In The Shattered Medallion, the 30th adventure in the Nancy Drew series, Nancy asks a character if he’s been leaving certain items around specifically for her to find. He responds, “I think the line between something existing and something waiting to be found is smudgy in your case.” In that one quote, Sonny Joon sums up the Nancy Drew series as only he could.
Nancy and her friends Bess and George have been selected to participate in a world-travel reality show, a la The Amazing Race. They discover that not all is as it seems, and that they may actually be at the mercy of the show’s gadabout producer. When George is injured in an act of sabotage, Nancy must uncover the truth behind the charade.
It’s actually a bit curious to me that these games have been so terminally overlooked by the mainstream gaming media. Sure, they’re not going to break Grand Theft Auto’s sales records, but the series has been one of, if not the most consistent and reliable that I’ve ever even heard of. It’s like a perfectly-mixed vanilla milkshake: Not the most exciting thing, but always well-made and refreshing.
The puzzles are this game’s bread and butter, and they live up to every standard. I quite enjoyed the challenge of some of them, the submarine puzzle being a particular favorite. Also, I cannot remember the last time I had to take out notepaper and write down all of the clues so that I wouldn’t miss an essential bit of information, but I had to do it for this game.
One of the best things about the writing in the Nancy Drew series is the sense you get that every character has an internal monologue to which Nancy is not privy. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the person of fan-favorite character Sonny Joon. Originally a one-off gag character mentioned in Secret of the Scarlet Hand, he’s been mentioned in several of the games. Here he comes across as nutty, but there’s a method behind the madness. He is set up as a foil to Nancy: Both have extraordinary minds and are looking for answers, though Sonny’s are not quite as domestic as Nancy’s.
The set-up for this game could be a little more fleshed-out. We are told in just so many sentences that we are on a reality show, and then told immediately to go solve a puzzle. Also, the story takes place in New Zealand, but you can hardly tell because there isn’t a lot of lip service paid to the history of the location. There’s some, but not much.
Still, I’d rather play the least of the Nancy Drew games than some of the other titles on the market. For any of my criticisms of the execution, the game has style and substance to make up for it. If you are an adventure gamer or an ardent puzzler, do not miss this title!