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Feature Review

Nancy Drew's Codes and Clues
Price: $3.99
Runs on: iPad, iPhone, Android, Kindle
Ages: 6-8
For grades: 1, 2, 3
Teaches: problem solving, coding
Languages: English
Scaffolding: no scaffolding
Find out who sabotaged the school's science fair by solving over 20 "hidden object" style, seek and find puzzles, plus some very rudimentary programming challenges. The modernized illustrations, excellent music and narration comes from the Nancy Drew and friends animated series. Besides targeting younger girls, this new Nancy Drew has a nontraditional animated look, similar to a "Carmen Sandiego" title, and the story line that mixes fashion, school drama and a "girls can code" message.

In the story you try to find out what happened to a science fair exhibit by collecting clues, found in 20 easy, hidden picture puzzles. You can often guess the items, and a hint feature that shows you the answer. As you play through the six chapters in sequence, you narrow your list of suspects.

Content includes 20 hidden object puzzles, the ability to collect and review the clues you gather, the ability to choose "undercover disguises" for Nancy, Bess and George (like multiple choice) and collect in-game charms. The music is excellent (by Ana Tish, performed by Sofia Mazursky and Tena Clark).

The six programming challenges start easy and get harder. They involve moving Nancy's robotic dog to a target by dragging and dropping procedure tiles onto a timeline. This method of visual "programming" has become very common (see The Foos, for example). The commands include procedures like forward, jump, float, bark and kick. There's a hard to find loop option as well, but there's no real reason to use it because you learn that you can solve a puzzle by using the commands one at a time. Also, because the challenges are shown in 3D (not 2D), and it's not possible to change directions in the early levels, it's hard to visualize the initial challenge.

The bottom line? It's clear that a lot of hard work went into the design of this app, but the elements don't always have a lot to do with "codes and clues." A more accurate title might be Nancy Drew's Hidden Objects."

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CTR Jun 16 Feature Review Entered 05/18/2016 by Warren Buckleitner, Modified 12/13/2016 by SOM