Nancy Drew: Mystery at Magnolia Gardens (Game)

I have a really soft spot for Nancy Drew. I didn’t grow up with the character (I was a Three Investigators and Five Find-Outers kinda kid) so this isn’t based on the nostalgia of childhood. Rather it is fixed on a couple of experiences as an adult.

The most recent and rather powerful one is that my kid loves the character. Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew is still my daughter’s favorite series of books and these titles have been responsible for her becoming interested in mystery stories more generally which I obviously love.

The deeper reason though is that there was a series of video games made a few years ago by a company called Her Interactive that adapted titles from the book series. In the early days of our marriage my wife and I would play these together and we worked our way through the whole range – only stopping when the games stopped being published. We both have really fond memories of puzzle-solving together so when we saw that Hunt a Killer had made a Nancy Drew mystery game in a box, we both ended up getting it as a gift for the other…

The idea is that you are a friend of Nancy Drew who has found herself mixed up in another case. During a visit to the Magnolia Gardens in River Heights, Nancy stops by the director’s office for a cup of tea and notices that her friend is having a bad allergic reaction. She realizes that something is wrong with the tea but ends up hospitalized a short time later. Unable to work on the case, Nancy sends all of her materials to some friends – the players – asking them to pick up where she left off and to complete her investigation.

The player has three questions to solve – who was the poisoner, how did they do it and why.

The players have everything they need within the box and will not require any additional knowledge or objects to solve the case. I would suggest that players may benefit from pens and paper and I will share that we found clear tape to be helpful, though it is not essential…

In addition to the solution envelope, the box contains a couple of objects – one of them locked with a combination padlock – and a variety of documents. The instructions will give the player a suggested way to start their investigation though you can tackle them in any order you wish. Some groups may prefer to pass the items around and take turns reading – we preferred to read them and summarize for each other.

We had a lot of fun with it. The 60-90 minute play time suggestion proved to be pretty much spot on for us and we found the difficulty level to be pretty accurate. The puzzles all seemed pretty logical, the solution made sense and we never had to utilize the online hint system. That’s probably just as well as we found that the website link given in the booklet was broken when we went to check it out after gameplay to read the epilogue. It is on the manufacturer’s website but we ended up having to search around for it.

The game is designed to be played with one or more people, though I would suggest that more is a good idea. While I am sure you could have a good time working on solving this by yourself, a large part of the fun we had was in sharing our thoughts and ideas with each other. One thing to be aware of is that this game is designed to be played just once as the solution will always be the same. That wasn’t an issue for us but I know that will be a consideration for players in assessing the set’s value for money.

The theming is done well and the puzzles were pitched well for casual, social play. As we expected we had a great time playing this as found it to be a highlight of our day together. It was fun to solve a mystery together – it definitely took us back to those days playing those Nancy Drew video games together. We would certainly be interested if Hunt-a-Killer ever make another of these and perhaps some day we’ll check out some of their other boxes.

2 thoughts on “Nancy Drew: Mystery at Magnolia Gardens (Game)

  1. Dual coincidence, as not only was I a fan of Nancy Drew growing up (before graduating to Poirot) but only this morning I played “Body on the Boardwalk”, which is another stand-alone whodunnit game by Hunt-a-Killer. I was gifted that and “Death in a Dive Bar” for Christmas. I generally adore the cold case file type games which have really taken off in the past year or so. Only problem is the brains behind these experiences seem afraid to make them challenging, as though sales would suffer should the experience fail to leave the average customer self-satisfied at their own cleverness. Which is why I loved the Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective series of games. That was genuinely aimed at hardcore mystery nuts, concerned purely with being a high rewarding niche experience and did not care a jot about pandering to the casual gamer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that is a fair point. The puzzles are definitely on the simpler side – ideal for dropping in and out or for involving younger players but it is on the simpler side.
      I appreciated that the whodunit angle was genuinely based on observation and reasoning which isn’t always the case with these sorts of games.
      I need to revisit Consulting Detective soon…


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