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Throwback Review Series: SCK Remaster {a fresh new play-through and in-depth review}

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  • Throwback Review Series: SCK Remaster {a fresh new play-through and in-depth review}

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    Secrets Can Kill (SCK) - Remastered
    Release Date: August 24, 2010 (Original: 1998)
    Difficulty: Senior Detective

    FINAL SCORE: (3/10)

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    Hi there! I am a veteran Nancy Drew player, and have been playing these games since I was very young. Message in a Haunted Mansion was the first game I played at eight years old. I am now 25 and have completed every game in the series at least once. However, it's been several years since I've played my last ND game (Sea of Darkness in 2015), and many, MANY years since I have played many of the games. I've had a bout of Nostalgia and have decided to replay the entire series, starting from the beginning. I've decided to write a review for each game as I go. I will be playing on Senior Detective and using as few hints/online help as possible.

    Please keep in mind that everything written below is only my personal OPINION. If you don’t agree with something I have to say about a game, please don’t feel upset or offended. We all enjoy different aspects of these games and it’s wonderful that we can all have differing opinions about what makes a game great. I hope you enjoy!!
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    PLOT: (5/10)

    A student named Jake Rogers was killed at a local high school. Nancy goes undercover at the request of a man named Detective Beech to investigate the murder. She poses as a new student to search for clues and discover the culprit. It turns out that there is more to Jake Rogers (and the other students) than meets the eye, and he’s left a trail of clues behind for those observant enough to find them.

    A good murder mystery is always exciting! Unfortunately, there wasn’t much here to set SCK apart from other murder mystery plots. It’s just interesting enough to keep your attention throughout the game, but not good enough to really be great. It should be noted that this game does have a different plot-twist and ending than the original game (all while staying surprisingly true to the original story), so those playing the remaster for the first time will still have some mystery to look forward to.
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    SETTING: (2/10)

    This murder mystery takes place in a rather typical high-school setting, which resides in the state of Florida. Though the artistry and feel of the place was well done, it was small and was most definitely the least interesting location of any Nancy Drew game I’ve played so far.

    LOCATION: (2/10)
    Paseo Del Mar High School is a nicely done rendition of a real high school and the area surrounding it. The playable areas manage to give off a very local, small-town vibe. Aunt Eloise’s home (and the background music that goes with it) feels comfortable and homey. You can picture teens frequenting the cozy booths of the diner in their free time: A bookworm enjoying a sandwich while studying; or possibly a whole football team celebrating a big win with a round of smoothies and some good tunes from the vintage-looking jukebox. The high-school itself looks realistic and lived in, with posters and bulletin boards everywhere and even bits of crumpled paper and soda cans lying about in the sort of careless disarray equivalent to a messy teenager’s bedroom.

    Although the artistry and feel are well done, this game does leave the player feeling a bit lonely. The trouble is that the locations really feel like they should be populated. But they aren’t. Also, while HER does successfully provide a realistic high-school setting… it just isn’t all that interesting. Nothing makes it an extraordinarily great location, and it gets boring rather quickly.

    Also, it’s just a school. There really isn’t much more to it.

    EXPLORATION: (2/10)
    Yes, the locations here have a nice feel to them. However, as previously mentioned, they don’t do much to really capture the player’s attention long-term. The game is limited to three main locations, none of which have anything particularly interesting to offer. Yes, you’ll spent a bit of time reading the bulletin boards in the school, read a book or two in aunt Eloise’s living room and used one of the multitude of useless quarters you have on hand to change the song on the jukebox every now and again when you’re in the diner. But in all honesty, what you see here is what you get. Three locations with very little to interact with and no exciting secret areas to discover. The school itself is several times larger than the other two areas, but that’s mostly due to the hallways which you will click through with lightning speed in an attempt to get to a location of actual interest. (Spoiler alert - you’re unlikely to find one.)
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    CHARACTERS: (2/10)
    Nostalgic as they may be, the characters in SCK aren't incredibly interesting. Most are quite the same as they were in the original version of the game. Some are weaker. While it's nice to see them come to life in three dimension, as opposed to their 2-D counterparts, it almost highlights how two-dimensional these character's personalities really are.

    DARYL GRAY: (3/10)
    Oh Daryl Gray. Don’t you know that Nancy is lovingly committed to her long-term boyfriend Ned? And believe me, if she were to leave him for anybody it wouldn’t be you. (Dave from Shadow Ranch anyone? Or perhaps one of the dashing Hardy boys? Hmmm?) This ladies’ man isn’t very good at what he does, and his attempts to woo Nancy come off quite lax. While probably the most endearing of all the characters, and equipped (as expected) with a motive that makes him a viable suspect, he’s quite boring and unemotional overall.

    CONNIE WATSON: (2/10)
    Hall Monitor Extraordinaire. Connie is (predictably) into Daryl Gray, who we’ve already established as a huge flirt. Perhaps Nancy should let her know that he not only hit on her within moments of meeting her, but has been actively trying to convince her to be unfaithful to her steady boyfriend ever since. Yep, Connie, he’s all yours if you want him. Rather boring, and (if I remember correctly) a much weaker character overall in comparison to the original.

