Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger

1999 Her Interactive
Designed by Laura Henion, Robert Riedl, Tim Burke
Reviewed 2000 May 16

Rating -2 Linearity narrow
Reasonability sporadic Connectivity moderate
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance moderate
Interface 1st 360 simple Real-time occasional

Nancy arrives in New York, staying with her aunt's friend, Mattie, a TV soap star. Mattie's co-star, Rick, has been receiving death threats, so Nancy starts investigating. The threats turn into dangerous actions. As Nancy learns more about Rick and others around the studio, the list of suspects grows. Nancy's snooping eventually makes her a target, too.

This is a decent little mystery. The characters are simple, and the story stuffed with clichés, but that's common for mysteries. The stock threads are woven into a nice little mystery. Nancy's investigation triggers various events throughout the game, in addition to opening new dialogue choices. This gives you a good sense of feedback and progress, of interaction with the plot. There is also a clock that advances as you play. You don't race it, but there are some things that you can only do at night, and others at day. It adds to the feel of a continuing investigation without getting in the way, without forcing you into save-explore-restore nonsense.

The game is primarily about exploration, about finding clues, which fits the story well. There aren't many real challenges, and those you do encounter are often non-relevant or unreasonable. There are several challenges which have no clue or reason to their solution, just a small set of possibilities that you have to work through. Two of these have fatal results on failure, so it's a good thing there's a good auto-restore (called second chance). There are a handful of relevant, reasonable challenges. A couple require some attention, but most are very simple. The net result is very thin gameplay.

As in the previous game, there are mysterious coded messages scattered about. They don't make sense storywise: Who wrote them? If they know so much, why not tell Nancy or the police? Fortunately, they're not necessary to the story or the challenges, they just tell you what your investigation is already uncovering. They can be safely ignored, although kids might have fun figuring out the codes.

The interface and presentation is pretty much the same as in the previous game -- it ain't broke, it ain't been fixed. The scenes are clean and attractive, and all the basic functions are intuitive. Locations are presented in a pseudo-360 view -- instead of smoothly spinning at each spot, you rotate to a new "slide" some degrees over. It's as immersive as a smooth transition, but without the danger of motion-sickness.

One change is in the presentation of the characters, which are now pre-rendered 3D marionettes (before they were cartoons). I find the cartoons to be more emotionally expressive, but the marionettes don't clash with the scenery as much, so it's an even trade.

Stay Tuned for Danger is a good interactive story, which is probably the main interest of its intended audience. As an adventure game, though, it is weak.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

Related reviews:

  • The Nancy Drew Series
    David Tanguay's Game Reviews
    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.