Feb. 23, 2011 at 4:50 PM ET
Nancy Drew may be 80 years old, but she's as spry as any teenager out there. What's the mysterious power that's kept her youthful despite her many decades?
Technology ... at least in part.
The famed girl detective may have got her start in good ol' fashioned paper books, but as we speak she is making her debut in an unusual new application for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
The app is called "Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch." Part game, part book, it's a new kind of hybrid app the makers are calling, well, a gamebook. And it's available for the first time starting today.
"We've tried to tell a story in a really different way and in a more immersive way," says Megan Gaiser, CEO of Her Interactive — the company behind the app.
"Shadow Ranch" is the first of what Gaiser says will be a series of Nancy Drew gamebooks coming to the App Store and created with girls ages 9 through 14 in mind.
It was way back in 1930 that Nancy Drew appeared in her first book (the kind made out of paper). Over the years, that series has sold 100 million copies while its plucky heroine has entretained and inspired generations of young women.
Meanwhile, Her Interactive has spent the last decade keeping the girl sleuth modern and relevant. The company has launched a total of 23 Nancy Drew games for the PC. Those games have sold more than 8.7 million copies.
These days, there are plenty of interactive book apps to be found on in Apple's App Store. But most of them are geared toward toddlers and young children. "Shadow Ranch," on the other hand, appears to be the first app that blends a robust young adult book with interactive elements, as well as a variety of story-related mini games.
"With the iPad and iPhone, we thought it would be a great idea to take the foundation of the Nancy Drew brand, which is books, and create a new form of mystery entertainment," Gaiser explains. "We took some elements of the books — the text — and then we combined that with a lot of multimedia elements — sound effects, music, voice over — and also some really fun game mechanics that are organic to the story."
The Nancy Drew story itself — very loosely based around elements from the 1931 book "The Secret at Shadow Ranch" — has everything you expect from a Nancy Drew reader. There's a mystery that must be solved, a cast of unusual characters and some plucky kids who think for themselves.
But along with that comes all kinds of interactive goodness. There are words that young readers can touch to reveal their definition and songs that play when tapped on. Meanwhile, readers can decide how the story plays out in good ol' choose-your-own-path style.
And then there are the games. There's a horse race that players win by putting letters together to make words, seek-and-find puzzles that task players with finding objects within an image and there are a host of word scramble games.
Gaiser said Her Interactive created the gamebook — which runs $2.99 for the iPhone/iPod version and $9.99 for the iPad version — as a way to teach kids problem solving and critical thinking skills — but in a way that's so entertaining kids won't feel like they're being schooled.
And although the app is aimed at pre-teens and early teens, what Her Interactive has found with its Nancy Drew PC games is that while young girls enjoy them, their mothers — who grew up with Nancy Drew — end up enjoying them as well.
"We're hoping that, in addition to girls playing by themselves, that this app will provide an emotional connection opportunity for moms who play this story with their girls," Gaiser says.
More than anything, Gaiser hopes the "Shadow Ranch" app and the gamebooks that follow continue to introduce Nancy Drew to more young women.
"She's such a great role model," Gaiser says. "She's gutsy, she's smart, she's resourceful. She doesn't back down and she always wins. She's a great role model in today's world."
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