    HAL TANAKA: (3/10)
    A foreign exchange student doing his best to earn a scholarship for himself so that he can stay in America and continue his education. He gets props for being the only person on the planet not in love with Daryl Gray, but that’s about it. Though, in all honesty, he does come off as the most relatable character. Anybody who’s ever been up all night stressed over the next morning’s big test will certainly feel for him. Like the others, he’s equipped with an ever so slightly compelling (but not actually great) motive.

    Right. I lied. Hal isn't the only person who isn't in love with Daryl. Hulk doesn't seem to pine after him either. This guy is your typical football jock that you'd find in virtually any highschool - except that it seems he's actually GOOD. Good enough to catch the eye of college scouts, at least, which not everyone can boast of. It's unfortunate that he recently badly injured himself, but by the time Nancy meets him he seems like he's doing alright. He's got some decent dialogue - for one hot second, and then he's all "Woah, I'm not into pushy girls" for pretty much the rest of the game. Although it feels like the game wants the player to feel for him by the end, I personally didn't. I do, however, commend HER for his story-line, as I feel that it's the most interesting of the three, and that they've provided him with one of the better motives out of the cast of characters.

    The detective who summons Nancy to look into the murder case of Jake Rogers. Detective Breech (AKA “Uncle Steve”) is the only character that isn’t reprised from the original game. And does he bring much to the table? Eh. Not really. He’s less helpful than you’d expect him to be, and is just generally rather uninteresting. He seems to be there primarily to do nothing but introduce a new element to an old game.

    PHONE CONTACTS: (0/10)
    Overall, absolutely awful. There’s virtually no meaningful or entertaining phone dialogue in this game. At all.

    I would imagine that when playing as a Junior, Ned would offer hints to help you through the game. Since I played through as a Senior Detective, I didn’t have the option to ask Ned for hints. But that’s okay, because you’d think that there would still be some sort of dialogue with him. He’s in Nancy’s phone after all, and surely she’d want to keep him updated about the case….

    Nope. Nothing. There is absolutely no dialogue to be had with Ned, or at least there wasn’t at any point when I called him. Which was at various points throughout the game. Horrendous.

    A cameo from the first game, Mitch makes a quick phone appearance. For about ten seconds. The end.
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    GAMEPLAY: (3/10)

    ENDGAME: (3/10)
    Not particularly shocking, and pretty easy to complete. Especially if you take notes on paper like I do. Not to mention the absolutely ridiculous way that the culprit was captured. I’m all for realism in games, and this ending is quite unrealistic and even a bit odd. Additionally, I felt that the ending happened rather abruptly before I was ready for it, and because this, and the order in which I completed things I missed out on some conversation pieces with certain characters this time through.

    DIFFICULTY: (2/10)
    Not difficult at all, and quite short. I beat this game rather easily in only a few hours on Senior difficulty. The puzzles are nearly as non-existent as interesting locations and engaging dialogue. I recall three in total off the top of my head, and the most difficult only took me a few minutes. Trust me, if you play these games because you like to be challenged by creative and interesting puzzles, this one is not for you.

    The game was quite easy overall as well, with very little chance for the player to fall off course. The clues are actually quite straightforward and there were rarely times where I felt unsure of where to go or what to do. In fact, the most trouble I had completing this game was getting a certain event to trigger. If you’ve ever spent hours trying to figure out your next step thinking that you’re missing something obvious, only to look online and realize that you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do and the next game event JUST DIDN’T HAPPEN… you’ll know what I mean. It was a matter of looking at a specific hot spot that I’d missed. One that really didn’t seem necessary to forward the plot at all - of course. Moments such as this are when I really feel as though the game has let the player down.

    SCARE FACTOR: (2/10)
    This game is hardly scary. The only time that it really makes the player feel on edge is within the library, and that’s mostly due to the change in music. There aren’t any jump scares, and overall I’d say it’s pretty mild. Keep in mind that this isn't always a bad thing! You're talking to a 100% scaredy cat right here, and I must admit that I generally DON'T like being afraid. (It took me forever to work up the courage to get through CUR, and don't even get me STARTED on SAW.)

    Very little. There really isn’t anything to be learned from this game. Unlike other games in the series which seem to focus on certain themes or time periods, this one doesn’t really focus on anything. There’s a small bit of information to learn about a very small list of subjects. It has little to offer. Or should I say, it has little NEW to offer. The library is actually full of books that you can read; however, they all have been hand-plucked directly from other games. You’ve likely seen them all before.

    EXTRAS: (2/10)
    There really isn’t much to do in SCK outside of the main plotline. I’ll be honest, I’m a huge sucker for a good mini-game. I also ordered one too many meals from the kitchen while playing CUR, and easter eggs? Love ‘em. I feel like trying to get all (or most) of the awards at the end of the game should be possible and fun, even before you finish the game and know what those awards are. But again, there just… wasn’t really anything extra to do. And certainly nothing that compelled me to do it more than once. The only mini game in this installment was Barnacle Blast, a direct pluck from CAR. Not very fun.

