Next in my top 15 is a game that I actually just started playing again: case 6, “Secret of the Scarlet Hand.”
Honestly, I did not think I was going to like this game during my first play through. I actually quit halfway through that go-around. It wasn’t until at least a few months, maybe even a year later, that I played it again and finished it.
The game starts as Nancy lands an internship at Beech Hill Museum in Washington, D.C. The museum had just acquired a massive Mayan monolith (a big stone tower/statue with a bunch of glyphs on it), which is a huge deal in the world of antiquities.
So, after getting acquainted with the building and it’s artifacts, the alarm goes off, and the museum’s prized jade carving of King Pacal is stolen! The thief left behind a piece of paper that consists only of a scarlet-red hand print. It’s then that the game goes from playing intern to playing detective (and don’t worry, it doesn’t take all too long for it to happen).
Throughout the game, Nancy explores the museum and determines what is needed to figure out what is going on, including dealing with foreign smugglers (if I’m recalling correctly), dealing with an amnesia patient, and eventually discovering a massive Mayan secret.
Since it’s still early in the top 15 and not quite the top 10, so there are still some flaws in the game. Let’s get those out of the way first.
Even though it seems like a straightforward plot intro, it’s true that a)this game takes place at a museum and b)Nancy is working as an intern at said museum. So, much of the game is spent searching for historical facts, fixing audio/visual displays, and testing exhibits to ensure that they’re accurate. Full disclosure: it’s an educational game. While it’s well done, if learning about ancient civilizations isn’t your cup of tea, then this game probably isn’t for you.
Beech Hill Museum contains items exclusively related to the Maya. It’s a beautifully constructed exhibition with a lot of detailed information. Some might think that’s boring, but I love it.
Okay, so that wasn’t really a flaw, just a potential one. Another flaw: a lot of this game is spent talking over the phone (and sometimes over a ham radio). It’s a crucial part of this title since you have to get information and collect items from all over the world. It’s not too bad, but it does take some time.
Other than that, “Secret of the Scarlet Hand” is a solid entry from the “golden age” of Nancy Drew games.
The characters are individually and cohesively interesting, and just as suspicious, if not more so. It’s a game that, at least in my opinion, has a very realistic plot. Deals are made between countries and individuals, things are stolen, someone gets injured severely, and it’s all believable. If live to be more specific, but if am, then I might spoil the game for those who haven’t played it.
What really sells the game for me is the atmosphere. The whole time it felt like someone was going to jump out and scare and/or murder Nancy, and it kept me on my toes the whole time. It’s rare when the games get so tense like that, but gameplay is so much better when they do. It heightens everything, and that alone is why this game is up so far in this list.
This game also introduced a lot of the commonplace aspects found in the Nancy Drew games that followed: Sonny Joon, expanded travel road maps, historic world culture exploration, and Koko Kringle candy bars (I’ve wanted one of these so badly for so long; maybe if they agree with my top game picks, Her Interactive will send me one for being such a dedicated fan? Hmm…)!
Anyway, “Secret of the Scarlet Hand” is an excellent addition to any Nancy Drew game collection. Aside from some boring phone conversations and tedious tasks, it’s a nicely done, well-paced, and perfectly atmospheric game. That says a lot about the quality of Her Interactive since I placed 13 games ahead of this one.
Check back tomorrow to see which game takes the next spot! Also, for you’re enjoying this list, share it with your friends, and let me know your thoughts as well! I love a good Nancy Drew conversation/debate.