> # Welcome to GameGrinOS v1.01 > # How can I help you? > # Press ` again to close
Hello… | Log in or sign up
Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device Review

Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device Review

Ever since the 23rd of November in 1998, HeR Interactive has been developing and, in most cases, producing mystery adventure games in the Nancy Drew series. Adapted from the book franchise of the same name written by Carolyn Keene (a pseudonym shared by many Nancy Drew authors, starting with Mildred Writ Benson), the game series features the titular detective solving a variety of mysteries. These mysteries can include disappearances, ghost sightings, theft, and — in her most shocking cases — murder, as seen in the 27th title in the series (Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device), which was released on the 23rd of October 2012.

Like in all main series Nancy Drew titles, The Deadly Device offers a mixture of exploration, puzzle-solving, and character interaction. In Deadly Device, each of these aspects are solid, for the most part. The game sees Nancy investigating Niko Jovic's lab after the esteemed scientist and electrical engineer is found dead after an incident with a faulty Tesla coil. Compared to most other Nancy Drew games, the lab is a relatively small and compact space, particularly at the beginning of Nancy's investigation. Until she gains access to the lab itself, she is limited to the lounge area, the central hall, and each of the employees' respective offices, including the victim's old office. Each space looks nice, with plenty of detail, but it's not the most visually interesting locale seen yet.

On the one hand, I do appreciate the compactness. A small locale makes going between different areas fairly easy, which allows players to feel like they can investigate at their own pace. There's not much of a cost to entering or exiting most places here. However, there's not much of a sense of exploration and the various areas aren't incredibly distinct. Everything sort of has that workplace aesthetic, with desks and half-completed projects strewn about. The best locales are the offices, with each one providing a variety of insights into their respective owners, but outside of details pertaining to characterisation, they don't have much. Now, those existing details are enough to make the rooms interesting, but it is still hard not to feel like every room is blending together at times.

Additionally, Deadly Device clearly and cleverly makes an effort to make the lab feel larger than it is through the elevator and the day/night cycle. The elevator isn't terribly slow, but the animation for using it plays in full every time and, as the player has to use the elevator many times throughout, I can say I had gotten sick of it by the end of my playthrough. As for that day/night cycle, different people and offices are available at different times, requiring Nancy to retreat to her bed and get some rest if the player wants to interrogate a given character or snoop around a particular office. Thankfully, some locales, such as the murder victim's office, are open season at all times of day. But beyond unaffected areas, the day/night cycle helps to establish various character dynamics with people taking different shifts to avoid each other and allows Deadly Device to realistically use equipment, such as 3D printers, that takes a long time to produce results. However, similar to the elevator, having to run back to the lounge to change what time it is whenever Nancy needs to get into something different — a very frequent occurrence — can become a bit tedious. I'd personally say that the positives outweigh the negatives with these measures, as they keep the lab feeling large enough, but they still turn exploration into the worst part of the game.

Now thankfully, every other aspect of the game is better. The puzzles, for one, vary primarily between testing the player's knowledge and mechanical skill, among a few other surprises. Now, knowledge-based puzzles can be a tad tricky, becoming little more than a test of one’s ability to use a search engine if they aren't well-versed in the history of Nikola Tesla's patents or the names of the Knights of the Round Table. That being said, like the best Nancy Drew titles, Deadly Device does a good job of providing these bits of trivia with in-game texts and documents.

In some of these puzzles, the player will be forced to scour the lab for crucial details, but thanks to the camera function on Nancy's phone, the player has the option of proactively taking pictures of the clues and books they can't bring with them, which can cut down on needed walking and may be helpful if a given player either can't take their own notes or doesn't want to. Or they can just snap a picture of funny things or the various literal Easter eggs that can be found. I know I did both.

But the best puzzles were more mechanical in nature, solvable without outside information and featuring tasks such as recreating a complex pattern of shapes in a specific order and creating a 3D object from 2D images showing the object from four differing angles. While some of these can be quite challenging, particularly when the player has difficulty picturing objects in their head like I do, none of them are impossible, especially with the variety of tips available.

To give one of these puzzles a closer look, take Zap-Up. It's one of my favourites, making a return from Nancy Drew: A Captive Curse. Zap-Up is fairly easy to understand, same as in the prior game, tasking Nancy with lighting up every single node on what looks like an electrical board. I love Zap-Up, not only because seeing all of those electrical charges bouncing around the screen is just visually appealing, but also because it's one of my favourite kinds of puzzles, what I'd call a "routing puzzle." See, the player only has a limited number of charges to complete it, so they need to find the best places to place those charges. This requires the player to think through their options and imagine how the screen will change with each charge before putting any of them down. And then, once the player has figured out the correct route, they can proceed with their chosen plan, watch as each decision sets off an array of bouncing lights, and see whether or not they succeeded. Alternatively, the player can decide to forego foresight and figure out which charges go where as they place them; when I personally take that approach, I tend to fail more often. Either way, Zap-Up is responsive, brain-teasing, and visually appealing. All in all, a great puzzle, and one that I am overjoyed that HeR Interactive brought back for another go. I would gush more about the others, but I don’t want to give too much away in regards to how they work.

However, I can’t help but gush about The Deadly Device’s characters. Particular highlights include Mason Quinto, Deirdre Shannon, and Ryan Kilpatrick, though there is hardly a weak performance in the game. Mason carries himself with a great amount of sass and self-importance, like he knows he’s the smartest person in the room. He is overall rather fussy and seems like the sort of co-worker that gets on one’s nerves without ever actually coming across as a jerk. He is fun to mess with, to the point where Nancy can enter his little office space and mess with his meticulously organised paper clips, clutter his perfectly stacked post-it notes, and send random junk down to the 3D printer in the lab. Then in the morning, Nancy can speak with Mason to discover that he is fuming over someone messing with his stuff. What gets me on a personal level is how Mason will deliver a simple groan when asked about it, rolling his head down to look off in the distance as though he is at the end of his rope, before turning back up to face Nancy as a little grin breaks out on his face. It’s as if to say that he actually enjoys the prank on some level and is itching for a way to get back at Nancy.

