reviews\ Aug 14, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Nancy Drew: Danger by Design - PC - Review

Nancy Drew: Danger in Design is the 14th game in a long-running adventure series from Her Interactive. This time around, Nancy Drew is off to Paris to investigate the strange behavior of a fashion designer at the behest of one of the designer’s financial backers. I believe this is the first time Her Interactive has sent Nancy to Paris (I could be wrong, though, it’s hard to keep up with such a gad-about gal!), and so hoped for some inclusion of famous Paris sites. The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and the Notre Dame Cathedral all come to mind when thinking of Paris. However, these places are missing. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only thing missing from Nancy Drew: Danger by Design.

Minette is a new and upcoming fashion designer in Paris and seemingly has everything going for her. Lately, though, she has begun to exhibit bizarre behavior, such as wearing a full face mask in public, throwing tantrums and cutting off relations with people for no good reasons. Nancy has been commissioned by Minette’s backers to find out if they can trust Minette to follow through on her promises to finish her next fashion line. Nancy sets off to Paris, ostensibly as a new assistant, but in reality to learn what is going on with Minette.

The game features all the familiar elements from the previous Nancy Drew adventure games, such as a first-person point‘n’click interface, puzzles, dialogue, a computer, and a phone to call Bess and George for hints. Nancy does a bit of traveling as usual, using a map and buses to move around Paris. Other familiar features are the second chance option when Nancy gets killed, and the choice of playing as a Senior or Junior Detective. A new inclusion is the scattering of mementos from previous Nancy Drew games. This is a fun idea, and players will need to keep their eyes peeled!

Although the story is set in Paris, almost none of the usual tourist attractions are included. Instead, early in the game, players visit a park with vendors and a café. Later in the game, a certain tourist attraction does become part of the game’s story line. This area is interesting, but isn’t accessed until late in the game. Having other historical spots really would have added to the game. I, for one, would have liked to look at the art in the Louvre.

The puzzles run the gamut from easy to difficult, with a few puzzles almost impossible to solve without a walkthrough. The first one involves solving a hands-on task completely in the dark without spilling chemicals and getting blown up. The walkthrough tells players how to get around this if they find it too hard (me, for one). The other ones seem to involve just happenstance solving. Many of the puzzles are fun, but are integrated clumsily; for instance, players have to play a matching game on Nancy’s computer. Instead of having this introduced as an assortment of computer games that have to be solved in order to open up something online or an account on the computer, instead we’re told that we have to pretend to be Minette online and make a high score for her so she’ll quit goofing off, get off-line and get back to work.

This puzzle is fun to play, as are others, such as a paint activity in the park (this one was cute, but only had two pictures to choose from, it really needed more pictures). I enjoy these types of replayable puzzles that abound in the Nancy Drew games, but previous games have done a much better job placing them.

Too many other puzzles suffer from this type of “so what?” awkwardness. This mystery is set in the fashion world, with grown people as our characters, but our puzzle errands seem to consist of some very childish fetch-and-carry errands like brewing tea for Minette, making cookies with our roommate, buying items for Minette that match her creative mood, and other silly tasks. It’s true that this is a game designed for family play, and other Nancy Drew games have featured simple fetch-and-carry games (The Secret of Shadow Ranch), but they were much better integrated into the story and were just more enjoyable. These tasks are boring and filler-types.

The more difficult puzzles are more appealing, but often don’t seem to have a whole lot to do with the main plot, at least in the beginning. About halfway through the game, the game takes an abrupt shift in focus and Nancy really begins to do some serious sleuthing into the story behind the story. This makes the gameplay more enjoyable, but at the same time lends a slightly schizophrenic flavor to the game, as all these story elements don’t mesh very well into one cohesive plot.

Nancy Drew: Danger by Design isn’t a bad game; it’s just not a very good game. Besides the clumsy puzzles, the plot points aren’t tied up very well. Overall, it doesn’t stand up to the high quality of the previous games in this long-running series. If your preteen or teen hasn’t played some of the older Nancy Drew games, I recommend getting them one of those instead. If they have played them all, there is a new Nancy Drew game being released in October, and it’s set in Hawaii. It sounds interesting, and players will get to play as either one of the Hardy boys, or Nancy, depending on the situation.

Review Scoring Details for Nancy Drew: Danger by Design

Gameplay: 7.0
Nancy Drew is usually pretty fun to hang out with, but this time, the experience is not quite as entertaining as usual.

Graphics: 8.0
All the Nancy Drew games look good, with lots of details to look at while scanning the scenes. Danger by Design is no exception, and players will enjoy the general ambience of the game.

Sound: 7.5
The sound effects and music are integrated nicely into the game, and are never intrusive.

Difficulty: Medium
Most of the puzzles are easy to solve, but some puzzles are very hard!

Concept: 7.0
This game uses the same formula and format of the previous games, but it’s not executed as well.

Overall: 7.0
Nancy Drew Danger by Design is a decent adventure game for families and teens, but it’s not as good as other games in the series. It’s to be expected that with a series that is as long running as this one (14 games!), that there will be a few mediocre titles. Hopefully the next game will be much better.


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