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A Veteran's Review of DED

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  • A Veteran's Review of DED

    Allow me to preface this review by saying that I have been playing the ND games for fourteen years. Over those years, I have probably played each game well 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 2018/2019 marathon. 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. Since the forum maintenance caused serious delays in my production schedule, it is pretty unlikely I will finish up my 2018/2019 Nancy Drew Marathon before MID comes out. However, since I likely won’t be playing it until Christmas Day, I still have time to finish posting my reviews before I actually play it. That being said, I hope you enjoy my review!

    It's release day for MID! While I had hoped to be done with my review series before today, I can at least celebrate by giving you all a long-awaited review for one of my absolute favorite games in the entire series. Also, it's been two years and two days since I rejoined the forums! I was planning on dropping my review for GTH on December 1, as it is my favorite game, but I'm a bit behind my readjusted schedule courtesy of the hectic nature of the holiday season. Anyway, I'm hoping to get my reviews of the next couple games out before Christmas, as that is when I expect I'll be playing MID for the first time, unless things change. It seems only appropriate to play the new ND game on the anniversary of me first playing MHM! Given the new update, there are bound to be a few formatting changes as I figure things out and learn new tricks. Just know that I am aware of the weird spacing issues in my other reviews, and I hope to get everything fixed soon. That being said, let's get started!

    Plot: It was a snowy winter's night in Colorado Springs, and Niko Jovic was doing exactly what he had done every night for the last forty years: running experiments on the wireless transfer of electricity. As a physicist, electrical engineer, and co-owner of Technology of Tomorrow Today, he was accustomed to spending more time with the Tesla coil in the lab than with people, and he liked it that way. People were a distraction. People could be a threat. Unfortunately for Niko, this is something he was about to learn the hard way...through several million volts of electricity. It was incredibly ironic that he should be killed this way by the very thing he had devoted his life to, a Tesla coil. It had been his life, and now, his death. How poetic. However, a Tesla coil requires an operator and he was most certainly not the one who started it up. So who did?

    The Deadly Device is the first game since SCK (and SCK2, if you count that game separately) to give us the opportunity to solve a murder, which had me nearly jumping for joy. Call it gruesome, but I'm always excited about a murder mystery. When I saw the trailer for the first time at the end of TMB, I was ecstatic. I'm not much of a STEM girl--I've always had a stronger proclivity for the arts and humanities, but I do enjoy learning about various scientific areas, so long as I am not being tested ​​​​--but the prospect of Nancy being called in to solve a murder mystery that has something to do with Nikola Tesla's work is undeniably cool, if not a little daunting. After all, Tesla was a genius. Thankfully, I think this game does a fantastic job of integrating STEM concepts and Tesla's work in a way that is both organic and accessible without demeaning either topic. Physics is really not my cup of tea, but even I found myself enjoying the more scientific/theoretical aspects of the game.

    All that being said, I think this game has a stellar plot, which is why it served as my number one favorite game for several years until it was dethroned by Ghost of Thornton Hall following several insightful replays. The pacing in this game is by far one of the best in the series. I love how Nancy starts off investigating one suspect, Ryan Kilpatrick, more heavily and then broadens and shifts to her investigation to include (or exclude) the other lab employees once new evidence is unveiled. Rather than finding compelling evidence for every character until the culprit reveal clues us in, we begin systematically ruling people out based on alibis and physical evidence. While still not quite in the whole police detective/investigative journalist realm of crime investigation (e.g., like that of games like The Painscreek Killings, which I absolutely love, by the way), this game feels about as close to that feeling as we've gotten thus far. Rather than living in a virtually timeless bubble where all of our suspects are available at any given point, we have to work around their schedules. While we are running about the lab trying to solve a murder, they are working. It's not the kind of real-time gameplay immersion that The Last Express achieved, but it adds an element of realism to the plot.

    As those who have read my SCK and SCK2 reviews will know, I appreciate when a game (or anything) humanizes and gives attention to the murder victim and not just their murderer. I want to know who they were and what they liked and what was important to them. I want them to be shown as more than just a murder victim. Although SCK/SCK2 did a massive disservice to Jake Rogers, I think The Deadly Device is largely successful at bringing Niko to life. It's still not flawless, but I actually found myself caring about him, especially in this most recent playthrough. Once of the things I appreciate most is that they didn't try to paint Niko as more than he was. He rooted around in his employees' hard drives and stole their work. He primarily ignored his coworkers and dedicated all of his time to his work. Yet, even though he was an "all work and no play" kind of guy, he wasn't a dull boy. (Kudos if you got that reference.) Niko wasn't totally aloof and he didn't dislike people. I find it so admirable that he didn't care about turning a profit for his work; he was more interested in the science of it than anything, and it seems that he actually wanted people to benefit from it and not use it for power. He really was a modern-day Nikola Tesla.

