The last two Nancy Drew games have been plagued by lackluster locations, dull stories, and obscure puzzles, so it's great that Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness does justice to the teenage sleuth. Though it suffers a bit from repetitiveness, it's a good deal more fun. Sea of Darkness calls Nancy to Skipbrot, a tiny village on the coast of Iceland, and the minute she sets foot on its icy shores, you know you're in for a good time. A quaint, cozy pub and visitor's center twinkle invitingly in the gloom, and a restored galleon sits in the harbor begging to be explored. The inhabitants of Skipbrot are as quirky as the town, and approaching the local historian, festival organizer, and conspiracy theorist makes for some interesting conversations. The dialogue is often tongue-in-cheek, delivered by a talented voice cast through nice character models and adept facial animation. Village gossip and Icelandic history come forth in equal measure, and both are well worth listening to. This is a good thing, since Nancy's friends Bess and George aren't present this time, and her boyfriend, Ned, only makes a token appearance via phone call.
Along with fun character interactions, Sea of Darkness tells a cool story revolving around hidden treasure and a generations-old family legacy. In between chats and information dumps, Sea of Darkness relies heavily on sudoku-style puzzles (where you need to arrange numbers, letters, or symbols in some kind of grid). This gets old after the third of fourth encounter, and what's worse is that when you finally encounter another puzzle type, it often lacks the visual feedback needed to understand how to solve it. Beyond that, events sometimes fail to move forward due to arbitrary triggers (for example, no one will speak to you unless you've looked at every item inside a certain room). This contrivance can bring things to a grinding halt, forcing you to go beyond the in-game hint system and onto a help forum. Bothersome as this is, Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness tells a truly absorbing story that makes good use of its unique setting; imparts interesting, useful information; and leverages Nancy's sassy sleuth powers.