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PC Game Review: Nancy Drew Trail of the Twister

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Nancy Drew: Trail of the Twister is the latest in a series of games from Her Interactive, a gaming publisher dedicated to continuing the tales of the young teenager who solves mysteries. Eighty years ago, Nancy Drew was born on the printed page. A combination of smarts and spunk, she has an appeal which is felt by nearly every woman. Those who start reading her tales as a student in grade school pass the books on to their children and grandchildren.

Her Interactive, led by CEO Megan Gaiser, has published 22 previous stories of the famous girl detective. Although the statistics on whether more men or women play videogames vary, the undeniable fact is that a large percentage of gamers are women.  However, most games tend to focus on what are often considered male-centric areas.  The Nancy Drew titles, however, are an exception (although both sexes can certainly enjoy any title).

As for this specific game, Trail of the Twister lets players turn themselves into Nancy Drew and travel into a tale of intrigue with a hearty helping of deviousness. In Oklahoma, teams are competing in a contest for a million dollar prize. Since the groups are chasing storms, there is already a strong element of danger. Add in a sabotage plot and the game is afoot.

The graphics are sharp, so anyone who plays the game will be drawn into the action. After getting an idea of the case basics, click on a plane ticket and one lands at the airport in the middle of a raging thunderstorm. Wisely, a GPS is included on the rental car to help navigate. A cell phone toggle has the number of the storm chaser team leader who has hired Nancy, as well as the number of the Hardy Boys! Nice touch.

Upon arrival at headquarters, there is a welcome note, a mysterious briefcase, and a task sheet. Picking the order to accomplish tasks isn’t an option, one must complete things as they are set up by the game designer. One glaring snafu — one of those tasks is filing papers into a metal cabinet. Rather than having numbered sheets, the player must figure out what tab goes on which folder first. Half of the folders have a flaw in that the tab will disappear rather then stay put so one can’t figure out if the order is correct. Instructions are given, but they are hardly clear.

There are two difficulty levels available. The junior detective gets more help for problem solving, while those playing the senior detective level are assumed to understand more.

An obvious clue is left at the first stop on Nancy’s list, but exactly what is means is the mystery. As the game continues, players are immersed in the field of meteorology, riding along in the van as the team chases down the latest tornado. Weather patterns are tracked by putting together actual weather images.

The characters themselves are few in number, so the suspect list is narrowed down quite a bit. Each is richly drawn, and the effect is very lifelike. Part of the job is talking to each one to try and find out who the saboteur might be. Along the way, mistakes will be instantly erased should the player happen to bungle the game — the computer will go back to the point where the screw up happened without having to start completely over.

For a sneak peek at all of the games one can venture over to the Her Interactive website which has mini-games to try out. Each relates to one of the Nancy Drew stories the group has put out. While there are PC versions, instructions are included for Mac users. Further help is available via strategy guides for each game.

Nancy Drew: Trail of the Twister is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief and Mild Violence.

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