    Aside from a couple of funny little phone tid-bits if you’re observant enough to spot a few extra phone numbers scattered about the game and an odd ode to characters from other games in a certain book, I don’t feel there was much that makes the extra parts of this game stand out.
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    FINAL SCORE: (3/10)

    Overall, I wasn’t a big fan of this game. If you’ve never played it before and you’re curious, it’s not entirely unpleasant. If you’ve played the original and enjoyed it you should most definitely give this one a go, it does give a great sense of nostalgia and you’ll be much more likely to look past it’s flaws. But if you’re expecting it to live up to standards of the newer Nancy Drew games that it’s been released amongst, you’ll certainly be sorely disappointed. In my opinion, SCK is the weakest the series has to offer. It’s one of the smallest, easiest, shortest games and I didn’t feel overly challenged or intrigued throughout.

    I will note that I do understand that because this game is a remaster HER didn’t have much room to change certain things. The locations and main plot from the previous game had to be maintained. I am aware that this was a remaster and not a completely new game.

    However, let’s also keep in mind that SCK remastered was released in 2010, after HER has released so many gems in the series that contained great dialogue, interesting plots and locations that were large and exciting to explore. For goodness sakes, SAW was released only two months after this! I feel that the developers and writers could have easily given players a bit more depth here that was lacking in the original game due to the time period in which it was created. A few extra areas in the school (like the actual location that the murder took place for instance), or a few more interesting side-activities. Some additional dialogue, extra backstory? At the very least, they could’ve let me order a cup of broccoli surprise and a good old Fishy Wishy sandwich from Daryl the Girlfriend Stealer. There’s nothing like watching a beautiful, artistically drawn meal fade into oblivion to the sound of Nancy’s appreciative chewing.
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    SCK | STFD | MHM | TRT | FIN | SSH | DOG | CAR | DDI | SHA

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    Last edited by Jett; December 4, 2019, 12:38 PM.

  • #2
    Great review! I agree on a lot of points. SCK2 was a disappointing game to me. SCK had its weaknesses, but it felt like a more solid game.

    I love your point about the locations feeling like they should be filled with people. I don't want to compare to the original game too much, but I think maybe one reason this is is the music. The track they choose to have play the most in the hallways in SCK2 just feels quiet and lonesome instead of suspenseful, which I think also got me to lose interest in playing. By the way, I noticed that you didn't bring up Hulk in the characters section; I'm curious to know what your thoughts were on him.

    Also, you make some great points and suggestions about this game being a remaster. I agree that they were probably limited to making this game close to the original such that they couldn't expand it too much. Maybe the fact that they discontinued the original was also a factor, like they don't want it to stray too much in case some fans haven't played the 1998 version. But you made some good suggestions, like showing the crime scene -- I would have loved to see that! I still don't understand why it isn't in the original either.

    Excellent review; if you write more of these, I'll be looking forward to them.
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    Hope everyone's having a great summer!


    • #3
      Whoops, you're right, I did forget Hulk!!!! Poor guy! I've edited him in now, sorry about that! Thanks for letting me know.

      And thanks for your supportive response, I appreciate it! I definitely plan on continuing to write these as I go. I'll be starting STFD tonight, and this will actually be my FIRST play through of it, so consider me super incredibly excited!!!!
      Last edited by Jett; January 4, 2018, 10:10 AM.


      • #4
        I’m pretty sure I read this review before nearly a year ago, but I seem to have forgotten to leave a comment! Upon rereading, I was struck by how many similar points we made, but I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised given how many times we’ve shared opinions by now.

        EDUCATIONAL VALUE: (1/10)
        Very little. There really isn’t anything to be learned from this game. Unlike other games in the series which seem to focus on certain themes or time periods, this one doesn’t really focus on anything. There’s a small bit of information to learn about a very small list of subjects. It has little to offer. Or should I say, it has little NEW to offer. The library is actually full of books that you can read; however, they all have been hand-plucked directly from other games. You’ve likely seen them all before.
        THIS. I don’t think I said anything about this in my review, but I had mixed feelings about this too. One of the quirks of the early games (and SCK in particular) was how HeR included books about the most random subjects in the games. I recall using Dwayne Powers’ French book to help my friend send a note to her crush in sixth grade. I also remember sitting and reading through a book in SCK about graphology, which I then used to analyze handwriting samples from everyone I knew. I just loved that there were a variety of books with little tidbits of information all over that library. It made it feel like a genuine school library. Then, the remaster just kind of threw books everywhere, and all of them had a connection to the other games. I get that the game is full of little Easter Eggs for the other games, but I didn’t feel inclined to look at the library materials when I knew the chances of me seeing something from another game was over 90%. Anyway, I’m really glad you brought that point up because it’s definitely something lacking in SCK2.