are (or appear to be) pre-rendered 3D sets, attractive and clear. There are a lot of details, but not so much that they overwhelm you. All the objects you need to see are clearly presented. Sometimes you have to move the mouse carefully for hotspots, verging on pixel hunting, but that is what Nancy is supposed to be doing—the icon is a magnifying glass. The characters are pre-rendered 3D marionettes. This style graphically fits the scene better than the animated characters of the previous game, but has the wooden body language problem that is common to such puppets. There are only 8 saved game slots. It is not enough if you want to checkpoint key decisions, so you can come back later to try different paths.

This is primarily a game of exploration, of finding clues. Once you have found the relevant information, using it is usually fairly easy. Still, you have to be sharp to find all the clues.

The first game suffers from flat, passive gameplay—you mostly just run from character to character asking questions, the answers to which give you new topics for the next character. In this sequel, Nancy's discovery of evidence has a greater effect on the character dialogs. There also seem to be more events triggered by these discoveries and conversations. As a result, the mystery flows better, an ongoing story rather than a simple reconstruction of events. To add to the feeling of story flow, time advances as you play. There does not seem to be any time limit, so there is no reason to rush. Some investigations have to take place at night, and others during the day.

There are not a lot of puzzles in this game, and many of those are not well done. Some are out of place, like a magic Towers of Hanoi puzzle that uncovers an object. Some others have no clue to their solutions, so you just randomly try the possibilities until it works. An example is the puzzle of defusing a bomb. There is a clue, but you do not seem to have access to the clue until after you have defused the bomb! Fortunately, there is a good "second chance" feature that automatically restores the game to just prior to a fatal (or equivalent) action. You also have good use of the "second chance" in the finale, where you have to solve a timed, unlikely door lock puzzle for which I can find no pattern. It appears that you just have to randomly try the possibilities and hope you finish in time. On the other hand, it seems that the game relents after a few second chances and follows your lead.

A feature that has been carried over from the previous game, which I dislike, is the scattering about of coded messages. These are light encryptions of phrases or verses that explain the clues or suggest what you should do. The problem is that there is no in game explanation for them. Who are the people who have written these clues? If they know so much, why do they not just contact you or the police directly? The messages are unnecessary, telling you nothing you do not find or figure out for yourself eventually, so they can be ignored. Newbies may like the challenge of the encryptions.

On the positive side, this game has a good, developing story that follows the player's direction. The progress of time, and the day/night distinction, adds to the game without bogging down gameplay. The interface is attractive and easy to use. The characters respond differently to different dialog choices, although it does not heavily affect the story or gameplay. On the negative side, the design of the puzzles is weak. It is not that they are just easy, but that they are uncreative and sometimes out of place, story wise. The finale door lock puzzle is especially a letdown.

Overall, Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger is too light in gameplay and too ordinary in storytelling to hold much interest for veteran adventurers. However, it is an excellent game for its target audience and an enjoyable romp for older Nancy Drew fans in a nostalgic mood. It is also a good game for any beginning adventurer. It follows the spirit of the book series, making it a good addition to the franchise.

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