[Review] Nancy Drew: Trail of the Twister (PC)

I have always been fascinated with violent weather – particularly tornadoes – for as long as I can remember. It must have been my love for the Wizard of Oz that began that obsession…Dorothy getting whisked away to a distant land…Of course, I know full well the impact of a tornado, and that it can do a lot more damage than naively thinking it could gently carry someone away to Oz…

So, when I found a game that gave a hint of storm chasing, I was all over it! In comes Nancy Drew: Trail of the Twister, a mystery adventure game for the PC.

Like the Hardy Boys, I have never read a word of a Nancy Drew novel. But, I am aware of Nancy’s reputation – a girl with a penchant for solving mysteries. Never afraid to ask the hard questions. Always getting the baddies. Am I right so far? Add to it a decent, character-driven story, some fun gameplay, and you have the trappings of a half-decent mystery adventure game. Getting warmer?

In Trail of the Twister, there is a contest among storm tracker teams, whose winner will receive a $100 million (!!) to support their research. Nancy goes to investigate what seems to be a case of sabotage in the Tornado Chasing community, where equipment effs up at critical moments, cars won’t start when a storm approaches and accidents come out of nowhere, resulting in injury. The Canute College team, part of the contest, has seen their share of issues, and when one of their aides breaks a leg, Nancy comes in fronting as his replacement (But, surprise! She really is working undercover to find out the saboteur!). Yeah, the story is a little thin….

To start, Trail of the Twister looked great and sounded great. I remember remarking to the hubs after about an hour of gameplay that I was digging the game so far, and I was! The game is character-driven, and the voice acting is spot on. The music is very pleasant and non-obtrusive. Some fun stuff included being given money to buy goods at the corner store, and being able to drive your car to destinations on a map using a GPS. Not a bad gimmick, if only you could control the speed of the car while driving…

Where the game goes off the rails is with the story itself. Nancy is a detective, but in working undercover, you discover she is really the Canute College’s ‘Lil’ Bitch’ Friday. They had this girl running errands all day, with a task list that was about 50 items deep – no kidding. The tasks weren’t that interesting either. The house the team was stationed at has a mouse infestation? Nancy had to go get a mouse trap. She also had to get cheese snacks to lure the mice, but gee, she needed money for that. Time to work more chores to gain money to buy cheese snacks. Hey, Nancy, fix these circuit boards! Get rid of the prairie dog problem! Fix the antennas! Go fly a kite in a thunder storm!

Let me tell you, Nancy was a patient saint through it all. The choices you were given always had Nancy be very “yes sir!” even in the face of some very mean people she had to work for. The characters in the Canute project – Scott, Frosty, Wendy…all total douches (let’s not even talk about how douchy the name “Frosty” is…). In one part, the game had you chasing a storm with Frosty as a passenger. Frosty was SCREAMING at Nancy that she was going the wrong way. Then his camera broke, he hands it to Nancy to fix it, and then blames Nancy (you) for not fixing it fast enough. Then, the whole team blames Nancy for their failure. Man, I think I just got PTSD from a game…

The two areas I wish the game would have focused more on were storm chasing, and DETECTIVE WORK! There really wasn’t much time in the game for either, considering the ticker tape of tasks you were made to do. What was most irritating was being made to trap mice twice, which meant having to collect more money for cheese by doing menial puzzles again. Nothing is more boring than having to repeat tasks. That is just lazy game development. Also, HELLO! This IS Nancy Drew, isn’t it? This was more of a summer job than a case to solve. And with the attitudes of the people in the Canute Team, I couldn’t care less if they won the $100 million. I was actually rooting for the saboteur by the end of it!

Nancy Drew: Trail of the Twister didn’t blow, it just fell flat by the end. I recommend the first hour of the game, but feel free to stop it thereafter.

Nancy Drew: Trail of the Twister
Developer: Her Entertainment
Released: 2010

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