home > review > Nancy Drew: Danger by Design, A Fun and Girl Positive Game
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ups: great narrative, historical information, Paris location, girl positive
downs: simple, sometimes redundant puzzles, short

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Nancy Drew: Danger by Design, A Fun and Girl Positive Game
game: Nancy Drew: Danger by Design
three star
posted by: Laurie Taylor
publisher: Her Interactive
developer: Her Interactive
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date posted: 02:20 PM Mon Sep 25th, 2006
last revision: 02:40 PM Mon Sep 25th, 2006

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Click to read.Nancy Drew: Danger by Design sends famous adolescent sleuth Nancy Drew to Paris, France where she goes undercover to investigate the mysterious happenings surrounding the fashion designer Minette. Like the other Nancy Drew games by Her Interactive, this game relies on a point-and-click, classic adventure style game play control.

As a Nancy Drew game and as an adventure game, Danger by Design focuses on the game narrative and on its puzzles. The narrative itself is solid, but the overall game has a few quirks in terms of game play and design that keep the game from being as good as it could be. In all, Nancy Drew: Danger by Design is an solid new entry into Her Interactive\'s series of Nancy Drew games and an excellent entry into the world of girl games.

Nancy Drew: Danger by Design\'s best attribute is its narrative. The game begins with Nancy Drew traveling to France to unravel the mystery around successful fashion designer Minette. Minette designs clothing for normal women-size 12. However, lately Minette\'s behavior has become erratic. She wears a mask, throws tantrums, fires her hardworking employees, and behaves cruelly to the people in her life. Minette has also moved her studio into an old windmill, or a moulin in French. Like the moulin reference, Nancy Drew: Danger by Design peppers French vocabulary and history throughout the game. Much of the information is extraneous to winning the game; however, the information aids in creating the game\'s atmosphere and increases the game\'s educational value.

While Nancy Drew: Danger by Design weaves bits of French language and culture into the game, the game also leaves a lot to be desired. Nancy Drew: Danger by Design takes place in Paris, but it only features a handful of locations. The key game locations are the apartment Nancy Drew shares with model Jing-Jing Ling, Minette\'s moulin studio, a cafe, a photographer\'s office, a local park, and the catacombs. In Nancy Drew: Danger by Design, Nancy Drew travels from each of these places by using a metro map. The map is a useful crystallization of culture and spatial movement; however, there aren\'t enough stops on the map to make it or the metro as meaningful as they could be.

The few locations featured in the game are well designed, but there simply aren\'t enough places in the game to sustain long-term interest. This isn\'t as much of a liability because Nancy Drew: Danger by Design isn\'t overly long, taking under ten hours even playing at a leisurely pace. The small game world fits given the short game play time. Short play time is often taken as a negative for games, but Nancy Drew: Danger by Design is well paced and offers a fair amount of play time for the game\'s $19.99 price.

Nancy Drew: Danger by Design\'s minigames and puzzles are fairly interesting and some incorporate aspects of the Paris locale. Unfortunately, they aren\'t enough different puzzle styles overall. The most frustrating part of the puzzles are the ones involving the phone, for which players actually have to dial a calling card and then a phone number or the full number for a local call. Dialing all of the numbers isn\'t a huge hindrance, but it is annoying. As in the earlier Nancy Drew games, the second chance option that allows players to redo certain game components instead of restarting from the last game save is incredibly convenient and mitigates the other minor game play frustrations.

Overall, Nancy Drew: Danger by Design functions as a short and fairly stereotypical adventure game. The functional aspects are less interesting than the larger issues that Nancy Drew: Danger by Design addresses. From a functional standpoint, Nancy Drew: Danger by Design is simply an adventure game targeted to girls. From a larger perspective, Nancy Drew: Danger by Design targets the girl market as a game concerned with that market. Nancy Drew: Danger by Design is well suited for the girl market because it is easy to play and forgiving, but it does allow for a rich gaming experience--in terms of the narrative and embedded historical information--after some initial basics. More importantly though, Nancy Drew: Danger by Design shows concern for its players by including commentary on food, self image, and self sufficiency.

As a character, Nancy Drew has always been smart and capable and Her Interactive\'s games continue Nancy\'s classic personality. Nancy Drew: Danger by Design extends Nancy into the prevalent current concerns over body image and eating. In Danger by Design, Nancy actually eats. While this is a minor point, it is also exceptional because of the fact that so few games require players to eat, unless eating is directly tied to health. In Danger by Design, eating is not tied to health, but Nancy can still eat. Further, much of the game features food from the puzzle with Nancy must make parfaits to the constant cookie baking by Jing-Jing Ling in order to maintain her size 12 body-Jing-Jing explains that she has a fast metabolism. The food commentary could be purely didactic and bothersome. However, the game luckily balances a sense of humor and irony about food along with positive food and body messages.

Other elements in the game include a jab at poorly planned tattoos and a comment on the potential pitfalls of cosmetic surgery. While so many products are focused on selling girls and girl communities short--think of all of the T-shirts sold to preteen and early teen girls that read \"Thank God I\'m not a Brunette,\" \"Spoiled,\" and similar quotes as well as products with similar messages--Danger by Design manages to highlight the positives of girl culture while helping to rectify the negatives. Nancy Drew: Danger by Design walks a thin line between making fun of girly attributes and embracing them, but it generally manages to do both through a healthy dose of openness and irony. For new gamers and old, Nancy Drew: Danger by Design offers a refreshing approach to what gaming can do even within a familiar format.

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