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A Veteran's Review of SCK

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  • A Veteran's Review of SCK

    Allow me to preface this review by saying that I have been playing the ND games for almost thirteen years. Over those years, I have probably played each game over twenty times--the older ones probably over fifty--and I do at least one full marathon of all 33 games (i.e., all 32 and SCK Remastered) annually. As I have gotten older, I have found myself ranking the games, characters, music, etc. in my spare time during marathons, and this year I thought I would write--and subsequently post--reviews of each game while I go through my 2018 marathon (I'm starting a month early). I have lost access to/forgotten about my previous accounts on here, including my very first one , so I made a new one solely for this purpose. That being said, I hope you enjoy my review.

    Plot: When I first got this game as a ten-year-old, I was morbidly excited that I was going to be solving a murder case, and I tend to have the same reaction to investigating murder mysteries to this day. The opening letter to Carson Drew is still as gripping as ever, with Nancy detailing how Daryl Gray found the body and Aunt Eloise's insistence that she go undercover while we watch Jake Rogers' corpse being taken out on a stretcher. No matter what other aspects of the game are lacking, I think the plot is solid up until the ending.

    Setting: The high school environment is certainly accurate to the time and quite nostalgic for 90s kids. I particularly adore the payphones in the cafeteria, the chunky desktop computers in the teachers' lounge, and the reference section in the library. There are so many little details that, to me, make that high school feel real, but I do wish that the game fleshed out the school a bit more (i.e., the little conversations Nancy overhears while running the snack counter in Warnings at Waverly Academy are such a great touch). I don't let this opinion detract from my overall rating, but it would have been great to see what they did with a classroom! The other locations are smaller in scale, but I, again, adore the little details in both Maxine's and Aunt Eloise's home. They provide a nice contrast to the tense environment of the school--especially the library and the boiler room--and a nice change of color palette too.

    Characters: As aforementioned, I always appreciate a murder case, but the game makes it so difficult to feel any remorse for Jake. While no life deserves to be extinguished so early, he sounded like an all-around “slime ball,” and the depth of his character does not go beyond how much he manipulated the other not-so-morally-upstanding characters. This seeming lack of any humanness in Jake makes the story that much darker. I didn't notice so much as a kid, but I think, had we been introduced to him in a different way and medium, that we might have been almost happy that he died (i.e., think of an antagonist in a book or movie that gets some comeuppance and how people will usually respond to that). Nonetheless, I still feel bad for Jake and his fate in this game. The other students are not two-dimensional and are reasonably well developed, especially for such a short game with limited interactions. Connie, Hal, Daryl, and even Hulk are likeable, and I find myself feeling sorry for the desperate and realistic situations they found themselves in. The fact that they all have sufficient motive for killing Jake made them even more interesting and tragic to me, particularly as I found and still find myself liking them despite knowing that they may have killed another human being.

    Music: The music in Nancy Drew games is so important to me. Anyone who knows me in real life knows--and any of you who end up following my reviews will know--how much I adore the soundtracks. Not only are they simply enjoyable compositions to listen to for hours without playing the games, but they are so excellent at setting the mood and atmosphere of the game. The music is in this game is very good and especially atmospheric in the school. I have to be honest and admit that the music in the library still makes me feel tense, a sensation which is only heightened when the library alarm goes off at random times. The tunes on the jukebox are great, too.

    Puzzles: There are very few actual puzzles in the game, but the little clues that can help the player determine the culprit’s identity is one of my favorite aspects of the older games that got dropped in later ones. I fondly remember decoding all those different ciphers and riddles on nearly a thousand sheets of printer paper during my first playthrough. Not only do they make me feel like I am doing more genuine detective work--not that any real case has sticky notes and posters with riddles and codes--but they made the game that much harder to get through as a kid. I think a healthy distribution of puzzles in a Nancy Drew game is a wonderful thing, but there is just something about these overlooked, unimportant clues that I adore.

    Graphics: When I was a kid, I thought these games had the epitome of 3D graphics, and I honestly still love the graphics in all of these games. I still think the graphics are quite good for that time, and the incorporation of 2D characters in a 3D landscape really doesn’t throw me off (it never did). In fact, I actually love how fluid and expressive the 2D characters are in this game. It's just a beautiful 90s game.

    Ending: Naturally, the largest concern of all is how the culprit is revealed. Due to the spoiler-free review mandate, I cannot elaborate on why the ending is so bad, except to say that it came from nowhere and the first time I played I was so confused because I somehow skipped the part where you ask the characters to help in the finale. There are few, if any, endings quite as disappointing as this one.

