| Nancy Drew:
Secret of the Scarlet Hand
Review by Jen
Secret of the Scarlet Hand is the sixth in the series
of Nancy Drew games and the third I have playedI thought
I was done after two, in a "played one, you've played 'em
all" sort of way. However, this one fell in my lap like manna
from heaven, so I went ahead and loaded it up.
This time around, Nancy is invited to serve as assistant curator
at the Beech Hill Museum in Washington, D.C. Joanna Riggs, the
curator, is scrambling to put together and open an important Mayan
artifact exhibit. The centerpiece of the show, a depiction of
the Mayan King Pacal, is soon stolen, the thief leaving only a
scarlet handprint in its place. Our intrepid girl detective starts
detecting in between her museum duties.
In addition to Joanna, there are three other principals, Alejandro
del Rio in the Mexican consulate, a handsome young man who is
angry about his country losing its precious treasures, Taylor
Sinclair, an oily dealer in artifacts, and Henrik van der Hune,
a specialist in glyph translation with a checkered past. Is one
of them the thief? Nancy sets off to find out.
In her quest for the truth, Nancy becomes steeped in Mayan lore,
andguess what?there will be a test (or two). You as
the player are forced to pay attention to the museum exhibits
in order to pass these quizzes and progress in the game. I found
the educational aspect a little heavy-handed this time around,
but hey, I'm a grown woman. I already know all about Mayan cultureafter
all, I did play Timelapse for Pete's sake!
The puzzles are your standard clue-finding-and-applying and inventory
fare. All puzzles are fair, in that they all have clues and the
clues aren't too obscurethis game is made to be played by
children as young as 10. However, there are some times when a
woman player might put two and two together ahead of schedule,
and then she cannot do anything with her knowledge because she's
not supposed to have that knowledge just yet. A couple of times,
I had to go back and go through the motions of figuring something
out for the first time, but at the correct time, in order to trigger
the next action.
Much of the information you need will be gleaned through telephone
conversations. The phone in Nancy's hotel room becomes a very
familiar sight indeed! Also located in Nancy's room is the alarm
clock, a device that has made an appearance in at least one other
Nancy Drew gameif Nancy is doing something at the wrong
time of day, she can set the alarm to whatever time she chooses
to advance if, for example, it's the middle of the night and she
needs to see a hospital patient during visiting hours. However,
she appears to have an unlimited number of days to solve the case,
and she can visit the museum, the primary gameplay location, at
any hour, so time is not really an issue in most cases.
When you begin, you may choose to play as a Junior Detective
or a Senior Detective, the difference being, I assume, in either
difficulty or quantity of puzzles. But since I never play as anything
but a Senior Detective (I have a reputation, after all!), I guess
I'll never find out. The game was not a brain-buster, although
I did scratch my head a couple of times. Most stucknesses can
be overcome by going everywhere and looking at everything again.
No need to try every inventory item on every hotspot; you generally
have a pretty good idea of what will work where.
Graphics, music, and voice acting are all passable but far from
stellar. The actors rarely sound like they're reading, but they
are not ready for their Broadway debuts either. Graphics are clear
and crisp; movement within a particular building is via a click-induced
jump from one node to the next; there are a couple of nodes with
horizontal panning in a complete circle, although it's jerky.
Traveling between locations is done via a subway map that pops
up when you leave the building you're in. Cutscenes are few and
On the whole, Secret of the Scarlet Hand really is another
good, solid, well-put-together offering from Her Interactive.
It is certainly not the stuff of which classics are made, but
neither is it a complete waste of time. I found it to be a nice
weekend diversion ... but I won't be lining up for the next title
in the series. That "played one, you've played 'em all"
statement proved to be true. These games are all formulaic, much
in the same way as the Nancy Drew books are formulaic. That never
stopped me from reading them all when I was 9, but as an adult
I like a little more variety in my entertainment and am not compelled
to play 'em all.
Release Date: August 2002
Four Fat Chicks Links
200 MHz Pentium (300 MHZ PII recommended)
16 MB RAM (64 MB recommended)
160 MB free hard disk space (250 MB recommended)
16-bit video card (16-bit with 8 MB video RAM recommended)
8X CD-ROM drive (24X recommended)
Mouse and speakers
Where to Find It
Where to Find It
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