Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock
Review by MrLipid
Nancy's Back ... In Time!
The Secret of the Old Clock brings the number of games in
the Nancy Drew series to an even dozen. While this is an impressive
accomplishment for any series, that's not Clock's only distinction.
The game is based on the first book in the Nancy Drew canon, the
game's release date is the 75th anniversary of that book's publication,
and the game is done in period, right down to Nancy's more-or-less
Model A roadster. Clock carries all this baggage effortlessly,
providing players with one of the most sprightly entries in the
The menu system and interface of Clock will be immediately
familiar to anyone who has ever played a Nancy Drew game. One chooses
to play as a Junior or Senior detective with difficulty levels for
certain puzzles adjusted accordingly. Driving the roadster might
seem a bit daunting at first, since one drives it by leading it
with the cursor. After a few spins around Titusville, though, players
will be doing four-wheel drifts and 360-degree spins with no trouble.
As long as care is taken to avoid the potholes, there'll be no need
to change a tire. And as long as puddles are avoided during the
thrilling chase finale (puddles slow down Nancy's roadster), the
villain will have no chance of escaping.
Considering that the game has "clock" in its name, it
seems ironic that Clock dispenses with the "advance
time by having Nancy sleep" feature. Once the game begins,
the sun never sets. As someone who never much cared for the in-game
timepiece, I didn't mind its absence.
Our Story So Far ...
Only purists are likely to object to the conflation of the plots
of two Nancy Drew books (The Secret of the Old Clock and
The Mystery at Lilac Inn) to produce the plot of the game.
The game's story links the greed of Richard Topham for the estate
of Josiah Crowley from the original Secret with the lost
jewels of Emily Crandall from The Mystery at Lilac Inn. The
resulting story opens with poor Emily mourning the loss of her mother.
A friend of her mother's has come to help Emily run the Lilac Inn.
Did Josiah Crowley really leave his money to Topham? Is Jim Archer,
the banker, on the level? Clues point, as is usual in Nancy Drew
games, everywhere. Assuming Emily is innocent, the villain could
be any of the other fully animated characters.
Timeless or Just Old?
Clock, by putting Nancy back in the era of her birth as
a character, provides an object lesson in why Nancy is such a durable
heroine. Even in the midst of the Depression, Nancy proves that
a good heart, a keen mind and an observant eye could bring order
and harmony to the world. Relieved of the modern conveniences of
a cell phone or the internet, Nancy has ample opportunities to display
the resourcefulness that made her a star.
In the world before cell phones, Nancy must use a pay phone. Every
call costs a nickel, and Nancy's only got $3.50 in her purse. Would
the folks at Her Interactive drop in this resource management element
without providing a way for Nancy to pick up some spare change?
Of course not. Whenever she pleases, Nancy can jump into her snazzy
blue roadster and deliver telegrams all over Titusville for an impressive
twenty-five cents apiece. And, like it or not, Nancy will spend
time on the road delivering telegrams.
Only Money Makes the Mare Run
There are three separate instances in the game where only money
will get the job done, and that means navigating, from an overhead
view, the map of Titusville. Avoid the potholes or risk a flat tire
and a $2 tire repair fee at Zippy Gas. Keep the roadster's gas tank
filled or risk a $5 towing fee. Fortunately, there is a puzzle to
solve at Zippy Gas that can get Nancy back in action in case she's
too broke to pay for tire repairs or towing.
The driving sections of Clock, underscored with tunes that
Raymond Scott imagined but never wrote down, brings an engaging
velocity to the proceedings. They also give the player an opportunity
to learn the layout of the roads in Titusvillesomething that
will eventually prove essential.
Between arriving at the inn in the amazingly shiny blue roadster
and pushing that roadster to its limits in the thrilling chase finale,
Nancy must solve a pleasing variety of puzzles. While most lend
themselves to contemplation, some require a bit of eye-hand coordination.
There is a miniature golf minigame (which can be skipped), a bit
of fishing and the dreaded sewing machine. The sewing machine puzzle
requires a steady hand as Nancy attempts to stitch a clean line.
Suggestion: Move your mouse cursor speed and acceleration toward
the slow end. This will smooth out any twitches and help keep your
On a More Serious Note
The team at Her Interactive, by setting Clock in the Depression,
have taken the bold step of letting the Depression weigh, however
gently, on the game's mood. The music is sprightly, as it was in
the Depression, but money worries remain. Emily may lose the Lilac
Inn if the inheritance of Josiah Crowley winds up going to someone
else. The residents of Titusville are not immune to the money drought
spreading across the country. Nancy cannot solve the mystery without
earning money for gas and other necessities. For those playing this
game with their children, this could be an opportunity to discuss
this bleak period in America's economic history.
Clock is the first Nancy Drew game to use black-and-white
still photographs (reminiscent of Noir:
A Shadowy Thriller) to provide visuals for some of the places
(Zippy Gas, a mansion, an orphanage, a print shop) Nancy visits.
While initially somewhat jarring, the photos contribute to the period
Back to the Future
Clock, with its sunny exteriors and perpetual daylight,
feels like the adventure game equivalent of a beach book. It's light,
bright, and fun. For those who found Nancy's previous outing, Curse
of Blackmoor Manor, more to their liking, Nancy's
next adventure, Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, looks a bit
more moody. And a bit more modern. Nancy will be sporting a new
camera cell phone for taking pictures and calling for hints. She'll
be joined by Frank and Joe Hardy, and there will be pachinko to
play, heirloom dolls to sort and short-order cooking to do. In other
words, another entry in the irresistibly predictable adventures
of the indestructible Ms. Drew. I can't wait.
Release Date: July 2005
Four Fat Chicks Links
400 MHz or greater Pentium II or equivalent class CPU
64 MB of RAM
300 MB or more free hard drive space
16 MB DirectX compatible video card
16-bit DirectX compatible sound card
12X CD-ROM drive
Where to Find It
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