Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Nancy Drew:  Secret of the Old Clock

Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock

Fall 2005 Software
Ages: 10 & Up
Price: $19.99
With 11 previous Nancy Drew titles, you'd think there wouldn't be any secrets left. Well, think again--which, in fact, is exactly what this popular girl-detective series of interactive mysteries requires you to do. Think, think, and think again--to solve each case.

Like the others, Old Clock is a point-and-click-and-drag adventure that positions you, as Nancy Drew, in one of her classic literary adventures. The difference this time around is that the mystery is set in the Great Depression of the '30s, when Nancy was just starting her investigative career in the original book series the games are based on. What's neat is that the graphics and other details in this game authentically attune to that era.

But instead of featuring a single book of the Nancy Drew oeuvre, this game borrows from the first four books of the series--The Secret of the Old +Clock, The Hidden Staircase, The Bungalow Mystery and The Mystery at Lilac Inn.

That means that although an old bed-and-breakfast is the starting point, gameplay travels more territory than usual. The combo plot begins when Nancy goes to the Lilac Inn to help a friend of a friend, 17-year-old Emily Crandall, who recently inherited the property and is in over her head handling the challenges of running an inn. As usual, Nancy's curiosity gets the best of her and she is soon enmeshed in a murky mystery--in this case, a contested will.

The roster of suspects, as in all of these titles, is long and cleverly devised--from the seemingly good-natured but greedy bank owner Jim, to Emily's untrustworthy guardian Jane who seems to have her own agenda, to Richard, a shady psychic who gives the impression of having a claim on the inheritance.

In a race against the clock, Nancy discovers there's room at the inn for some strange occurrences--moving objects, strange inventions, whispers in the night, tight-lipped and lying characters, an explosion, a theft, and lots of questions that demand answers. Many of those answers come from Nancy prowling the premises and collecting clues, taking notes (longhand this time, no computers back then!), and questioning suspects. A new feature this case is the old roadster Nancy gets to drive around Titusville--which is fun, but, like these days, gas is expensive and Nancy's on a budget.

Lots of mini-games and puzzles litter the scenes--though the puzzles tend to be a little lightweight this time, and while some of the games are terrific (mastermind comes to mind), others are borderline tedious (the mini-golf game).

As always, Her Interactive has made a very good, non-violent game that captures the imagination with plot and compelling gameplay. Though it does play a little shorter than some of the other Nancy Drew titles, Old Clock is ticking with smart fun. Why isn't there more kids' software this good?

Don Oldenburg   ©2005 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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