A silent spy is a dead spy.
Developer: HeR Interactive
Publisher: HeR Interactive
Genre: Point & Click Adventure Mystery
Type: Single Player
Release date: October 22, 2013
Nancy Drew is one of the most well-known fictional detectives in literature. Many grew up with her books and games, and even if they forget the name, Nancy Drew can easily bring up an image of a teenage girl detective solving mysteries. For her 29th adventure in her game series, it gets a little more personal. In both her previous books and games, Nancy’s mother is not investigated or given any extensive back story. All we know is that she died when Nancy was young. So what happens when Mrs. Drew is the mystery?
Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy builds on Mrs. Drew’s bare-bones background to give her more character. Named Kate Drew, she visited Glasgow, Scotland after getting a phone call eight years ago. She died in a car accident there.
Eight years later, a mysterious letter is delivered to Nancy from a MI-5 group named Cathedral, asking her to go to Scotland. Kate’s death was apparently not what it seemed, with Nancy soon learning that her mother was a spy taking down a terrorist organization called Revenant at the cost of her life. But Kate’s death is believed to have been intentionally caused by Revenant. Nancy soon finds herself taking her mother’s place as Revenant starts to rise again.
As Nancy arrives in Scotland, it seems like the few people she meets are nice and immediately want to help her. These characters have their own quirks that I could not help but love. Other than the repeating characters of Carson and Ned, both wanting Nancy to get home safely and giving you information this time around, there are only a few others. There is Bridget, a friendly native who takes an instant liking to you; Moira, a woman who had a close connection with Kate; Alec, a skip tracer; and Ewan, your Cathedral contact who assists you throughout your mission. Don’t put too much trust in them, though; after all everyone hides secrets.
A lot of the characters are likeable, my favorite being Bridget, and you do get the feeling that they are hiding something from you. Bridget in particular gives off an energetic vibe, mostly through the great voice acting and script. In fact, everyone is written and voice acted well. While I do not know my Scottish accents well, they seemed authentic and natural to me. None of the characters suddenly changes accent for no reason, and you can hear that they share the same intonations.
The dynamic between Carson and Nancy is heartwarming. They both miss Kate, but they have different ways of showing it. While Nancy agrees to go to Scotland to learn of her mother’s true lifestyle, Carson wants Nancy to be safe. He locks up some of Kate’s papers but it is to keep Nancy safe, as Carson knows her drive to solve mysteries. When he realizes Nancy will not go home until she finds out everything she can, they have a heart-to-heart discussion and Carson relents.
With Nancy, you can see why everyone wants her to go back home. She is the only one uncaring of the harm that might befall her, which is best seen when Revenant contacts her. You can decide to do the activities Revenant gives you to gain more information about your mother, and thus show how far Nancy is willing to go. She also gets to do some cool spy stuff with the gadgets she receives. A few flashbacks to Nancy’s childhood when Kate was still alive are also nice, further connecting the two and making Nancy’s dedication more believable.
There’s a lot of the history of Scotland included in-game, through books and newspapers, some optional and others used for puzzles. You can also make money selling cookies at the stand outside of your hotel. The game only provides a few areas to explore, however, with most being inside. It would have been interesting to have a lot of areas to go to branching off of the train station to give it a more of a Scottish feel, rather than just key locations. I’m disappointed, too, that Nancy did not go to where Kate had her car “accident”, since her mother was the main reason for her trip, or even try to dig up any reports.
There are a variety of puzzles for you to enjoy. Some puzzles go with the setting, such as having you figure out the names of Scottish food, and recreating and recognizing a tartan design. Others use logic as you try to figure out various codes or arrange letters to unlock something. There are many interesting puzzles scattered around. One of the most memorable ones required you to understand sheet music. Only a few puzzles are timed and they give a good amount of time in relation to what you need to do. Be careful, though, as most have an implied timer. You can always start over if you are caught.
Not all of the puzzles make sense, though. For example, why is Cathedral using the same passwords from eight years ago, especially when Revenant needs the information Kate had in order to rise again. There had to be someone in Cathedral that knew, or could have hacked into Kate’s files just in case Revenant figured it all out before Nancy.
There was one puzzle that stands out in my mind as having a problem: the Jabberwocky puzzle. Early on you find out one of the papers in your suitcase was a poem Kate kept called the Jabberwocky. Once you receive a colored version, all you know is that it is a regular poem. Though suspicion is raised with some words being colored and most not. This is when it gets muddled. Nancy Drew games are designed in a way that you can do steps out of order if possible, so you do get some wiggle room. The problem with the Jabberwocky puzzle is that you will know it is a puzzle, and not just a poem, if you skip to the last clue. Kate left a recording of her giving instructions on how to decode the message, and even Nancy says there is a message hidden in the poem, but you can not solve it yet. Someone tells you later to follow those instructions on a note, and you can’t solve the puzzle before then. This could have been handled with the note not being needed to start decoding, but for the player to use it as a reference, like the game does with other clues. I am also disappointed that you can’t find all the letters yourself, as it already writes down the letters and puts spaces where they are not specified in the recording. Letting the player solve the entire puzzle would have added another way to take the role of a detective.
+ Strong story
+ Good voice work and soundtrack
+ A few easter eggs scattered around
+/- Limited locations
– Some unanswered questions
– Jabberwocky puzzle
Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy is a great game in the Nancy Drew series. It was interesting having a game in which Nancy is driven by her personal need to know what happened to her mother. Everything is handled seriously and you can feel how the Drew family misses Kate. It was a risk giving Kate Drew this back story and having the player not believing it from the other family members, but it does work out. If you have not played the others, or only played some of them like I have, this is a good entry point to the series.