Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand

2002 Her Interactive
Designed by Erin Brown
Reviewed 2003 January 6

Rating -1 Linearity narrow
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty easy Relevance moderate
Interface 1st paned simple Real-time minor

Nancy is working as a deputy curator at a small museum of Mayan civilisation. Just before a big exhibition, an important artifact is stolen, with a mysterious red hand imprint left behind on a paper. Nancy quickly learns that similar thefts have occured around the country, suggesting some grander plot.

Per formula, there are a handful of characters, each with some shady secret or questionable agenda. They're simple characters, but more than just icons.

There's a good pacing to events, with lots of triggers propelling the plot ever onward. The ultimate mystery, however, is revealed too suddenly, too independently of Nancy's investigation. The culprit reveals him/her-self, as well as the motivation of the plot; I would have preferred these revelations to depend more upon Nancy's investigation.

Most of the challenge of the game comes from having to pass quizzes and games that were set up as part of the museum. To get to some areas of the museum, you have to pass a quiz and successfully complete a game or puzzle. This is unrealistic for a museum -- most people would just follow somebody else through a gate, or leave out of frustration. It does force the player to pay good attention to the exhibits and take notes, without being too onerous.

There are a couple of timed sequences. Neither are arcady, but you can die (at least in the finale -- I didn't try failing the first sequence). There's an auto-restore, called "second chance", so failure isn't too annoying. Once you work out what to do, the time limits seem to be generous enough for anybody.

The interface is unchanged from the previous games in the series. Everything is clear and attractive, and actions are intuitive to effect. As with some of the other Nancy Drew games, there is a clock for the time of day, and some actions must be taken during certain hours -- e.g., the hospital is only open during visiting hours. You can advance the clock to a particular hour, and there seems to be no limit to the number of days.

Scarlet Hand follows the series formula: the presentation is attractive; the story is formulaic, but palatable, and spiced with some exotic appeal; pacing is good; challenges are weak and uncreative. Some of the latter might be excused by the young target audience. It is weak as a game, but it is decent as interactive fiction and edutainment.

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.