oh YO here we go here we fuckin GO BRO

this is it pack it the fuck up everybody they did it it only took them five tries to absolutely goddamn nail it.

At its core, The Final Scene is a game about how there is ultimately no way to escape becoming prey to the machine of capitalism.

But I guess I should set up the story before I unpack that. Nancy and her friend Maya are at the historic royal palladium theater in St. Louis so Maya can interview movie star Brady Armstrong, whose most recent film is about to premiere there before the theater is due to be sadly demolished in three days. Maya enters Brady’s dressing room, a scream is heard, and when Nancy breaks in, the room is empty. Nancy receives a threatening phone call from a disguised voice telling her that if the demolition isn’t cancelled then Maya will die, which gives Nancy a strict three day time limit to find her friend, who is almost certainly hidden somewhere in this old magician’s theater, or cancel the demolition. She’ll work to do both throughout the game, and is met with nothing but skepticism, competition, and outright hostility by a cavalcade of shitfuck assholes who are determined to twist a tragic crisis towards their own personal gain.

It’s a decidedly different tone for this series, and while I strongly enjoy the comfortable creepiness of past entries at their best, Her pulls off a frantic, sweaty energy here arguably better. Nancy, who is only able to be characterized through dialogue and voice performance, is written completely differently in this game – she’s frazzled, and caustic; much more prone to irritable jabs and frustrated outbursts. This is a desperate situation that fucking nobody is taking seriously but you and Lani Minella sells this urgency in Nancy really well.

There’s a general streamlining to the proceedings that goes along with this idea of urgency. The theater might be the smallest space of the series so far, maybe even smaller than the school areas of the first entry, Secrets Can Kill, and you definitely have to do the least amount of backtracking through secret areas that require puzzle-solves to access. Puzzles are also pretty light and breezy in general, which could be considered a criticism but I think is appropriate for the tone and speed of play in the game, and the heavier focus on characters and narrative. This one definitely leans more on shooing you from event flag to event flag, dialog to dialog over solving a grand puzzle or piecing together a historical narrative (that element is present but takes a decided back seat). Once again the identity of the culprit is extremely clear almost from the beginning but it’s fine here imo; the WHO of it all is almost taken for granted, barely played as a reveal at all. There are simply other things going on in this game that are more interesting and important, even with that character (whose identity I will be spoiling along with everything else in the game starting in the next paragraph – if you might be interested and you care about spoilers – play the game! It slaps!)

So, capitalism will kill us, and there’s no escape. Not for the people who are routinely crushed under the heels of the wealthy and powerful, and not even for the people at the top of the heap. We are all grist for the mill, and the wheel never stops turning.

Consider Nancy Drew. A young woman in a world that hates her for being. Nobody takes her seriously, nobody listens to her. Her friend is kidnapped almost literally in front of her eyes and the cops don’t care, they just explain to her all the reasons why the kidnapping probably wasn’t a kidnapping, okay then why it was a hoax, okay then why her theories as to what’s going on that have been investigated and substantiated with evidence are wrong and her friend probably isn’t being held in the building and there’s nothing to worry about. Every man she interacts with flirts with her, condescends to her, or manipulates her for information to further a personal agenda under a veneer of being trustworthy and “one of the good ones,” taking advantage of knowledge of a woman’s place in the world, in the power structure. “You can trust me, I’m [x].” Every time it’s a lie. The only other woman she encounters has given into the system. She is cruel and selfish and urges Nancy to be like her; it’s the only way to be free, or as close to free as you can be, when this is the world. Nancy hates her, but she’s not as different as she wants to believe, as the ending of this and every game attests to. Nancy acknowledges that everything is fucked, the cops are useless or complicit, the kidnapper was barely a criminal and probably needs help and sympathy more than anything else, the people who profited here are cruel and deserve worse. But hey, crime’s crime buddy, you gotta go to jail, and I gotta girlboss, and what are we gonna do not have cops? Not have rich people? Not have bribes? Not let them get away with it as long as the courts refuse to bring justice? Nancy doesn’t have answers. It doesn’t occur to her to think about these things. This is how They get us – by assimilating us into Them, or better yet raising us like that in the first place; just, a lesser version, if it can be helped.

