Going into Secret of the Old Clock was quite exciting for me, because I couldn’t remember anything about it. Granted, it also made me a little nervous. What if it sucked, and I’d blocked it from my memory? Luckily, that was not the case, and the game was solid. I’m not sure why I couldn’t remember it, but it was really fun to play what felt like an entirely new game!
Emily Crandall, the friend of a friend, has asked Nancy to come to the Lilac Inn for some mysterious purpose. Turns out, weird things have been happening, and she wants Nancy to take care of some jewelry for her. But when the jewelry is stolen, Nancy is driven to investigate. Despite being the twelfth game developed, Secret of the Old Clock is revealed to be Nancy’s first case as an amateur detective. Here’s to the kick-off of a successful detective career!
Emily Crandall is the reason SotOC is even a case. It’s interesting that she chooses Nancy as the person to help her, since the two young women barely know each other, and Nancy has not yet earned a reputation for solving mysteries. It drives one to wonder more about Emily and her social situation. She’s sad from her mother’s recent death — does she feel she has no friends to turn to in her time of grief? Have people she once called friends made her feel like a burden? Questions like this floated through my brain the whole time I played the game, but were never explicitly asked by the game itself. Score a point for sublety, Her Interactive.
Jane Willoughby is Emily’s caretaker (as the game tells you roughly 200 times within the first ten minutes), but sucks at it. She’s more of a party girl than a caregiver or business owner. She’s not a very interesting character in her own right, and seems to exist to serve as a reminder that the game is set in the ’30s, since she’s always using cute, outdated slang.
Josiah Crowley and Helen Crandall are both characters who have died, but carry a heavy impact in the game. Helen’s death is the reason Emily is having so many troubles, since she now has a business to run and no money with which to run it. Josiah was an eccentric neighbor who made it clear that Helen and Emily would be well off after his death, but failed to deliver. Despite the set-up of the game being the investigation of Emily’s stolen jewels, the majority of the game is actually spent solving Josiah’s fiendishly elaborate puzzles to uncover his true will.
Jim Archer is Emily’s banker and friend. He seems concerned for her well-being, but is too occupied with the running of his bank to give her the help and advice she needs. Jim is another character who isn’t very interesting, and I only talked to him a handful of times.
Richard Topham is by far the oddest character of the game. He is an expert in psychic phenomena and runs a business to help people nurture their psychic power out of Josiah’s old house, which he inherited along with everything else in the old man’s estate. He moved in with Josiah to help him develop the powers that Josiah was convinced he had, and despite his odd nature and condescending attitude toward everyone around him, Josiah greatly respected Richard. Richard bugged the ever-living daylights out of me and I dreaded having to talk to him, but it worked, since he was a character designed for us to love to hate.
Setting and Atmosphere
The town of Titusville is charming and feels much different than the other settings we’ve experienced throughout the series. There are odd things happening, but nothing feels dark of malicious about the Lilac Inn or the area around it. It’s actually a little disturbing how picturesque everything is, and I felt myself getting tense, just waiting for the shoe to drop. But it never did, serving to create a town reveling in the nostalgia we often give to the ’30s.
What Makes This One Special
Once again, we’ve got the array of features that was introduced in Secret of Shadow Ranch and has worked well since its inception. The only thing that was added was Nancy’s famous blue roadster — a callback to the books the entire gaming empire was built on. But that’s only one thing. The game is based heavily on the novel with the same name, with bits from other early books in the series mixed in as well.
As someone who read a lot of Nancy Drew as a youngster, I loved these references. I spent a lot of time at the Lilac Inn in my daydreams, and seeing it come to life, along with the puzzles and stories I’d grown up with, was fantastic. Secret of Shadow Ranch was also based on a book, but not the absolutely iconic first few books of the series. Every time I think of Nancy Drew books, the cover of Secret of the Old Clock springs to mind, and I had a great time re-visiting that space.
SotOC is a solid game that held up well to my replaying. I still can’t figure out why I couldn’t remember this one, since it had good puzzles and a fine story. The only thing I didn’t really like was the travel, but it wasn’t that big a deal. Flashes of recognition would come to me during some of the puzzles, but overall, it was a great, brand-new experience. I’d recommend it to newbies and seasoned detectives alike!