    With that point in mind, I greatly appreciate the inclusion of Nikola Tesla (AC rules!) in the plot. It honestly feels so organic and never takes over the plot or sets itself up as a B-plot either. It's like spice instead of a side dish. This decision is, in my opinion, what makes the plot so strong in the game. Most games have had (or legitimately needed) a secondary plot that flows into the main mystery. Sometimes the secondary plots end up overshadowing the main mystery to the point that you (and the game) almost forget the main mystery existed until things have to be tied up with a pretty bow (or a lopsided, uneven, soggy bow) at the end. Other times, the two storylines ride alongside each other in perfect harmony and connect so perfectly throughout the game and at the end that you know the game could not have existed without both. This time, however, we have no distractions. Every single ounce of Nancy's attention is given to finding out who killed Niko and why, and it pays off brilliantly.

    Setting: The Technology of Tomorrow Today lab is one of the most unique locations we've had to date. While not as visually rich as its direct predecessor, I actually love the lab's appearance. Rather than going for that cold, austere vibe with white walls, white lab equipment, white coats, dark floors, blue lights, and gray rounded letters and numbers printed right on the walls, the lab has an aged, dated appearance, but not in that 70s movie research lab kind of way. Instead, there's this sort of low-key steampunk vibe going on, and, honestly, I live for it. (It doesn't help that I love steampunk anyway.) The exterior alone gives a distinct Wardenclyffe impression from its rounded-arch windows to the sort of Art Deco pillars. Then, the interior has all kinds of unusual-looking equipment, exposed gears, hanging chains, and a huge wheel in the actual lab, and the hallways have strange metallic sculptures and robots. (There's one room in particular that I won't mention to avoid spoilers, but it is my favorite areas in the game by far. I could write an actually essay on how much I love it, but I don't want to ruin the surprise for anyone!) Among these retro spaces are spaces that feel much more modernized, like Ellie and Mason's cubicles, Gray's security booth, the Tesla coil room, the photolithography lab, Ryan's workshop, and the lounge. Of these spaces, the guest lounge is probably my favorite. It looks so cozy, and I adore the skylight garden. I'm kind of becoming a plant lady, so I'm just completely in love with the idea of having hanging plants under a skylight. Also, I really, really love the yellow door to the photolithography lab. It's so pretty. Ironically enough, Niko's office is a bit of a mix between the two aesthetics, which suits him perfectly, and I really like the furniture in there.

    I've read a lot of comments about the lab feeling small and constrained, but I have legitimately never felt this way. I don't generally comment much on the whole exploration aspect of the setting, even though I both notice it and care about it. I wouldn't say the lab feels as open as, say, Wickford Castle, but it definitely seems plenty big enough to suit me. Maybe it's because there isn't always a ton to interact with in each space, which admittedly bothers me a tiny bit, but all of the different rooms are visually interesting enough that I don't care too much about it. All of the later games really don't let you snoop for the sake of snooping or interact with absolutely useless hotspots, so I don't fault this one for it, especially since it isn't quite as bad as some games in this regard. Anyway, I think the size of the space is fine, and the fact that not all locations are accessible at first definitely helps.

    Characters: Given my high praise for this game thus far, it should probably come as no surprise that I also love the characters in this game. I have heard opinions about these characters that run the gamut, and, even though I disagree with some, I can see why some people feel the way they do. Nonetheless, I find each of them, except perhaps Victor, to be extremely interesting and likable, to the point that three of them have consistently landed in my top ten favorite characters every single replay. Some of you may be wondering why, so read on to find out:

    Gray Cortwright - ToTT security officer, friend and coworker to Nico

    Pros:

    1) Genuinely wants to know what happened to Nico

    2) Friends with Nico

    3) Very serious about his job

    4) Honest and authentic

    5) Extremely smart

    Cons:
    1) A bit grumpy and standoffish

    2) Largely unhelpful to Nancy

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) Seems to know more than he is letting on

    2) Extremely suspicious of (and possibly hostile? towards) his coworkers

    3) Suspicious footage of him

    4) Tech savvy

    Other notes:

    1) The hallmark of a good character is that I have a lot to say about them in this section. ​​ I genuinely like Gray a lot, even though he is a bit gruff with Nancy for most of the game. Oddly enough, I like that aspect of his personality. Instead of trying to be warm and friendly, he cuts to the chase and lets Nancy know exactly what he is thinking. That's not to say that this is always a good thing or that I approve of it consistently in real life, but I like that there are no pretenses with him. He is deeply genuine and authentic. Now, that doesn't mean that he's an entirely open book either. He, unlike many characters we have encountered before, has no qualms with keeping his personal business to himself. He'll tell you outright that he doesn't like someone and he might even tell you why, but he won't go around spreading rumors or share his suspicions unless and until he has hard evidence. What you see with Gray is basically what you get, though he does warm up to Nancy a bit by the very end of the game. I actually never had some conversations with Gray until this most recent playthrough, like the one where you learn his full backstory. It made me even more sympathetic to him (and, honestly, empathetic as well) than I was already, and it really fleshed out Nico nicely. I don't want to spoil anything, but I think any academic folk can relate to his plight and I greatly admire his relationship with Nico. Deep down, I think he is a bit of a teddy bear.



