Nancy Drew: Danger on Deception Island

2003 Her Interactive
Designed by Anne Collins-Ludwick
Reviewed 2003 October 30

Rating -2 Linearity open
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance moderate
Interface 1st paned simple Real-time minor

Nancy goes to visit with a friend of a friend on a little island off the Washington coast. Nancy is just in time for a spree of strange break-ins and vandalising, which may or may not be connected to an orphaned orca in the area. It's up to Nancy to figure out what the odd break-ins are about, and whether or not they're connected to the orca.

As usual, everybody has something to hide, some axe to grind, and the culprit isn't exposed until the very end. Local colour is featured, both with the orca and with a local history of smuggling in eras past.

Nancy also runs into an eccentric puzzle fan, who leaves an assortment of tasks lying around for Nancy to solve. In addition, other characters give Nancy puzzles to solve and games to play, and other environmental problems are expressed in the form of puzzles. For example, one character asks Nancy to solve a chess problem, and a broken sink is expressed as connect-the-pipes puzzle. The result is that the challenge of the game is very puzzly, and not very adventury. However, story flow is controlled nicely by triggers, mostly conversationally based, so we're back to an adventure feel.

Most of the challenges are easy, but a few could be difficult. The chess problem might be tough if you're not familiar with the game, and there's a large anagram. Most importantly, there's a lot to do, some of it just as optional fun. There are many ways to die (not literally), but the excellent auto-restore (called second chance) prevents it from being annoying. There are a couple of easy arcade games to play through, but the game will give you a pass if it sees you having too much trouble.

The drawback of the challenges is their lack of originality. This is probably not much of a concern for the target audience, but more experienced adventurers won't find anything interesting amongst the challenges. Unfortunately, this would include anybody who has played most of the other games in the series.

The interface is pretty much the same as the recent games in the series. The 3D puppets seem to be getting better, and the save game interface is better. This time around, there was no clock control -- everything takes place over the course of one day. The game engine is attractive and functional, and they haven't tried to break it.

On the bad side is the lack of creative challenges. On the good side is a large number of challenges and activities, more than in previous Nancy Drew games. I didn't find the story gripping, but it was substantial and moved along steadily. It's a good game for fans of the series, and for novice adventurers.

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.