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

Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes

Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes

Fall 2012 Software
Ages: 10 & Up
Price: $19.99

Billed as the "Special 25th Edition" of the Nancy Drew detective series, this first-person, point-and-click action adventure lives up to the high expectations set by earlier Nancy Drew titles. Her Interactive has been creating bizarre crimes, shady situations and dangerous miscues for the world's foremost clue-seeking teenager for so long and with such admirable quality that there's little need for change. By now it might seem that Nancy would have the ability to avoid becoming involved in such mysteries. But, then, Nancy Drew is a trouble magnet, isn't she?

The life-like graphics are outstanding as always. The game has real educational value, as it tests players problem solving and observational skills. This title in particular also emphasizes cooperation and the value of being good friends.

What's surprisingly innovative in this anniversary adventure is the premise and plot. Nancy and her best friends (Ned, Bess and George) are competing in the annual Clues Challenge Contest in her hometown of River Heights. As Nancy is scouring the Town Hall for contest clues, the thermostat sparks a fire, and the place burns down. Nancy's arrested on suspicion of arson and it's up to her sleuth pals, with her directing the investigation from a jail cell, to solve the mystery and finger the guilty arsonist.

As is standard with the Nancy Drew series, you can play at a junior or senior detective difficulty level, use the cell phone and laptop extensively, track a map of the town (though some locations are not fully available), and interrogate suspects. Those suspects include memorable characters like nasty TV news reporter Brenda Carlton, who was first to accuse Nancy of the crime. And there's dusting for finger prints, decoding coded pictures, organizing evidence on the police board, adjusting a sound-board to decipher a tape, and all sorts of regular Nancy Drew tasks operating in the 360-degree environment.

The biggest difference, and the real risk, is that, unlike previous Nancy Drew games, you do not just play as Nancy. Throughout the game, you'll play as Nancy's various friends as they help to solve the mystery. While that sounds cool, and it is, getting used to switching between characters is tricky. Another issue is the comparably fewer mini games, which have always been a highlight of the series. There's the police station computer password mind teaser, the Number Punch Puzzle (a think-fast digit challenge), a so-so shape puzzle, a word game at the ice cream shop, and the ultimate game-ending Tunnel Maze, but not much more.

This Nancy Drew title takes some risks, and some pay off better than others. Overall the game is another success for the series, and longtime fans of the series will notice the changes and will appreciate that this remains a solid mystery-solving game.

Don Oldenburg   ©2012 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.

Look for this product at:
Her Interactive, Inc.

Share This