Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness Game Poster Image
Great story, challenging puzzles anchor sleuth's adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Fascinating details regarding Icelandic culture, sailing motivate players to visit Iceland, learn more about its culture. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nancy Drew is a great role model for young girls. She's smart, resourceful, brave, inquisitive, always up for a new experience, the opportunity to help someone. 

Ease of Play

Though point-and-click controls are simple enough, complexity of sudoku-style puzzles, arbitrary cause-and-effect can make progress difficult.

Violence

Nothing graphic about violence implied, depicted; one scene with blood on snow. Nancy is put into dangerous situations by an unknown villain, and in an ice cave, it's possible for her to "die." (Screen goes black followed by a "try again" message.)

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One location is an Icelandic pub where a grouchy local sits drinking beer. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness is a fascinating adventure with occasional examples of violence. It's utterly non-graphic, though, and is shown either by its effects (broken items, people with bruises) or by the screen fading to black. One of the characters is shown drinking beer, and references are made to him having been drunk in the past. Though the point-and-click controls are easy to use, the number of puzzles, along with cause-and-effect sequences, could provide a challenge to some players.

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What's it about?

Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness involves teenage sleuth Nancy Drew going to Iceland. A small Icelandic village is turned upside down when its yearly festival is ruined by a historic ship crashing into the harbor. When its treasure-hunting captain goes missing, his business partner hires Nancy to find him -- and the treasure.  

Is it any good?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about tourism. Is it good or bad for a community? 

  • Discuss notions of friendship and acceptance. Why do groups keep some people out? 

  • Think about museum exhibits. How has technology made going to museums more fun? 

Game details

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