    Mason Quinto - daytime research assistant at ToTT, Niko's coworker

    Pros:

    1) Cute

    2) Funny

    3) Serious about his work

    4) Reasonably helpful

    5) Extremely smart

    6) Ambitious

    7) Competitive

    Cons:

    1) A little neurotic (I can't judge him there)

    2) Hated Niko

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) Absolutely hated Niko

    2) Believed Niko was stealing his work

    3) Is up to something

    Other notes:
    1) I'm going to go ahead and put it out there that I love Mason. I would probably go on a date with Mason, not gonna lie. ​ Mason was and may very well still be my favorite male character in the games, though I think Wade Thornton is actually my favorite male character now. (This is not including Frank Hardy, since I love Frank and would also date Frank. I still might like Wade more as a character than Frank though. ANYWAY.) He's smart, he's insanely cute, he's super Type-A, he's got a dry wit that rivals my own, he loves cats, and he very obviously has OCD too. A match made in heaven. ​ In all seriousness, I really like him. He totally fits the nerdy engineer/CS/scientist archetype, and there's really not a lot to him beyond that. However, his personality so well-executed within that archetype that I don't care. I love his sass and his facial expressions and hand gestures are the best.

    2) As much as he claims to have disliked Niko, which I think is true, you can still tell that his death bothered him when Nancy asks about the day of the murder, especially when he remarks about how the police were acting like it was any other day. I also think he actually cares about what Ellie thinks about it. If you're wondering if I ship him and Ellie, the answer is, unequivocally, yes.

    3) Mason deserves a best quotes section, so here it is:

    "Get a postgrad in advanced math and electrical engineering, then I'll explain it to you."

    "There's this shiny magic that lives in the power lines, and it's dangerous and sly like a fox, and I'm using math to trick it into leaving the power lines without accidentally making everyone die."

    "Please let the answer be something that justifies me kicking you out of my workspace."

    "Wrong!"

    "Ryan is all over the place. For her, it's from A to Zucchini to 'That thing from TV' to Maybe C, then on to some non sequitur. I don't trust anyone I can't explain."

    "Let me save you some time. I don't like anyone. Observe and I'll demonstrate. *Gladiator thumbs down* Other people. "

    "'If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight.' Sun Tzu compels me to take you down. Prepare yourself, opponent."

    "Someone moved my things. Someone will pay."

    "I'd never do something that hilarious and definitely deserved. Never. Not ever."

    "He always gives me an industrial-sized portion of the creeps."

    "The answers to those questions are never important. It's how you grapple with the problem. A good problem is like a fight to the death with your own mind. Or other minds. "

    "Good answer. The world needs more people with questions, and fewer people who are sure they have the answers."

    "I do in fact have a peculiar answer."

    "Mine has my name on it." (So cute omg.)

    "Come to think of it, she hates me so much I should actually feel a sense of accomplishment, which now I do. There it is."

    "We are worsties."

    "Shouldn't I be if someone's attacking people?"


    "Ah, efficiency. One of the rare graces of a post-manners society." (My favorite line.)



    Ellie York - nighttime research assistant at ToTT, Niko's coworker

    Pros:
    1) Super nice

    2) Helpful

    3) Clearly invested in her work

    4) Competitive

    5) Liked Niko and wanted to be his friend

    Cons:

    1) Not super keen on her job at the lab

    2) A little...boring

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) Is up to something

    2) Not happy with her job

    3) Didn't call the police immediately after finding Niko's body and was on-site when he died

    Other notes:

    1) For whatever reason, Ellie is, to me, the most underdeveloped character in the game that's actually at the lab the whole time. I still like her a lot, but she's just kind of...forgettable, if that makes any sense. Gray is gruff, Mason is...Mason, Niko is a genius, Ryan is quirky, Victor is angry, and Ellie is just kind of there. She's normal. There's nothing wrong with normal; it's just that, among a cast of positively weird people, she kind of disappears and falls by the wayside. Would I probably want to be friends with her in real life? Absolutely. But in the context of this game, she falls kind of flat for me. I do think she kind of likes Mason more than she lets on though. Yes, I ship it. Hard.




    Ryan Kilpatrick - technical engineer/engineering technician for ToTT, Niko's coworker

    Pros:
    1) Funny

    2) Smart

    3) Awkward

    4) Cares about her work

    5) Cared about Niko

    6) Energetic

    Cons:

    1) A little much

    2) Accident prone

    3) Awkward

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) Built the machine that killed Niko

    2) Police suspect her

    3) May have threatened Niko

    Other notes:

    1) Ah, Ryan, the most polarizing character in the game and possibly the series. You either love Ryan or you hate Ryan. I, for one, have always loved Ryan, but I can totally understand why anyone would be annoyed by her. Her chaotic energy is a bit overwhelming and exhausting at times, but her weird awkwardness is endearing to me. Plus, she's a fellow redhead, so I can't hate her. (Is is just me, or does she remind anyone else of Paige from Trading Spaces? I loved her as a child since she had red hair and shared my name.) I have never understood why people don't like her though, given how similar she is to Bess. Not gonna lie, I'm more of a George girl, but Bess becomes...kind of awful in the later games (looking at you MED). I don't think Ryan comes close to being that bad. She was actually my favorite non-Hotchkiss female character until Harper Thornton took over my heart as the ultimate queen.

    2) Ryan needs best quotes section as well, so here you go:

    "Later!"

    "It's reasonable to freak out after a near-death experience."