Consider Joseph Hughes, the elderly caretaker of the Palladium, who acts like he’s resigned to pack his shit up and move out of state to live with family when the theater that he’s dedicated his entire life to is needlessly demolished, but who in reality has concocted a slapdash plan to kidnap brady armstrong from his dressing room and ransom him for the landmark’s safety. He’s a desperate person who panics and kidnaps Maya instead when she enters the room before brady does, and things spiral further and further out of control for him until he eventually resigns himself and Maya and at last Nancy to die along with the building that has become his life. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He makes a point of treating Maya well throughout the ordeal – so well, in fact, that it’s stated during the ending monologue that she plans to testify on his behalf in court. He’s a good man with a righteous cause who plays by the rules and is stymied by a guy who has more money than him bribing the official system to destroy his entire life and getting away with it scot free. And as we so often see in real life, Joseph eventually turns on the other little people around him via combinations of desperation and misunderstandings until he’s made things bad enough that he feels he can’t take them back. This is how They get us - by making us turn on each other instead of on Them.

Consider Brady Armstrong. He is wealthy, powerful, and adored. He is revealed to be the only person known to have an ownership stake in the Palladium and therefore the mysterious person behind the demolition scheme. at the end of the game Nancy begs him not to signal the demolition to begin, she KNOWS that her friend is still in the building and she’s THIS close to proving it. At this point, we know that Brady has been bribing city hall officials to stop the theater from becoming a protected historical site. WE know that there’s a possibility of discovering the other owner if we have a little more time, but HE does not. In his eyes, he has absolutely nothing to lose by letting us look around for her, but he chooses instead to walk outside and begin the demolition, and knowingly accept the responsibility for Maya Nguyen’s death. This is how They all think. This is what it is to be wealthy. The luxury of not having to care about other people, and not having to face consequences for not caring (he doesn’t, either - Brady gets a happy ending). At the same time though, the reason brady wants to tear down the theater is because to him it is symbolic of his own existential dread; he is grossly aware of his own status as a product with a quickly diminishing shelf life. He worries about his wrinkles, his muscles, his rapidly receding hairline; he knows that when these qualities are gone he'll be discarded by the culture that supposedly adores him as easily as he discards the little people around him. Brady wants this theater gone because he looks at it and he sees an old, outdated husk of something that used to be. That he needs a place to break ground on a new business venture to secure his legacy and financial future is almost immaterial; he even admits that he could do it anywhere, which is what he does do at the end of the game when the theater is saved at the last minute.

Because of course it is. This isn’t fuckin full metal jacket guys it’s goddamn Nancy Drew colon The Final Scene from 2001, you bought it for like nine dollars in a cardboard sleeve at Walmart. Her Interactive did not intentionally make a scathing indictment of our entire social and economic world order, they just made a game set in it, starring a person whose values conform to its popular values, and unfortunately it’s really hard to do that WITHOUT making it come off as a scathing indictment. The game ends with the same cheery letter from Nancy to her dad, the same saccharine slideshow telling you what happened to all the characters, the same declaration that next time she’ll be off on another vacation in a fabulous locale without her boyfriend (does she LIKE Ned like are they gonna break up or what serious question when do they see each other). It’s just that this time the events were so stark and the resolution so upsetting that the feelings hang in the air long after the credits roll, suffocating, impossible to ignore.

We are all grist for the mill. The wheel never stops turning.

NEXT TIME: SECRET OF THE SCARLET HAND
https://www.backloggd.com/u/wowgoodname/review/219441/

Reviewed on Sep 24, 2021


9 Comments


23 days ago

fantastic piece!!!!!

