Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device begins with the death of energy researcher Dr. Niko Jovic. The police suspect it was a murder but can’t find enough evidence to convict anyone of the crime, so Dr. Jovic’s business partner—Victor Losset—asks Nancy to investigate, hoping she can do what the cops can’t. Thus our young detective goes undercover at the Technology of Tomorrow Today research facility where she’ll meet the small staff who work there, learn some things about Nikola Tesla, solve a whole lot of puzzles, and eventually uncover the killer’s true identity.
If you’ve played any game that can be even remotely described as “Myst-like,” The Deadly Device’s interface should be instantly familiar and intuitive. You’ll navigate pre-rendered 3D environments, interacting with items and people with a simple left-click of the mouse. There’s an inventory at the bottom of the screen and a journal/tasklist on the side to help you keep track of what needs to be done.
Puzzle design follows the Myst school as well, leaning heavily on brain-teaser style activities. You will put together puzzle pieces, repeat musical patterns, and do that damnable thing where you have to turn off all the lights on a grid. You know the one, where every time you toggle one piece, the four adjacent to it switch to their opposite states. That appears three times during the game, growing more annoying with each appearance.
But don’t let the emphasis on mini-games and brain-teasers fool you into thinking The Deadly Device is some sort of casual adventure. I mean, it is, but it also embraces some very hardcore values. Stuck on a puzzle because you missed some subtle detail along the way? Well, that’s too bad because the game won’t provide help. Depending on the situation, you may get a gentle nudge in the right direction if you ask one of Nancy’s friends, but more often than not you’ll be left to stare at the screen until you either figure it out or look up the answer online.
That’s only if you opt to play on the Master Sleuth difficulty level, however. If you chose the easier Amateur Sleuth setting, you can access a built-in help feature that I found to be invaluable on more than one occasion. It’s not a perfect system since it uses that time-honored tradition of providing a vague hint first and then slowly getting more specific over time. The problem is the first couple offerings are usually the obvious stuff you’ve already figured out and, since you’re forced to wait a minute or so between hint requests, it means you’ll be waiting longer than you’d like for a useful answer.
There are some standout puzzles that deserves a special mentioned. One is a lovely tile-matching game that would work well as a standalone casual title. Another requires you to rebuild a 3D model of a component from 2D isometric plans. The final puzzle is especially logic-driven and satisfying, providing a perfect capstone for the adventure both thematically and in terms of challenge.
Conclusion – Is It Worth The Money?
And what an adventure it is. One that is both engaging and educational. Those who take the time to delve into the various books scattered around will learn a lot about Nikola Tesla, his inventions, and maybe a bit about patent injustice as well. The writing and production values are all top-notch, as you would expect from an experienced developer like Her Interactive. There’s nothing to complain about except for the lack of widescreen support, but I can live without that.