    Other points of interest: Everyone must know is Lani Minella is the queen of my heart, and I am still devastated by the decision to get rid of her for the upcoming ND games (...if they ever come out, that is). She is so talented. With that out of the way, the voice acting in this game isn’t bad, but I noticed on my most recent playthrough (i.e., yesterday) that there are lines that just sound so odd; I cannot tell if it has to do with the way the track was edited or if the actors just delivered it that way. Another obvious drawback is the annoying matter of switching discs repeatedly while playing. I cannot describe how many times I accidentally clicked on a location that would require a disc change, stupidly pressed exit while panicking, and then lost my entire playthrough (I never save during that game because it is so short, which is another drawback).

    The Takeaway: While this one obviously started the iconic, beloved Nancy Drew game series and deserves praise accordingly, it is not a shining star, especially when compared to its first four successors. That being said, it is undeniable that this is an okay game. If I was going to rate this game on a ten star basis, I’d probably give it three stars, or maybe five stars tops, if I was being generous. It isn’t a bad game overall, but it contains some big flaws that are impossible to ignore.

    So the final question is obviously whether I think you should play this game. Absolutely. It is a classic, and it started this twenty-year dynasty of Nancy Drew games. It wasn't the very first one I played--I got the 75th Anniversary Edition of the first five games for Christmas in 2005 and booted up Message in a Haunted Mansion first, until I got stuck, opened the rest, and got stuck on them too all in the same day --but it was one of the first, so it holds a special place in my heart. If you are new to Nancy Drew games, then I would perhaps recommend playing another of the first five games--Treasure in the Royal Tower is one of the best games I have ever played in my life, and The Final Scene maintains its place in my top ten ND games--or one of the legendary fan favorites (also in my top ten): Curse of Blackmoor Manor and Secret of Shadow Ranch.

    Thank you for reading my review! I hope that my perspectives and ramblings inspire someone to play this game, replay this game, look at it through fresh eyes, or try it for the first time. I should be posting a review of Stay Tuned for Danger sometime over the next two days, and I will continue to post them as I complete my 2018 Nancy Drew stay tuned.

    Next Review: Stay Tuned for Danger

    Last edited by yukixiaomeimei; November 19, 2021, 07:04 PM.

  • #2

    Nicely written.
    I look forward to your future game reviews.
    ~~ LadyLinda ~~ -----
    LINKS...ND20+ Easter Eggs & Glitchs...CAP Phone Charms...ND Game Extras...TMB Phone Charms


    • #3
      Great review! I find that the more I replay this game, the more I realize it has quite a charm. Something about this game makes it feel like no other ND game; I guess it helps that it has a fairly unique plot and setting. I really like a few points that you make:

      • The opening letter -- I haven't thought much before about how pumped up it gets you for the game, but now I'm thinking that I agree! I think the animations they use here especially help, because it's like you get to see what happened before Nancy arrived. The music helps too. Speaking of which...
      • Soundtrack -- I too love the ND soundtracks, and this one has a nice variety. The upbeat Maxine's song (plus those classic Vampire Diaries tunes on the jukebox) and sweet, yet still kind of mysterious Eloise's House theme contrast perfectly with the school music, which can be mysterious or tense. And I don't know how they did it, but despite that the music loops in any given location, it never feels repetitive to me.
      • Graphics -- First time I played, I was so used to the 3D characters that the 2D ones did throw me for a loop. But in time I grew to like them, partly because they ARE animated so smoothly! Much more so than the 3D characters for many games after.

      Again, great review! Marathoning the games is awesome. I can't wait to read your next reviews.
      .........I think Earth is a pretty great place.....¸.·°¨¯¨°·¸
      ...........That's saying something....¸.·`.......`·-·`
      ...¸·°¨¯¨°·.¸ 'cause I've been through outer space!
      ...`·-·`.......` · . , ¸ _ ¸ , . · `(_¸ , . · `

      Hope everyone's having a great summer!


      • #4
        Thank you both so much! I wasn't expecting anyone to read it for a while...if ever. I will be updating my review momentarily with a link to my review for Stay Tuned for Danger, so head on over there if you want to keep following my reviews. Again, thank you for reading!


        • #5
          I agree completely

          This is one of the classics! I can remember spending hours walking around the high school, frustrated from being stuck and attempting to decipher all of the small clues hidden throughout the school.

          Great review!
          Closed Cases: