What Happened to My Nancy Drew? A Game Review of Midnight in Salem

Four years of broken promises have finally delivered the Midnight in Salem game into our hands. The latest Nancy Drew computer game from HerInteractive was originally set to be released in 2015, but was repeatedly delayed by the company, until finally being released on December 3, 2019. Finally. Midnight in Salem is the thirty-third in the list of Nancy Drew computer games, which began with Secrets Can Kill in 1998. HerInteractive pretty consistently released two Nancy Drew computer games per year until 2015 when their thirty-second game, Sea of Darkness, was released. Then, the games stopped. HerInteractive promised us that Midnight in Salem would be out soon. I believed them. Then, they put the release off for a few months, promising that it’d surely be out in 2016. I believed them. Then, they put it off again and again and again. I stopped believing. Time passed slowly without new Nancy Drew games to consume my free time. In the four years since Sea of Darkness came out, a lot happened. I graduated from high school. I left my small hometown in Nebraska to go to my dream college. I made new friends, and lost some, too. I got drunk for the first time. I had my first kiss. I traveled halfway across the globe, twice, to study abroad and see the world. I grew up. But I never forgot about Nancy Drew.  

I replayed the thirty-two earlier games on repeat in the interim. I had begun to suspect that these thirty-two games would be all I’d ever get. I played them over and over again, memorizing every puzzle, every suspect’s fishy behavior, every hilarious death that I put Nancy through. I was firmly stuck in the denial phase, refusing to accept that the games were over. They just couldn’t be. I was so unconvinced that the latest release date promised to deliver Midnight in Salem that the day passed without any fanfare. I traveled home a week before Christmas, and then, my brother asked me if I had bought Midnight in Salem yet. I couldn’t understand his question. Midnight in Salem wasn’t out yet. I wasn’t sure it was ever coming out. Nancy Drew was dead. HerInteractive had killed her off, and I had no hope that they’d ever bring her back. But my brother informed that the game really had been released two weeks earlier. I was flabbergasted. How could I have missed this momentous occasion? Who knows what I was doing when the game was released? Just living my little life, studying my days away, when I could have been on a new adventure with my beloved Nancy Drew. 

Anyways, I immediately went to Amazon and purchased the game. Thank God it’s 2019, I thought. I could purchase a digital copy of the game and instantly download it onto my laptop. Forget the Nancy Drew PC games of the past, where I’d have to go to Target and purchase a physical CD and install it on my computer. I was a little put off by the price jump. $21.99? Okay, it was only a $2 increase, but still. I was desperate to play the game immediately, so I sucked it up and purchased it anyway, hoping the price—both the money and the four years of waiting that I had paid—would be worth it. Anticipation consumed me. 

As soon as the game opened on my computer, however, I was dismayed. I was confronted with a loading screen. Loading?? My computer struggled to start the game. What is going on? Ten minutes later, the game had fully opened and I began my adventure. The game started off with Nancy reading a letter to her boyfriend Ned Nickerson aloud. Scratch that. That was not Nancy Drew. I was sobbing on the inside as soon as I heard her voice. That’s. Not. Nancy. Drew. HerInteractive had gotten a new actress to voice Nancy’s character, apparently. This wasn't my Nancy. What happened to her? I’d never hear her say “It’s locked” the same way, over and over again, annoyingly, as I repeatedly try to unlock doors and chests without a key, a scene that is repeated in every Nancy Drew game countless times, up until Midnight in Salem. Her signature phrase was now being voiced by an impostor. I’d give anything to hear the real Nancy Drew say “It’s locked” just once more. We were off to a rough start. Okay, I’ll try to ignore her voice. A little difficult to do, given the fact that I was playing as Nancy, but whatever. 

The next thing that I noticed is that the graphics were way too detailed. I could swivel my viewpoint 360° around the room and inspect practically every detail in it. I could even look at the freaking ceiling, though there obviously weren't any clues up there. Why can I look at the freaking ceiling? Who spent four freaking years designing the ceilings of every single room in this game? The graphics were so detailed that my computer was struggling to process the game, and it was slow as hell. Every time I exited a room, there was another stupid loading screen. I waited four years for this game, and I was still waiting on it. I missed the simple graphics of the old games, which took about zero processing power for my computer to run. 

I don’t want to give the whole storyline away, but it was okay. Nancy’s frenemy from her hometown of River Heights, Deirdre Shannon, calls up Nancy to help prove her cousin’s innocence in an arson incident at the Hathorne House in the witchy town of Salem. We met Deirdre in Alibi in Ashes (2011), where she constantly hit on Nancy’s boyfriend Ned and could barely contain her jealousy of Nancy. Deidre’s constant pettiness towards Nancy is entertaining throughout the game. The spooky Halloween aesthetic of Salem is also on point but would’ve made more sense if the game had been released in October like it was supposed to. The best part of the game, though? Nancy teams up with the Hardy Boys again, reprising the classic detective trio that solved Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon (2005) and The Creature of Kapu Cave (2006) together. As always, Joe is iconically hilarious and Frank is dutiful and forever silently crushing on Nancy. At one point, you get to go ghost hunting with the ever-believing Joe and skeptical Frank, which produces some hysterical one-liners from Joe.

The story arc overall is kinda disappointing, though. There are a lot of scenes in it where you’re just watching stuff happen and listening to people talk on and on. Especially Nancy. That freaking impostor actress’s voice just grates on my ears the entire time, making me long for the real Nancy. Often times, the game feels more like a movie than a game. It’s not very interactive, which is ironic since it’s produced by a company literally called HerInteractive. My final gripe is that Nancy doesn't die enough in the game. In the old games, there are countless creative and hilarious ways to die. Every time this happened, you'd be greeted with some hilarious "bad news" and "good news" before being given a second chance. Midnight in Salem is simply too safe. I died just once, and it was boring as heck.

Overall, I’m disappointed with the direction that HerInteractive has chosen to go with their newest Nancy Drew computer game. I long for the days of simpler graphics, no loading pages and that essential, character-defining phrase, “It’s locked,” repeated over and over in Nancy’s real voice. Midnight in Salem was a subpar gaming experience, especially given the fact that I had to wait FOUR FREAKING YEARS FOR IT. If you’re an avid fan of the Nancy Drew computer games, I guess I’d buy the game just to complete your Nancy Drew PC game repertoire. But it’s not the same Nancy that you’ll be solving mysteries with, which breaks my heart.

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Image credits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.