    "I had a whole argument prepared about labs and the risks of working with machinery, and the importance of forgiveness...do you want me to hit all the bullet points?"

    "Thank you... Working here I forgot that phrase existed."

    "It was self-defense. Fuzzy little freakball had it coming."

    "Liberate his sugar stash and bring it to me!"

    "Attached? Please. I less than three them! They're bright and sugary. And sometimes a girl gets a little lonely surrounded by all these scientists. Plus they're fun. And you can act out all these little scenes with them, and then eat 'em! Sweet, tragic, delicious betrayal. They never see it coming, the dopes."

    "Just in case you were wondering, yes, Victor's yelling is starting to crush my soul a little bit. I've made a chart to illustrate my feelings on the situation. This line represents my well-being and happiness over time. You may notice the sleep decline. This frowny face here is because this is the first time I have made a chart, and it turns out, it's very boring. That is also why there's a dragon, and a dog on a skateboard, and...other stuff."




    Victor Lossett - co-owner of ToTT

    Pros:

    1) Wants to solve Niko's murder

    Cons:
    1) Angry

    2) Irritable

    3) Rude

    4) Mean

    5) Irrational

    Reasons for Suspicion:

    1) Clearly wants to make the case go away as quick as possible, even if the right person isn't charged

    2) Doesn't want Nancy to have full access necessary to investigate

    3) Got a recommendation for Nancy from Deirdre

    Other notes:

    1) There really isn't much to say about Victor. He's really not likable at all after the first third of the game.



    Music: Finally, the section I've been waiting for all along! The MUSIC is in the game was the first thing I noticed about it, and it remains to be my favorite thing about the game. I love, love, LOVE it! Any time I turn it on outside of the game, it puts me in such a good mood. In fact, it's probably my favorite complete soundtrack in the games (i.e., I love every single piece on the soundtrack), though it is tied with both GTH and LIE, as I also love every composition in those soundtracks. Since it is my absolute favorite soundtrack, I feel compelled to discuss it at length and talk about all of the pieces individually. Let's dive in!

    One of the things I appreciate the most about this soundtrack is how well it fits into the game's setting and the diversity of the pieces. We have dark and mysterious themes like (the aptly named) "Dark," "Sneak," "Mystery," and "Tension" and more upbeat, cheerful ones like "Discovery” and "Research." Then, there's the somber compositions, such as "Loss" and"Science" and even chill pieces like "Electric." Naturally, there are also compositions that are incredibly tense, namely "Danger A," "Danger B," and "Final." As you can see, there's quite a range here.

    While I did attempt to group the soundtrack into different categories, the fact remains that every composition is unique. None sound quite like the next, and most convey more than a singular emotion from start to finish. Perhaps this is what makes this soundtrack truly stand out against all the rest in my mind and heart. Most scores for film, shows, games, etc., are written post hoc and are created to enhance the overall mood or atmosphere of a particular scene. Scores work as emotional manipulators, sometimes subtly and sometimes directly. What the soundtrack in DED achieves is the perfect balance. The compositions fit the atmosphere so incredibly well that you can almost not imagine that space existing without those themes. The themes are as much a part of the lab as anything else in the game. They are good enough for you to notice and respond appropriately, but do not always distract or grab attention. As much as I listen to this soundtrack outside of the game, I still don't really think about the tracks when they are in the game beyond bobbing my head, unconsciously humming along, or feeling whatever emotion(s) they convey, unless it's one of the ones I really, really love (e.g., "Mystery").

    All of that being said, here are my thoughts on each and every track. I could honestly write an essay on how much I love this soundtrack!

    "Dark" is so cinematic. Honestly, the whole soundtrack is cinematic, but this one really takes the lead. That opening with the bass really driving the sound and then being joined by the low brass is exceptional. It's so tense. Once the flute takes over the melody, everything shifts. It literally shifts, too, because the time signature changes from 3/4 to 4/4. It's almost imperceptible unless you're really paying attention, to the point that I didn't even notice it until I was writing this section. The bass and low brass crescendo and decrescendo every measure, which creates this feeling of being squeezed sonically. It's extremely effective. The melody is chaotic and tense, and then the violins take over the melody and make it even more unnerving until, finally, the piece ends with this funky reverb and low electronic whine. All of it gives me the distinct sense of being surround by technology. I honestly imagine a spy infiltrating a lab whenever I hear it.

    "Electric" is by far the most unique track on the entire soundtrack. It's certainly electric, but also incredibly relaxing. From my ear's understanding of it, it seems to rely primarily on multiple layers of synth and some really nice, crisp percussion (almost sounds like clapping). Everything in this composition sounds deliciously fuzzy. There's an instrument that sounds reminiscent of a saxophone later in the piece, but I don't think it is (or if it is, it has a lot of effects added to it). It kind of makes me feel like I'm underwater. So, so, SO good.

    Just when you think you've got a handle on the instrumentation and tone of this soundtrack, "Loss" enters the picture. That CELLO! *swoons* I'm a sucker for a good cello, and that tone is rich and thick. It's an extremely appropriate choice here because it gives the track a distinct somberness that is unmatched by the other pieces. It reminds you that there has been a death here. The addition of flutes is unusual, but it works out so well, despite the bright tone (the chords they play definitely aided in this). The transition to the full orchestra is perfect, as it makes the song feel more grand and a little more hopeful before the low brass, cello, and bass ring out together on the last note and bring things back to that sad mood.

    "Science" is an actual work of art among this brilliant soundtrack. Yes, I have basically said that about every single track, but this one really stands out to me. It has everything I want. The beginning is so lush and beautiful with the piano and layers of high synth harmonies. There's some nice reverb and fuzziness that gives the whole thing a mystical, underwater feeling, and yet it still feels so technological and scientific. I could literally envision hearing this song in a dense forest with fairies or on Pandora among the Avatar just as much as I can imagine hearing it in a moonlit lab in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. It's truly perfection. Things get moderately tense towards the second half after the horn joins the piano in the melody, but never so much that you aren't completely at peace under the spell the music casts. Just lovely.

    "Discovery" is one of the most enjoyable tracks in the soundtrack to me. I love the progression in tone! The staccato strings accompanying the horns and woodwinds creates this restlessness and anxiety--though not in a dreadful way--but then becomes more playful once the marimba (be still my heart) takes over. There's a nice crescendo and the piece becomes more complex, especially in the brass section, but then it strips back again with it ending with strings (the upper voice anyway) and the marimba. For just a second, you can hear some nice percussion--perhaps a maraca--in the background, which really spices things up. I just can't help dancing to it!

    "Research" puts me in a good mood literally every single time I hear it. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be "mischievous." Those not quite staccato strings are so playful, and then the synth comes in and it's so fun and lighthearted. The interplay between the piano, horn, and the cello is charming, and that upbeat percussion just rounds everything out. Honestly, this is the kind of piece I associate with Ryan, but it also works really nice as a dynamic piece between Ellie and Mason. It's just so quirky!

    Ah, "Sneak," the most appropriately named composition in the soundtrack. If nothing else, this track exemplifies the sound of snooping. The prominent bass and lower voiced strings and sparse melody is fantastic. I absolutely adore when the woodblock beats out those four notes with the strings. I can just see Nancy tiptoeing to the rhythm. There's also that absolutely chilling moment when the low synth joins in, which always makes me think I'm about to be caught. It's an incredibly fitting track for snooping around the lab at night or digging around on Gray's computer. I can almost hear that alarm now.

    "Tension" is much like "Sneak," in that its name fits it perfectly. This particular track is so unsettling that Thomas Regin must have realized he struck gold and wrote a very similar track for GTH. The deep clangs of the gong are perfect, and I can only imagine banging around on metal objects or crawling through vents. It's another great track for nighttime snooping at the lab.

    "Danger A" is as thrilling as it is terrifying. There's a distinct feeling of power in this composition, courtesy of the prominent low brass and low strings, which I love. It really does make me think that something as deadly and powerful as a Tesla coil in charging up in my near vicinity. On the other hand, "Danger B" uses tremolo on the strings (mainly violin) to create an almost unbearable sense of dread. The constant crescendo only heightens the fear and tension, and the constant blaring of the low brass is used with disturbing effect. I love how similar these two themes are and yet how they utilize totally opposite instrumentation for the same effect.

    "Final" is really an amalgam of "Tension," "Danger B," and "Danger A," which showcases just how brilliantly these tracks fit together. As it plays, the tension grows considerably until you are absolutely certain that nothing good is coming your way. It's such an effective composition, and I love that it's used for the grand finale.

    The crown gem of the soundtrack, "Mystery," remains my absolute favorite composition in the game, and is quite possibly my top favorite composition in the entire series. It makes me so happy every single time I hear it, and I get chills. I can still remembering the first time I turned on the game and heard it on the main menu. Do you know those moments when you're playing a game and you realize that it is going to be absolutely epic? That is exactly the kind of feeling I had and still have whenever "Mystery" plays. It's soooo good. Like I said above, this is a deeply cinematic score, but none of the tracks feel as epic as this one. Ironically, it is also the one with the least orchestral instruments, and it is relatively simple melodically compared to the rest of the score. Nonetheless, that simplicity does nothing but make it more impressive. The rich, deep synth driving the piece is delicious to my ears. It's gritty and pulsates so that I legitimately feel like electricity is moving through me like through a wire. I can feel the forward motion of it. The melody is similarly simple and yet so dynamic. It's powerful. I adore it.

    Puzzles: My biggest compliment for the puzzles in this game is how incredibly unique they are, especially compared to the rest of the series. There aren't a lot of puzzles reused from other games, and so, so many of them are organic and well-integrated into the story. I love how many STEM- type puzzles there are in the game, from (kind of) using binary to using biometric fingerprint scanners. It's all so fun and original without being too technical or complicated.
    Great: Power console for Gray's computer, key card activation password, etching solution puzzle, missing Tesla coil part, Niko notebook puzzle, small Tesla coil, coat rack puzzle, fingerprint scanner puzzle, oscillator puzzle, power console puzzle again, Faraday cage, Gray's computer password

    In my opinion, these are the most fun and original puzzles in the game. Some of them require multiple steps to solve, which I really like. Of these, my favorite is probably the biometric fingerprint scanner puzzle or constructing the Tesla coil part, but I also love the small Tesla coil. I was always "play" Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Variation 18, and the theme from Somewhere in Time, among other pieces.

    Good: Mason's computer password, photolithography etching machine, Ellie's cellphone puzzle, book title puzzle, black light puzzle, pigeon puzzle, Niko's password, endgame component puzzle

    These puzzles are also fun and original, but not quite as strong at the puzzles in the "great" section. My favorite of them is probably using the photolithography etching machine and the endgame component puzzle.

    Mediocre: Desk code, power grid switches, colored squares key card puzzle, circuit board puzzle, control booth code puzzle, shredded document puzzle, Tesla coil capacitors, power grid switches again, elevator gears, Component Craze

    None of these are bad, even by mediocre standards, but they aren't exceptional either and are all pretty simple. Some of them I enjoy slightly more than the rest (e.g., the colored squares key card puzzle), but all in all they are just kind of there.

    Bad: Candy memorization puzzle, escape from the photo lab

    I have an irrational hate for the candy memorization puzzle. I love long pattern memorization puzzles (e.g., Simon), but this one drives me crazy. The sounds/lights are so slow, which makes it take forever to solve. Plus, having to do it over and over to get all the candy is annoying. The escape from the photo lab isn't bad except that I have no clue how to solve it or if there is an actual method to solve it. I just do trial-and-error until I find my way out and sometimes remember certain signs on the walls. Still, it gets a bit old.

    Horrible: Aggregation, chemical supply cabinet puzzle

    I do not like Aggregation. It's isn't hard; it's just not fun at all. Beating Mason's score is pretty easy, but if you want to maintain a high score, it's ridiculous. I usually play until I get annoyed/tired, and then Mason will "beat" my insanely high score immediately. I don't want to have to play it for an hour to get an unbeatable score. The chemical supply cabinet puzzle is just annoying and unnecessary, especially given how many puzzles we have that are similar to it.



    Graphics: As one might expect, I have nothing but praise for the graphics in this game. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about the game's graphics is the lighting, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The way the sun filters into the hallways over the glass sculpture is so gorgeous, and the way it comes through the lab windows during the day is stunning. STUNNING. The textures are top-notch in this game as well. Everything looks so good. I remember being absolutely stunned when the game first game on and I got that shot of the lab's interior on the menu screen. It's so beautiful!

    The character graphics are also exceptional in this game, and even stronger than in the previous entry. Everyone looks so lifelike. Not to the degree that I would confuse them for an actual person, but they definitely look like they could be modeled after real people. The hair is particularly impressive in this game compared to past games. There's actually varying hair textures! By far, the biggest improvement in the character models is seen in the facial expressions, movements, body types, and hand gestures. These enhancements to their expressiveness and motion make these characters seem more like real people than any game prior, and there is a wide range of expressions as well (rather than repeated gestures like we see with Abdullah in TMB). I'm deeply impressed by their design in this game.

    Ending: Finally, an ending and culprit choice that isn't entirely awful! I know there are mixed opinions about the ending, but I like it a lot and think it's one of the strongest endings we've had in a while. (I know, I know; that was shocking, wasn't it? ...That was not an intentional pun.) First of all, this is a game where a slow build-up actually works out really nicely. We know we're getting close to the end before the culprit reveal, but then the culprit reveal happens and we're foiled. (Again, that was an unintentional pun. I'm really on fire tonight...) After running around trying to figure out how to keep our evidence safe, we have the opportunity to talk to most of the remaining characters about the culprit. I always find this to be an incredibly refreshing choice, but it is extremely poignant in this game because of the circumstances of Niko's death and his relationship with the other characters. There are some really nice conversations to be had at this point of the game, and I'm really glad the game gives us the opportunity to have them but doesn't require it either.

    Once the evidence is safely retrieved, Nancy emerges to find one character incapacitated. This is an incredibly tense, upsetting moment, but I cannot take it seriously now after the "I've fallen for you and I can't get up" Valentine that won the Valentine's Day contest a few years back. I cry laughing every time I see it. That's not the game's fault though. Anyway, after running around in fear of the culprit for quite a while, Nancy is finally confronted by them and it's honestly clever how they do it. (I don't want to say more about that though for fear of spoiling.) Then, things get electrifying as Nancy faces the entirely terrifying circumstance of being trapped in a Faraday cage while a Tesla coil is bearing down on you. Would I love to experience such a phenomenon in real life minus the whole murderer part? Absolutely! However, the situation Nancy is in is not one for spectacle, though it is spectacular. After solving an admittedly fun and moderately challenging puzzle under the stress and scrutiny of a Tesla coil firing at you in a damaged Faraday cage, Nancy is able to throw a rod in the culprit's plans and the ***** decides to walk out and get fried. Big yikes. I can't say I commend HeR on making the culprit act that stupidly at the end, but I do love the ridiculous scream, so I guess it paid off in the end.

    The culprit choice, for many, is not surprising at all. I, too, must admit that I wasn't exactly expecting this person to be chosen, but it's pretty obvious by a certain point in the game. My little brother actually guessed who the culprit was in the first couple minutes of the game based on video game logic. Needless to say, I was stunned when he was right, and I also laughed hysterically. The ending letter also does a good job of wrapping things up nicely. I felt mostly at peace over how things ended and how the characters moved forward with their lives. All in all, a very satisfying ending for me.

    Other points of interest: The voice acting in this game is phenomenal. Mason, Ryan, Gray, Victor, and Ellie all have fantastic, memorable vocal performances. Their voices suit them so well, and I love all of them. I literally cannot say anything else because there's nothing to say except that they gave STELLAR PERFORMANCES ACROSS THE BOARD.

    The Takeaway: As I said before, this game was my favorite immediately after it came out and for several years afterward until I began to appreciate GTH more and more as time passed. With a great plot, fantastic characters, phenomenal music, unique puzzles, glorious graphics, a strong ending, stellar vocal performances, The Deadly Device elevates itself to god-tier status among the Nancy Drew games. I still wouldn't say it is entirely flawless, but it is, by far, the most consistently solid game of the bunch in my opinion. For that reason, I must bestow this gem of a game with the much coveted award of ten out of ten stars.


    So the final question is obviously whether I think you should play this game. Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES! A THOUSAND TIMES, YES! If you are a dedicated fan who wants to play all of the games, I don't think you will regret playing this one for a second. Even if it doesn't end up being your favorite, it is easily one of the strongest games in the series. If you've got a good many games under your belt and you're looking for another game to play, this is a great one. If you're a new fan trying to decide what game to play first, I think this game a great contender, though some of its puzzles may be a little complicated if you aren't much of a science fan. Still, it is worth it. Play it. You will not regret it, and if you do, I am sorry. If you are not sold on this game, then please check out the other games in my top ten, including Treasure in the Royal Tower, The Final Scene, The Secret of Shadow Ranch, Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, Shadow at the Water's Edge, Curse of Blackmoor Manor, Ghost of Thornton Hall, and The Silent Spy.
    Thank you for reading my review! I hope that my perspectives and ramblings inspire you 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 Ghost of Thornton Hall next week. Given that it is my favorite game, I'm going to have a lot to say, which might take longer than usual given the delay from Thanksgiving and another week-long, out-of-town trip...hope no one thinks I'm ghost-ing the forums during the hall-idays. ​​​​​​ (That was awful, I know, but I've had to do these puns twenty-eight times already.)

    Previous review:
    Tomb of the Lost Queen
    Next review: Coming soon!

    Other reviews: SCK STFD MHM TRT FIN SSH DOG CAR DDI SHA CUR CLK TRN DAN CRE ICE CRY VEN HAU RAN WAC TOT SCK2 SAW CAP ASH
    Last edited by yukixiaomeimei; December 3, 2019, 08:09 AM.

  • #2
    Superb review! I think DED is probably my second or third favorite game (as far as gameplay goes), but since there are a few games I tie more nostalgia to, I'll just say its in my top five. I think the 'scare' factor, though different from the haunting-style games, was managed well. There where times I got a few thrilling shivers up my spine. And the music- the scores in this game are my favorite in the whole ND series!
    .....I have never been a STEM girl either- science was always my worst and least favorite subject in school (I'll take arts, history, or English ANY day!) but the more scientific puzzles in this game were tastefully chosen so as to appeal to someone like myself- maybe it was because quite a bit of it was forensic in nature, or maybe because it appealed to my love of history because the scientific tasks were set with a backdrop of Nikola Tesla (who I wish I could say I loved since learning about his achievements from being a good student of STEM, but in reality, loved since watching Murdoch Mysteries). And you are right- AC totally rules!!
    .....DED was the first game with the 'new setup' for me, and I was really frustrated for a while because I tend to like games that you can explore large areas (and yes, even insignificant spaces). I was more used to the games where you could do a lot of 360 degree rotations, so until I got used to it, it felt like there was alot I could not see, which left me wondering if I was missing a lot of clues. I think that I will (hopefully) like Unity for this reason, but if the characters are poorly done, it won't matter to me much how good the exploration is.
    .....You do such a good rundown of characters. For some reason, though, I find I never talk to Gray Cortwright much at all, so I cannot say for myself that he is a very loveable character. In fact, I have wondered at times if I am missing a trigger for more conversation, because I have seen discussions about some of the things he has said in the after game discussion forums that left me a little confused. I should probably go over the game a little more carefully. Messing with Mason's stuff is a highlight for me- even before I knew it was an award, I think I got it ten times over!
    ......I liked the inclusion of Deirdre as a phone friend. I went from the impression I had of her in ASH (which was neither love nor hate- just kinda 'meh') to thinking she is pretty interesting- I think she provided the comic relief in this game even more so that Joe Hardy. I also find her crush on Ned fairly entertaining. I look forward to seeing her in MID- I just hope she is not too different!
    .....I didn't mind aggregation- I actually cleared all of the levels on my first playthrough (and realized that three hours had gone by and that it was 1:00 in the morning.....), but I HATED the memory puzzle. On my second playthrough, when I tried to get all of the awards, I almost cried when I realized how long it was going to take me to get all of the candy. Also, Victor Lossett was around at that time, so I had to have Ryan distract him eleven+ times! (okay, that part was a little amusing- it was pretty funny that after the second distraction, when she makes her expressive chart, she had no problems helping Nancy out the endless number of times afterwards- usually she just says "sure!" cheerfully.)
    .....The ending was almost second to none- it immediately brought to mind my favorite game's ending. In fact, the ending is one of the main reasons it scores so high for me- I love intense endings!
    Your inclusion of the fact that you would date Frank Hardy made me laugh- I loooove his character too! I'm curious, actually- do you have a Bonus Edition of this game? If you don't, do you know about the Hardy's voicemail messages to Nancy in the game extras?

    I liked GTH a lot too, so I am excited for the next review!
    Last edited by Juliana+Walter; December 3, 2019, 06:01 AM.
    Stay Tuned for Danger- Lights, Camera,CURSES! - MIDNIGHT IN SALEM

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    here.

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    • #3
      I am so glad you enjoyed the review!!! I remembered your comment about looking forward to this one in particular, so I am thrilled that you saw it. (I haven’t had time to go add the link to it in all of my reviews yet.) I completely understand how you feel, and I think that’s fair. For a long time Treasure in the Royal Tower was my favorite (it’s amazing and incredibly nostalgic for me), but I realized that it was more flawed than some of the other games I love (SAW, for instance) and decided to be more open-minded about newer games being my top favorites. If I had to choose only ONE Nancy Drew game to play forever, it would definitely be GTH, but it would be really hard for me to give up TRT, SAW, DED, CUR, and SHA.

      Right? It isn’t a classic “scary” game, but the thrills and tension are still there. YESSS. I mean, I obviously agree considering how much I gushed over the soundtrack, but it’s soooo good.

      I think the forensic aspect may be part of why they are so enjoyable, even for us non-STEM folk. I definitely think they did a spectacular job of making the science part of the game interesting and approachable. I love a good dose of realism in games and puzzles, but too much might make things too complicated. They found a nice balance, I think.

      I play a lot of different games in a massive variety of genres, so I was kind of used to the whole point-and-click feeling. It will definitely feel limited if you’re accustomed to free motion in games, but let’s just say that HeR does the genre a lot of justice. I’ve played some point-and-clicks (first person and third person) that made me want to rip my hair out from frustration with navigating, UI, and finding hotspots. I don’t mind point-and-clicks, but the newer games made me want to have free motion solely to explore the BEAUTIFUL environments and see them outside of fixed views. (There is something to be said for the framing that happens in point-and-clicks though.) We’ll see how MID fares on exploration—I’ve been reading spoiler-free reviews throughout the evening—but I’m honestly a bit relieved that these games weren’t done in Unity given how poorly MID has been received.

      Thank you! That is often the most frustrating section for me to write because I can’t fully comment on the character arc and growth we see at the end of the game. I may know why you missed out on conversations with Gray. For one, his answers depend heavily on what option you choose. The later games are notorious for having unique dialogue paths that depend on you choice. They rarely combine into the same dialogue like they did in the older games. I am still finding new dialogue all the time, and I have played these games countless times now. Anyway, try changing up your choices to unlock new dialogue with him, or save beforehand and do both. Also, I‘d never had a really important conversation with him towards the end of the game because I didn’t realize I could talk to him at that point. Hahahaha, I literally mess his stuff up at every single opportunity, even though I find his organization to be quite soothing.

      OH NO! I forgot to talk about the phone characters in my review! I knew I had forgotten something. I worked on and edited on this one on many separate occasions over the last few weeks, so I didn’t realize that I hadn’t written a section for the phone characters. Anyway, I totally agree that Deirdre is a massive boon to this game. Seeing her growth from ASH to DED is fantastic, and I enjoy talking to her so much (even when she insults Nancy). It makes me excited to see how she is with Nancy in MID. She is always so snarky, but you can tell she is enjoying helping Nancy and is good at it too. The Hardy Boys are also quite entertaining in this game, especially Joe with his fake words.

      You must have the patience of a saint. I tried to clear all the levels, but I was so bored and annoyed that I eventually gave up. It takes forever, and it isn’t worth it because Mason will still best your score. Yeah...I did it to get the trophy before, and I was actually mocking the sounds by the time it was over. I think it took an entire hour. It was horrible. No! You poor soul. There is no way I could have been bothered to do it when Victor is there. I make him yell at Ryan enough to hear her talk about the graph, but that’s it. Her “sure!” is really funny though.

      I don’t think it’s my favorite ending, per se, but it is definitely one of the strongest and most intense. Extremely memorable in a good way.

      I had a crush on him in TRN when I was eleven, and I still think he is boyfriend material thirteen years later. I don’t have the bonus version, but I watched Arglefumph play it one time and heard the famous lines. Not sure if I heard all of them, but I definitely heard the one that fans go nuts over (myself included). I don’t think I listened to the voicemail in the extras, or if I did, it was right after I beat it the first time...I’ll have to check that out immediately. Thanks for the tip!

      Thanks again for the comment! I’m hoping to get my review for GTH up by the end of next week, depending on how much free-time I have between now and then.

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      • #4
        Thank you for this review. I have never played this one and I'm a long time nancy drew fan too! I cant wait!

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