Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill

Review by Jen

I used to love Nancy Drew and read all of the books before I was 12. Many years have passed since then, and some early onset of Alzheimer's has intervened, but I still remember them clearly. Even though Secrets Can Kill was really designed for teenage girls, I was looking forward to playing it and reliving my fond memories.

The game starts off with Nancy on a visit to her Aunt Eloise in Florida. Aunt Eloise works as a librarian at the local high school. Just before your arrival, a student was murdered at the school, and as you start the game, you are plunged right into the thick of the mystery. You explore the school, a diner, and your aunt's house to uncover clues. You must also draw out the secrets, by careful choice of words, of the four student suspects, all of whom had a strong motive for murder. The only thing that was a little off-putting was the fact that the story takes place in modern times instead of the thirties—setting it back then would have been really cool but a lot harder for the designers to implement.

Gameplay consists mostly of observation, and clues abound. Most of the puzzles are little word games scattered throughout the school in places like the library and on the bulletin boards. One of the first puzzles I encountered, however, was the dreaded sliding tile puzzle. Fearing that this was the harbinger of doom, I endured it, but I was then pleasantly surprised by how classic-adventure-style the remainder of the game was. There were also a couple of inventory puzzles, but nothing wacky a la LucasArts games—this was just a straightforward point-and-click detective game. On starting the game, you are offered two or three choices of difficulty level, and I figured since I was a grown woman playing a girl's game, I'd better choose "hard" so I could maintain a modicum of self-respect and a shred of dignity. I did get stumped big-time once, but it was because it took me a while to find an important location. There were also a couple of places where I died, but the game has a very nice "second chance" feature.

Graphics are an odd mix that somehow manages to work. You never see Nancy since it's a first-person game, and I was a little disappointed that Ned, Bess, and George were out of the picture (actually, they were included in the game, but only as the online hint system—if you feel like you need help, you can use the phone to call them for advice, but the hints proved largely useless). Anyway, back to the topic at hand: the characters are all cartoons superimposed on photorealistic scenery. The game style was combination slide show in that you jump from one location to the next in huge leaps, and 360-degree panoramic because in most locations you can turn all the way around and sometimes pan up and down a little. Overall, though, this made for a quite pleasing mix. The care that was taken is very evident.

Sound is high-quality—decent music with not-too-short loops and well-placed, effective sound effects. The voice acting is actually pretty good, too, except Nancy sometimes talks too slowly, as if she had dipped into her Auntie's supply of Valium.

Overall, this is a sweet little game by a female-run company. Also, although it's pretty easy, it contains classic adventure game elements and a story strong enough to hold the player's interest, and so it would be a good introduction to adventure games for either boys or girls. Drugs, blackmail, murder ... what more could any adventurer ask for? The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Her Interactive
Publisher: Her Interactive
Release Date: November 1998

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

Windows 95/98
166 MHz processor (200 MHz Pentium recommended)
16 MB RAM (32 MB recommended)
42 MB available hard disk space (220 MB recommended)
16-bit color graphics video card
8X CD-ROM drive (24X recommended)
16-bit Windows-compatible stereo sound card
Mouse and speakers

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