Moving on to Deirdre, she continues on from her appearance as Nancy Drew’s most prominent hater in Alibi in Ashes, and she remains the same catty character as ever. She gets involved on an obligatory basis, having to assist Nancy on her case after getting caught plagiarising a paper for her criminology course. Soon however, between petty squabbles, one can get a sense that Deirdre is beginning to enjoy her time working alongside Nancy. She takes pride in her own work and often works to second guess Nancy’s preconceptions, outright challenging the detective to see things in a nastier and less forgiving light. It is for this reason that Deirdre works as an excellent companion in The Deadly Device, offering unique insights alongside overwhelmingly entertaining banter in a sharp contrast to the Hardy Boys, the other phone companions in the game. That’s not to say Frank and Joe Hardy are by any means boring to talk to, but rather that they embody a comfortable space for fans of the series and Nancy as a character, a sounding board that doesn’t judge her or the player. They’re fun and wacky, enjoying their own adventure on a submarine, but they’re also safe. Deirdre is ready and willing to shout at Nancy when she barks up the wrong tree and is equal parts a pleasure and a pain to be around.

Lastly, I’ll admit that I am very gay for Ryan. She’s just so full of passion and excitement. I mean, how am I not supposed to fall in love with a goggles-wearing engineer that puts on plays with her gummy bears before chomping their heads off? What else is a young woman to do when Ryan creates a graph to express her unhappiness for getting chewed out when Nancy asks her to distract her boss and then tacks on doodles of robots because she got bored with the actual graph part?

Ryan is near and dear to my heart as one might be able to tell, but I do have one gripe related to her. Nancy has many opportunities to be dismissive and even downright cruel to Ryan throughout The Deadly Device. Now, Nancy being a bit of an invasive prick is nothing new to the series (heck, she has the option to repeatedly mess with Mason and his fastidiously ordered desk, as previously mentioned), but partly due to Ryan’s initial status as the prime suspect in The Deadly Device’s case, she is often the character that receives the brunt of Nancy’s accusations. From refusing to shake her hand to stealing her gummy bears after she has already acquiesced to giving Nancy some in exchange for nabbing someone else’s candy, there are various instances of Nancy Drew jerkery that Ryan can be the victim of. I do want to point out that this, in and of itself, isn’t a point against the game by any means.

My heart certainly goes out to Ryan for the moments when I made these choices as Nancy, but being able to treat a murder suspect with suspicion isn’t exactly a wild concept. Having these options provides a great ability for the player to characterise Nancy and decide what kind of person the sleuth is. What I do have a gripe with is that Ryan doesn’t seem to change how she interacts with Nancy too much based on how she gets treated by Nancy. Outside of her immediate reactions to Nancy’s jerkery, Ryan continues to be the same peppy and helpful engineer as ever. On the one hand, we could see this as Ryan being characterised as someone who doesn’t let what people think of her get her down and who always endeavours to treat others with kindness. But on the other hand, it just seems off that the lady who always takes her gummy bears with her, even when she storms out of her workshop after being forced to relive her terrible experience with the police, has absolutely nothing to say when Nancy steals those same gummy bears after she had already said that she was willing to give her some in exchange for a simple favour. I do very much appreciate being given additional options for interacting with characters and solving problems, because that shows that HeR Interactive takes an amazing amount of care and attention to detail. There’s even a whole side puzzle of locating all of the various pieces of a robotic cat that Ryan hid around the lab after a disagreement with Mason. The cat adds nothing of substance to the mystery, just acting as a fun little extra mission for Nancy to take on if she so chooses, and I love that it is in the game. But despite the cat’s very existence prompting some of the most hilarious lines in the game from both Ryan and Mason, neither character has any reaction to its completed construction. I know that, on some level, this criticism boils down to me whining about there not being more content and attention to detail in a game already chock-full of both, but I just can’t hide my disappointment in how The Deadly Device seems to want to shy away from its own characters.

However, despite not going all-in on its characters, The Deadly Device is certainly still a treat, even on subsequent playthroughs. Like in any good mystery, knowing the whole story allows a greater perspective on early-to-mid game events and plenty of opportunities to catch double entendres and red flags that the player may have missed on their first time through. Additionally, the game, like most of HeR Interactive’s Nancy Drew titles, features two difficulties with which to play, titled Amateur and Master Detective. In this way, a player can experience the game all over again with harder versions of the puzzles they managed to figure out in their previous playthrough. Though I must warn potential players that the hints will all disappear on a Master playthrough.

But if one can manage a lack of hints, both difficulty settings are definitely worth playing. While there are a few ups and downs with The Deadly Device’s environment, these elements are outweighed by thoughtful puzzles and thoroughly entertaining suspects. It also doesn’t hurt that the game being built around technology and electricity affords me the opportunity to absolutely load up my final verdict with puns.


9.00/10 9

Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device (Reviewed on Windows)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

With twists that coil around the player, solid puzzles, and shockingly-good characters, Deadly Device sparks another electrifyingly good outing for Nancy Drew. While there are a few negatives in how the environment is constructed, the positives overtake them to deliver a truly magnetic experience.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Erin McAllister

Erin McAllister

Staff Writer

Erin is a massive fan of mustard, writes articles that are too long, and is a little bit sorry about the second thing.

Share this: