Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy
First posted on 25 November 2013. Last updated on 14 September 2014.
Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy Bonus Edition
The Bonus Edition of Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy includes additional in-game features, such as new story contents and extra mini-games, not found in the original.
Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy is the 29th title in Her Interactive's long-lived Nancy Drew series of adventure games. This time, the adventure brings the "Sassy Detective" Nancy to Scotland, where she must defuse a terrorist bomb plot and learn the terrible secret behind her mother's tragic death. As always, Nancy will confront a variety of obstacles, including deceitful suspects, secret codes, and logic puzzles. While the game engine is increasingly showing its age, the game itself is still a lot of fun to play, particularly for Nancy Drew fans who want to learn more about the character's childhood.
At the beginning of the game, Nancy gets a letter from Cathedral, a branch of MI5. Nancy is asked to come to Scotland to help to solve the mystery of the death of her mother Kate. Nancy soon learns that her mother was a spy for Cathedral and had stopped a vicious plot to unleash a toxin in Glasgow. This story is perhaps the first of the series to really give Nancy a deeply personal connection to the mystery she is tasked to solve. Indeed, there are quite a few touching moments in the story concerning Nancy's latent feelings about her mother. The terrorist plot is also well done. Periodically, the terrorist group will contact Nancy via her cell phone and compel her to do some questionable act in exchange for more information about her mother. Thus, again for the first time in the series, Nancy has the opportunity to make unethical decisions. The narrative choices in this game show that Her Interactive has taken the franchise into far more mature territory than what has seen done previously. Fans of the series who enjoy a good story and character development will find much to like about this game.
While the cast of characters are limited, the game does a good job developing them and making sure all of them have viable motives for their actions. Perhaps the most endearing of these characters is Bridget Shaw, apparently a native of Scotland who is obsessed with Americans. Her wacky performance is hilarious, though Nancy soon learns there is much more to her than what she appears to be. Other characters include Alec Fell, an affable tracker; Ewan MacLeod, a computer expert; and Moira Chisholm, a former partner of Kate. None of these characters are completely trustworthy, but it is up to Nancy to figure out who is a friend and who is an enemy. Nancy also interacts quite a bit with her father Carson. While Carson has frequently been seen scolding Nancy for getting into dangerous situations in previous games, he is allowed to show in this game other sides of his personality, including anger and jealousy. Again, I am pleasantly surprised that Her Interactive has decided to ramp up the dramatic potential of the series—there are several scenes in the game that will likely be tearjerkers for Nancy Drew fans.
As always, there are plenty of fun logic puzzles for Nancy to solve. Most of these puzzles are based on Scottish themes, such as translating the Scottish names for foods, playing a bagpipe, and replicating tartan patterns. There are also puzzles based on deciphering codes and puzzles inspired by Sudoku. A few of the puzzles are timed, and even expert players will likely fail at least a few times before getting past them. Unfortunately, a particular puzzle that involves rearranging cards to recreate a formula is rather poorly designed. One of the cards in that puzzle does not have any clue on it to suggest its placement, so the player must tediously rotate and attempt to place it in every conceivable spot until the correct placement is found. Fortunately, that is the only flawed puzzle in the game; the rest of them are well designed and fun and rewarding to solve.
Once again, the game keeps up to the series' usual production standards, with highly detailed scenery, well animated and voice acted characters, and splendid music. Unfortunately, the game engine still does not support widescreen resolutions, so that all of the scenes are pillarboxed when the game is played on widescreen monitors. Another criticism is that the game world feels smaller than in previous games, with fewer locations for Nancy to explore. Some locations consist of only a few screens. In the scene at the restaurant and tavern, Nancy is not even allowed to actually enter the building! The game also does not give enough opportunity to experience more of Scotland's locales. Typically, there is a sound reason for a constrained game world, such as being trapped on an island or a castle. In this game, though, Nancy has full access to a train station. Yet, she is limited to travel to only a few locations in the country.
All in all, Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy is another great addition to the franchise. With this game, I applaud Her Interactive for taking the series into a more serious and mature direction. At a minimum, the game helps to develop Nancy as a deep and compelling character. The fun puzzles add to the enjoyment of the game—they are just difficult enough to be challenging without crossing over into frustration. I highly recommend this game to all fans of the series. I also recommend this game as an introduction for gamers who have yet to try out the series.