I’ve read just about every Nancy Drew story there is, so I’m always curious to see how Nancy fares on a digital platform. So far, no DS version of the classic series has come close to recreating those exciting adventures Nancy and I used to share, and unfortunately, Nancy Drew: The Model Mysteries is still far from my childhood memories.
The Model Mysteries combines Model Crime, Model Suspect and Model Menace, a literary trilogy of stories that follow the nuptial mishaps of Nancy’s friend Sydney. Supermodel Sydney and her reality TV star fiancé agreed to film their wedding for his television show, and it’s all fun and games until the sabotage starts. Sydney breaks out in hives after someone laces her lei with fire ants. Fiancé Vic drinks from a wine glass spiked with jet fuel.
All sorts of unpleasant things plague the couple until Sydney’s old friend Nancy steps in. Through a series of seek-and-find minigames and interviews, Nancy is able to uncover the culprit. The only problem is there is more than one offender. Because the game combines three books, there are three mysteries to solve, and by the end, you’ll think that all the characters have a reason to hate Vic and Sydney.
So let’s hunt down the first saboteur. I enjoyed the seek-and-find minigames, but interrogating witnesses and suspects was a bother. Collecting relevant information was an unpleasant chore as interview-able characters are randomly selected, and there are only so many questions Nancy will ask. You have to pay extremely close attention to what everyone is saying, and I had to play the first act a couple of times before I could accurately guess the first culprit.
Additionally, there is no place for Nancy to keep notes of any kind, so any information you do manage to work out of the witnesses must be remembered until it is time to pick the perpetrator. Once you have, it’s on to the next phase of the game, the actual wedding day. Cameras are falling out of trees, and it seems that the unfortunate pranks in the first act are now more likely to kill someone.
Once again, you will search static screens filled with junk to find clues and interrogate the witnesses. Once you make a collar, the game moves into the third and final act: the honeymoon. Somehow, the director of Vic’s reality show convinced the couple that filming his honeymoon would be just so awesome, and now the entire cast and crew is enjoying the romantic getaway with the newlyweds. The group makes it difficult to pinpoint any one person, as they all seem a bit shady. However, the increasing danger and mysterious gunshots have Sydney freaking out, so she flies Nancy to the island.
All this mystery may make your head spin, but once you get the pattern of interrogating and searching, there isn’t much more to it besides the awful banter between the characters. The Nancy in the game doesn’t even look like the Nancy on the cover. Cover Nancy looks about 13; much too young to be jetting off to tropical islands without a chaperone. In-game Nancy looks older and more likely to be the bridesmaid attending clubs and drinking with friends while solving mysteries. Not a huge issue, but in my opinion, the cover art should match the images in the game.
Gameplay is the same few actions: clue location, interrogations and repeat. The dry and disinteresting dialogue encourages skimming, but reading becomes unavoidable when attempting to gather the correct information. If you have any desire to make it through a chapter, you have to pay attention to what the characters are saying. Quick Play mode is a collection of minigames found in the Story mode — but without all the talking. However, you can only access activities unlocked through main story gameplay, and I’m not that interested in improving my overall high score.
Nancy Drew: The Model Mysteries doesn’t even come close to recapturing the mysteries of my youth, and does an even worse job maintaining Nancy’s dignity. Nancy is a smart detective and certainly worthy of a diverse array of puzzles, as well as interrogation techniques that provide answers rather than more questions. True, the game is meant for a younger demographic, but let’s give the kids some credit and see what they can do if challenged by a real mystery.