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Nancy Drew mystery books and games have always skewed toward older girls over the course of 85 years. But Her Interactive is going in a new direction with its latest mobile game, Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues.

The new game is targeting girls ages 5 to 8 with a mystery game that will teach the basic principles of coding. It is one more example of entertainment and education titles that are targeting girls to get them interested in science and math at an early age.

In the all-new Nancy Drew game, kids have to program their own robot puppy to help solve a mystery. The premium paid title is debuting soon on both iOS and Google Play. And it is very much outside of the core audience of 18-year-old to 34-year-old females who were audiences for previous Nancy Drew games.

“You have to look at this through the lens of a 5 to 8 year old,” said Penny Milliken, the chief executive of Bellevue, Wash.-based Her Interactive, in an interview with GamesBeat. “This fits beautifully with Nancy Drew because we were a long-time advocate of STEM [science technology engineering and math] before it became the in thing. This is a great way to introduce them to coding ideas.”

Penny Milliken, CEO of Her Interactive, shows off a Nancy Drew title for young girls.

Above: Penny Milliken, the CEO of Her Interactive, shows off a Nancy Drew title for young girls.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

As a member of Nancy’s Clue Crew, the player must find the missing project at the Harrington Prep Tech Fair. The game play shows the importance of cause-and-effect learning by introducing kids to the foundational principles of coding in an engaging, fun, and accessible manner, Milliken said.

“We did focus groups that showed us Nancy Drew is a very trusted brand,” Milliken said. “We haven’t tried this target market before. We found that parents can download this and give it to their kids without worrying about it. When you think about it, the Nancy Drew books inspired kids to pursue an education. We hope this app can inspire kids in the same way.”

The game is spread across six chapters, where players use basic sleuthing skills and apply basic programming principles to code their way through tight spots and solve the mystery. At the end of every chapter, the Clue Crew programs their robot puppy to help them out of a sticky situation. Programming difficulty increases as the story progresses, with new puppy commands in each chapter.

Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues

Above: Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues

Image Credit: Her Interactive

Players will learn principles such as spatial visualization, logical thinking, loops, pattern recognition, sequences, reading skills, algorithmic thinking, and problem-solving.The game has a lot of hidden-object puzzles. Kids have to review clues and evidence. They select undercover disguises and outfits for the Clue Crew. You can name the robot puppy, and Nancy tells you that it’s a great name.

The game’s music came from a contest from the Berkeley College of Music. A student won the contest, and Her Interactive produced her music with songwriter Tena Clark.

“Storytelling is so key to getting kids exciting and coming back to learn these foundational principles,” Milliken said. “The key for us is you are solving a Nancy Drew mystery.”

Milliken has been CEO for the past 15 months, and she has wanted to pivot in this direction for a while. She has been on the board of directors for the company. This particular title has been in the works for about nine months. About 30 people are working on the project, including outside contractors. The company has 30 employees altogether.

“I think this is a perfect time to pivot in this direction,” she said. “We still have our core line.”

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