22 days ago

thank you!! i felt good about it haha

all of these games are cop games to varying degrees but this one is overtly political in a way that makes the unintentional politics shine through even stronger, on top of the game part just being excellent

22 days ago

it’s just fun just a cool game

20 days ago

god i fucking LOVE the final scene, it has such a razor sharp edge and tension and just hammering home that Nancy is on her own fighting the overwhelming systemic odds. It slaps.

20 days ago

i really haven’t been able to stop thinking about since i finished, it’s CLEANLY at the top of the ranking so far for me. the way EVERY SINGLE other character is actively working against nancy when they KNOW the stakes are a completely innocent person’s life and all of their reasons (with the sole exception of the ostensible villain who arguably doesn’t even intend to do any harm until he fully breaks at the very end!!) are SO petty. I definitely think these games are best at crafting tone in general but this one proving they can seemingly do any tone and not just standard Cozy Mystery template ones is impressive on top of everything about it just being like, positively unfortunate (complimentary)

15 days ago

Weirdly I'm on the opposite end with this one. I mostly dislike this game thanks to the game insisting of having so much time dedicated to phone conversation and most of it isn't even very interesting phone conversation. It's also quite obvious who the villain I'd throughout which for me diluted the ending somewhat. It's not the worst for me but I do feel it's down there.

I will say maybe part of it is I lean more towards puzzles and this doesn't have a lot of them so maybe that's why it ranks lower.

15 days ago

I don't think it's weird necessarily to not be down for this, I think if you come to these for the Traditional Nancy Drew Experience then it's definitely not one of those, I just think that out of the ten I've played so far it's the one that tries to do something different most successfully.

To your point about the phone calls, I think its obvious from the content of my review that I love them precisely because they're so frustrating and largely fruitless, with the one piece of evidence that ends up saving the day coming by complete luck and the begrudging willingness of a stranger to go out of his way for Nancy but like, not TOO far out of his way, and I love the cop guy who is a truly insipid person who at first seems well-meaning but tied by procedure and eventually reveals himself to be just as jaded and above all else self centered/lazy as everyone else in the game.

To your second point, I have figured out who the villain is from literally the very first conversation with them in every single game up until Secrets of Shadow Ranch, the most recent one I played, where it became clear by midgame instead, so I guess the WHO of it has always been less meaningful to me with these than the why and how, and I still think that so far for me this is the top of the heap.

finally though I think this all comes back to the last thing you say: you like the puzzles, and having seen a couple of your reviews when I post mine it seems like you prefer when the exposition doesn't drag on (forgive me for assuming haha), whereas I love when I the dialogues pop up and there are like ten things to click on, and the puzzles are less important to me as long as what's there is good. I think I mention in the review that like you say this is a smaller game with fewer puzzles and an emphasis on talking to the characters and that does include a lot of phone stuff and I def get why that's not everybody's cup of tea. But for me, obviously, it sings.

15 days ago

"it seems like you prefer when the exposition doesn't drag on" - Got it in one. When it comes to exposition, I very much cement myself on the side of 'less can be more' and story through context clues, setting and style can tell a lot in a more satisfying manner. It doesn't mean I don't like dialogue and story, I mean there's one or two Nancy Drew games where its puzzles above all else and those rank pretty low too (Hi Shattered Medallion).

When it comes to adventure gaming, three things can damage the experience for me. Over explanation/exposition, repetitive tasks and nonsensical game logic (examine a random painting. Oh now a door on the other side of the house is unlocked. For no reason). Nancy thankfully doesn't stray into that third problem too much but I've had plenty of the other two with my time with the series. I get why though (Budgettttt).

I am looking forward to your opinion on some of the later ones... Especially the one I consider the worst in the series (Though I don't think anywhere sells Ransom of the Seven Ships anymore).

15 days ago

Oh yes I actually was looking at the list yesterday and noticed seven ships was discontinued so I’m looking into torrents and archives and stuff, hopefully I’ll find it but worst case scenario I did find a guy on YouTube who very cutely goes by The Nancy Drew Dude and seems to have uploaded playthrough a of every game, so I should be covered