Like Levi’s and denim, Nike and sportswear and the past year of gaming and laughably bad game launches, Nancy’s Drew name is synonymous with sleuthing. Her latest point and click adventure, Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy takes the famed detective to Scotland, the place of her mother’s death. But was Kate Drew’s demise an accident or was it cold-blooded murder?
That’s what Nancy is set to find out, facing puzzles, mystery and one God awful Scottish accent on the way. Find out more in our Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy review.
Point and click games live and die by the strength of three things: their puzzles, their plots and their voice acting and what Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy does best by far is its storyline.
You’re trying to discover how her mother died in this one, with the death of Kate Drew being established canon since the introduction of Nancy Drew in the 1930s, so we’re on familiar ground. Brilliantly though, instead of whatever old timey story was in the original books, we’re fed a plot of a secretive terrorist cell that offed Kate after she scuppered their plans to build biological bombs and now wants Nancy’s head on a plate once they’ve pumped her for information.
While I could ask why a terrorist organisation has plans to blow up Glasgow of all places and why they thought that bringing Nancy Drew to Scotland would help their bomb plans rather than hinder them (Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy is not without its plot flaws), for the most part things are sound.
For example, although Nancy Drew fans have had nearly a century to process Kate’s death, there’s a heavy emotional anchor as The Silent Spy chucks in a few pastel coloured flashbacks (in first person) of Nancy and Kate’s time together, just to rub salt in the wounds. Fill in the blanks between Kate’s love for her daughter and husband with ‘Kate wanted to save the world but now Nancy is the only one who can finish the job’ and you’ve got a genuine driving force behind a story that will stop you from putting your computer mouse down until the plot is uncovered and justice is served.
The puzzles are a bit more hit and miss, mind you. A fair few are ingenious such as the riddles that Nancy’s mother leaves behind to allow you to solve passwords, codes and other important info whilst some, like an early mission where you have translate local Scottish terms for normal foodstuffs (such as fudge and oatmeal parfait) and then deliver the box of treats like a fare to get into someone’s house, feel plain silly.
On the other hand there are some great examples like fitting wires into a grid so that you can wiretap a computer, playing a Tetris like game to hack into a system and and firing a bow and arrow so that you can zipline across to someone else’s hotel room. But when these are offset by such puzzles as ‘match the Tartan print to the USB stick’, again, in Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy it can be hard to know where you stand.
(There are plenty of hints if you need them, it should be worth noting, but if you’re going for a puritan’s playthrough you should prepare for varying levels of ridiculousness).
Also failing to live up to its potential is the voice acting. Now to be clear, most of the vocal performances in Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy knock it out of the park – Nancy’s boyfriend Ned Nickerson is wonderfully sarcastic, that dodgy Scottish accent I mentioned is actually dodgy for a reason and Carson Drew is fantastic as Nancy’s genuinely concerned dad. Meanwhile, almost everybody else delivers as you’d expect them to.
The problem – and it’s quite a big one – is that Nancy herself is beyond infuriating. I could call it laughable, totally hilarious even, to hear her fumble around her lines and fail to emote the way a normal human would, but when you’ve played a game for over 10 hours and the protagonist’s voice has annoyed you for most of that time, you do begin to lose the humour. The game’s saving grace is that there are subtitles for every bit of dialogue that features so you can mute it if you want to.
Middling puzzles and voice acting aside, Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy is a game worth playing. When it gets it right, it gets it really right and as mentioned, the story is such that you’ll want to keep playing even when Nancy’s voice might not make you want to. So while it is a bit rough around the edges, you should be able to get an enjoyable 12+ hours out of this one.