Nancy friggin' Drew—happy birthday, baby! Our favorite slim sleuth of River Heights turns 80 this year, not that she looks her age. Botox, Pilates, intravenous chardonnay therapy—to whatever she's doing to look so fab, we say cheers. In her latest incarnation, Drew sports a trendy motorcycle jacket over a sporty striped shirt and uses some slick Ashleigh Banfield glasses to help scan for crime-scene clues. And she's kicking it these days with a new gig, as the title character in a THQ Nintendo DS game out this month: "Nancy Drew: The Model Mysteries."
Of her celebratory, birthday reimagining, we should start by saying that this isn't the first videogame version of Drew's sleuthing (it's just the latest), nor is a makeover for the teen a new fad. Quirky, multiplatform reboots are all the rage for young-adult lit serials: witness the revived Goosebumps novels (now a new series and online "theme park"); the Hardy Boys spinoffs; or this month's revamped Babysitters' Club books, which will adapt to modern times by replacing references to getting a "perm" with "an expensive hairstyle." That willingness to revise is something that Nancy and Carolyn Keene, the collective pseudonym for Drew-series writers, are particularly bound to celebrate: without a crucial series makeover in 1958 and '59, in which the publishers finally removed racist stereotypes and outmoded terms from the novels, the series would have gone the way of the Dodo. (Or at least the way of the Boxcar Children—anyone heard from those guys in a while?)
From the late '50s, it was movies, swag, more books, games, feminist dissertations about Drew's WASPy, privileged sleuthing strategy and its problems for empowered posterity. And suddenly, 80 years later, you're using a stylus to extract a dusty, top-secret dossier from its pixelated hiding spot. A great thing for the assured future of Nancy.
Well, sort of.
We'd argue that there's a ginormous opportunity for genuinely inspired interpretation in the gulf between this...
...sorry, we just fell asleep there for a second. What were we saying?
Oh, yeah: the creative gulf between the first Drew talkie, and reimagining the characters as sexy, 25-year-old bridesmaids whooping it up at a bachelorette party while being filmed for a reality-TV show (Model Mysteries). All of the younger female characters, shown from the shoulders up, are in some scanty little clubbing tops, which might be troubling on the body-image-for-children front if it weren't so hilarious. Against a bright blue sky in the outdoor scenes, with birds chirping sweetly, it looks like every girl is doing the walk of shame. (Notable exception is female pal George—short for Georgia in the books, and defined throughout Keene's novels as a sleek sidekick and cousin to Nancy—whose "tomboyish" good looks are evoked with a backward baseball cap, short haircut, a boy's undershirt, and some bicurious overalls. Subtle!) Bess Marvin, Nancy's other best friend and categorized in the books as the "plump one," always gaining and trying to lose those last five pounds, is in this game a dead ringer for Lindsay Lohan in that famous purple bikini photo shoot. (You're welcome, Tech Shifts readers. You are welcome).
The between-puzzles plot involves reality-TV fame whores, conniving girlfriends, a snafu with bridesmaids' dresses, glass shards baked into a wedding cake, and a lot of other "brought to you by Bravo" stuff. It's hard to keep track of all the word-y thought bubbles, but who's playing this to read? We're here to navigate the world of Nancy and her slutty pack of best "Housewives," not scan sentences, for Chrissake. For that, we'll buy the books.
We will, won't we? Won't we, guys? Guys?