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You are watching: Nancy drew: the deadly secret of olde world park

By Lucas M. Thomas
Nancy Drew's been in her teens for almost 80 years. A literary character and star of a long-running series of detective novels that have been published since 1930, Nancy's become the heroine of a franchise of mystery-solving video games in more recent history – though nearly all of those adventures have been released for the PC platform. Nancy Drew: The Deadly Secret of Olde World Park marks the first time the teen queen has been seen on Nintendo's DS, and it's a debut that's both visually appealing and accessible enough for young female gamers to enjoy as an introduction to Nancy's world. So get out your flashlights, a fresh pen and pad for writing down clues and your sharpest sense for figuring out whodunit – it's time to enter the park.

The Olde World Park is a brand new attraction center opening up in Nancy's hometown of River Heights, but its primary investor, the billionaire Thaddeus Belmont, has mysteriously gone missing just days before its grand opening to the public. Nancy's quest is to find out what's become of good old Thad, but along the way she'll also find herself unraveling the secrets of a werewolf-obsessed horror story author, helping out her high school friends when they get themselves in trouble, and discovering the secrets of what's really going on behind the scenes of the new amusement park. The storyline and progression of the plot is The Deadly Secret's greatest strength, as the developers of this adventure have nailed the feel of what makes the Nancy Drew brand unique. The mysteries, at first straightforward, soon twist and turn and get more complicated – as a good mystery should – and all of the events are conveyed in a great, comic-like style. When Nancy interacts with people, either having polite conversations or interrogating them for information, the top screen of the DS displays expressive, hand-drawn comic book panels of the characters involved. Pop-up text bubbles appear to house any on-going dialogue or gameplay instructions, and though the font used there is a bit small and difficult to read, it matches the style of the artwork.

The visuals transition to 3D, though, when it's time for Nancy to move around and explore the Olde World Park's environments. The camera stays fixed in one position for each room and hallway, which keeps things simple and is evocative of older, classic titles in the adventure genre – but again, these sequences take place on the DS system's top screen. So there's no using the stylus to poke, prod and explore each area. It's pretty much just moving Nancy from one interactive icon to the next with the D-Pad, then pressing the X Button when you've gotten close enough to initiate a conversation or an interaction with a computer, or door, or secret passageway. Where the touch screen finally comes into play is during Nancy's many mini-games, which are most often triggered when an unfriendly witness is trying to hide some critical information. Nancy gains their trust and willingness to share their facts by winning in one of several different brief game descarolannpeacock.coms, including a mood-matching game where you tap icons to change their color and drag them into position on the left side of the screen, a where you try to find the one safe path through a maze of tiles (similar to The Price is Right's Pathfinder game), and a take on the old "unscramble the picture" puzzles where you move one tile around until all the many squares end up in the right spot (like the shifting picture of Bowser in Lethal Lava Land, from Super Mario 64). Like most other mini-game descarolannpeacock.coms featured in most other adventure titles on the DS, none of Nancy's fare is particularly deep or intriguing. But the low level of challenge is in keeping with this quest's target audience, and may encourage those players who experience it to try more advanced games in the genre. Even established adventure gamers, though, could appreciate playing through The Deadly Secret, and might enjoy the rare occasion when the action picks up its intensity – Nancy has a handful of stealth-action Splinter Cell moments during her investigation here, and it's fun to try to keep her from getting caught in the act of snooping.

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Nancy Drew"s adventures in mystery-solving have been experienced and enjoyed by several generations" worth of young women, over the course of the past eight decades. And it"s nice to see that the character is seeing a fresh resurgence, especially one that doesn"t compromise the spirit of the brand. Nancy"s still all about finding clues and doing detective work, and her debut DS title gets that focus right. The lacking depth of the mini-game descarolannpeacock.coms and limited exploration aspects could be counted as a negative against The Deadly Secret, but are more likely to just make the adventure more accessible for young female gamers being newly introduced to the adventure genre – it"s not hard to imagine that a group of girls would play this game together, each one experiencing the quest and then passing it on to their friends to play through too, just like sharing a good Nancy novel. And we"ll hope for even more DS Nancy titles in the future, that can expand upon the foundation established here.