Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes is the 25th game in the Nancy Drew series. To mark this occasion, they tried to do something really different in this game. Most of the games in the series have Nancy travelling to some exotic overseas location in order to solve a mystery, but this game has her solving a mystery right in her home town of River Heights.
Another special thing they did for this game was to fill it with characters who are regulars in the Nancy Drew book series. I thought that was a really neat touch. Another neat touch is the plot, which is unexpectedly different. Within the first ten minutes of the game, Nancy gets framed for arson and arrested. If that's not a dramatic way to start your game, I don't know what is.
The other thing that strikes me as really "different" about this game is how the culprit's identity is revealed. Normally, the culprit only gets revealed during a dramatic confrontation at the end of the game. In this game, Nancy confronts the culprit, the culprit confesses...and the game keeps going for another half hour after that, because Nancy doesn't have concrete proof of the culprit's guilt. I thought that was a creative move that really added to the dramatic tension of the situation.
I think what I'm trying to say is that they tried some new and different things in this game, and I liked that.
The characters in this game were well-done, although really, I would say that no matter what the characters are like, because they included Police Chief McGinnis. If Chief McGinnis was the only character in this game, and all he did was talk about his mustache for two hours straight, it'd get a thumbs-up from me. Alas, the Chief and his Mighty Mustache of Criminal-Catching Awesomeness only appear in cutscenes during this game, but it's still enough to get me to officially approve the cast list.
Alexei Markovic was the most well-developed character, I would say. His backstory gets revealed in pieces, instead of all at once, which makes it more interesting. Deirdre Shannon's portrayal was spot-on; she acted just like she does in the books. I haven't read any of the books in which Brenda Carlton appears, but I'm going to guess she's accurate, too. Toni Scallari, though, was probably my least favorite character, because she doesn't talk much about anything to anyone, except Bess.
This brings me to another point. You play as four different characters in this game: Nancy, Ned, Bess and George. Each character has his or her own special abilities, of sorts. For example, Deirdre is only nice to Ned, so if you want to get information from Deirdre, you need to switch to Ned. It's an interesting gameplay mechanic to have you switch between four characters semi-regularly. The complaint that people have, though, is that you switch directly between Nancy's three friends. So, if you want to switch from Bess to George, the game makes you switch from Bess to Nancy, then you switch from Nancy to George. It's an unnecessary middle step that could have been easily eliminated.
All in all, I'm giving this game a nine out of ten. They went out of their way to do something special and different for the twenty-fifth game in the series, and it really paid off. Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes is a good testament to a long-lived series. Here's hoping for the next twenty-five games!