Developer: Gorilla Systems
Release Date: September 25, 2007
Thanks to the efforts of a lot of publishers, ranging from humble casual companies like PopCap Games to console behemoths like Nintendo, more women are playing video games than ever before. In particular, a statistic Ubisoft threw out at their E3 press conference this year alleged that one-quarter of all Nintendo DS owners were pre-teen girls. Publishers are scrambling to get more games out to this new audience, and someone probably noticed that Her Interactive has had a lot of success on PC with a series of adventure games based on the perennial Nancy Drew novels.
Now Majesco is trying out a DS adventure game based on the Nancy Drew license, called Nancy Drew and the Deadly Secret of Olde World Park. It's not based on any particular novel in the series, but it's not too hard to come up with new iterations of the Nancy Drew story formula that feel authentic. What is surprising is how easy it is to turn the formula into a pretty good adventure game, and how well the DS plays host to that type of title.
Although there is a Nancy Drew movie already out, Deadly Secret of Olde World Park is generally unrelated. It uses anime-like designs for the characters in the 2D close-ups, but exploring and gathering clues uses a surprisingly sharp 3D interface. Dialogue pops up in colorful comic book word balloons as Nancy travels from place to place.
Sometimes, advancing gameplay follows the old adventure-game standards of using the right item at the right time, or saying the right thing, but other sequences involve playing mini-games based off of popular puzzle games. For instance, figuring out whether or not a suspect is lying involves playing a simple rhythm game where you use the stylus to touch colored orbs as they scroll across the screen.
The story progresses through 15 "chapters," designed to simulate the way a Nancy Drew novel works. The beginning chapters set up Nancy's task, to find missing millionaire Thaddeus Belmont. Conveniently, this has something to do with the Olde Worlde amusement park. From there, Nancy progresses through each chapter by using what she's discovered and mini-games she's played to fulfill the required tasks. While this is likely to result in a linear story, well, stories don't come more linear than novels, and most girls are probably going to be quite happy to have a Nancy Drew game to carry with them.
At $29.99, Nancy Drew and the Secret of Olde Worlde Park looks like a surprisingly robust package, offering a lot of variety in both gameplay and graphics. If it is true that one quarter of all DSes out there are owned by pre-teen girls, then this is a game that could do very well, provided the gameplay follows through.