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The Backseat Game Designer: The Rest of The Danger on Deception Island Review

This is the addendum to my Nancy Drew Game Review in which I put all my opinions that contain spoilers. If you haven't finished playing Danger on Deception Island yet, you don't want to read this page. Please go back to the regular review site, where I promise to tell you everything you need to decide whether or not to play this game without giving away any of its plot.

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These Backseat Game Designers pages are primarily a place for me to put all my game commentary that was too revealing for the regular reviews, as well as a place to tell everyone exactly how *I* would have done the game so much better. Hey, who knows, maybe the Nancy Drew design team'll read this page and be inspired to put a few more twists and turns in their next title. Ah, well, maybe it'll amuse my friends, anyway. Here's all the news about Danger on Deception Island that's fit to print, just not on the no-spoiler review site.

Personal Reactions

I found this game a lot of fun to play. The main plot was a little disappointing because there was no way for the player to guess whodunnit before the final endgame sequence (unlike the previous games The Haunted Carousel and Secret of the Scarlet Hand, where Nancy could find clues that would implicate the culprit.) However, the player does at least have the ability to figure out what the smugglers are up to as the game progresses, just not the identity of their leader. And Danger on Deception Island offered a couple of interesting character subplots that Nancy could dig out if she did a particularly good job investigating (one with Jenna and one with Katie.) Combined with a few exciting plot events and the impressive presence of the orca herself (which my kids were especially delighted by), this adventure was able to keep my interest despite the dull and time-consuming chores it occasionally put me through.

Plot Holes

Danger on Deception Island has a very good plot that held together quite well. The only thing that left me confused is what the NPC's had been fighting about at the town meeting. It seemed like Holt wanted to get rid of the orca, Katie wanted to study it, and Jenna wanted everybody to leave it alone. Jenna was angry at Katie for wanting to take the orca to an aquarium, and Holt was angry at Katie... because she was there? I don't know, he was mad that he had to detour his fishing ship around the orca, but since he wanted the orca to leave, why was he so against the idea of Katie taking the whale to an aquarium? And it's nice that Holt and Katie made up in the game epilogue, but why did this happen, exactly? Just because the whale left and they had nothing to fight about anymore?

Danger on Deception Island Game Advances

Things other adventure games should learn from Danger on Deception Island:

1) First and foremost is the excellent "Second Chance" function, which allows a gamer to automatically reload the game from a point just before making a fatal error. Any adventure game that includes instant-death scenarios and/or timed challenges ought to have a feature similar to this one--it saves time and frustration and allows gamers to concentrate on the game better, maybe even to appreciate being sucker-punched now and again.

2) The implementation wasn't great, but for a game aimed at beginning players (which this one is), calling Bess, George, and the Hardy Boys on the phone is a good idea for an innovative in-game optional hint system.

3) Nancy Drew really makes a great graphic adventure heroine in general. Too many adventure games hand you characters who either act so inept it's hard to believe they'd be on an adventure in the first place, or else act so blase about it that it's hard to believe they haven't already got a knife in their inventory. Nancy Drew is a character who's both experienced enough with mysteries that you buy her plunging into trouble as soon as she notices some, but at the same time young enough to be a little wide-eyed at each new scenario and still have to go pixel-hunting around for a flashlight.

4) One nice feature of the Nancy Drew games is an epilogue video at the end which not only reviews the crime and its solution, but tells what happens to the NPC's in the game after Nancy solves the crime. Since the characters in these games are generally well-written and many of them have a subplot Nancy has had the chance to learn more about, it is satisfying to see some resolution for them at the end. (It woiuld be even more satisfying if the player's choices affected these resolutions at all, but one can't have everything.)

5) As in the previous game in the series, Danger on Deception Island includes the interesting feature of awarding the player a special nickname at the end of the game based on his or her playstyle ("Puzzle Master" for someone who solves puzzles especially quickly, "Magellan" for someone who explores the gameworld especially thoroughly, etc.) This is a nice way of recognizing the player's contribution to the story... not quite as nice as being able to guess the identity of the villain correctly or incorrectly in Stay Tuned For Danger, which I'd like to see the series use more often, but still a welcome addition.

Advice from the Backseat Game Designer

Best Puzzle: Most of the puzzles in this game were pretty good. I found the book-rearranging puzzle challenging.
Lamest Puzzle: Digging up clams. It was really boring and unsatisfying to have to keep wandering up and down the same stretches of beach checking sand hotspots over and over again.
Best Plot Twist: Katie's kidnapping near the end. That was dramatic and heightened my interest at just the right time.
Lamest Plot Twist: Andy secretly being the leader of the smugglers. I dislike motives that are not revealed or even hinted at until the villain's exposition at the end of the game; it leaves the player with nothing to do.
High Point: Meeting the orca for the first time. That was very well-done. Honorable mention to the atmospheric Irish-style music in this episode.
Low Point: The scavenger-hunt missions for Hilda (counting cairns, buoys, etc.) were pretty annoying. Not only were they obviously just an arbitrary hoop for Nancy to jump through, but using the flawed navigation interface to move back and forth counting the stupid things was inordinately time-consuming.

Follow this link to read my thoughts about the Danger on Deception Island plot and characters.

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