Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave
I was not the intended recipient of this game, unfortunately she got caught up with schoolwork, so I stepped in. The last time I ventured forth with Nancy in a solo capacity was Treasure in the Royal Tower, so it was interesting to see how she had progressed.
Her Interactive are up to number 15 in the Nancy Drew franchise, and whilst she is unashamedly aimed at a teenage girl market (a market apparently worth $45 billion so why the heck not), plenty of older players, male and female alike, regularly look forward to the next instalment. To me they feel like teen games, and this one is no exception, so fans will no doubt be pleased once again.
Nancy Drew games follow a tried and true formula, with a twist and a tweak here and there, and are easily accessible to all comers. If you have played one you will instantly be able to leap into another; if you haven't played one before, the easy interface and in-game tutorial will soon have you on your way.
Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave finds Nancy in Hawaii as an entomology assistant to Dr Quigley Kim. First job upon arrival is to collect the keys to the vehicle left for you from Big Island Mike, the owner of the local tourist facility, and go and meet Dr Kim. Of course, nothing is straightforward, and Mike will only exchange the keys for a necklace which you can make from shells on the beach. So a little beachcombing is in order.
And who do you meet on the beach? None other than Frank and Joe Hardy, on a sleuthing exercise of their own. It really is a small world!
Frank and Joe have appeared before, largely (to my knowledge) as passive characters either just looking on or at the end of the phone. Here they are active participants. More than that, you get to play both Frank and Joe, as well as Nancy, flicking back and forth between them by using the telephone. For instance, Nancy calls Frank and you switch to playing Frank. Ditto in reverse. They help each other and converge in the denouement.
It's a neat little characteristic that also opens up gameplay. If you are stuck as Nancy, flip to Frank or Joe (you don't get to choose — one or the other will answer the phone) and see if you can move things forward.
The graphics in Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave are rather good and the character modelling is a step up from the last time I played. Ambient sounds provide the accompaniment rather than a soundtrack which suits the game well. Voice acting is very good to ok, but the main characters are all well done. Nancy and the Hardy Boys have a youthful exuberance about them that's in keeping with their age and plucky dispositions.
Some of the puzzles are rather good but I thought overall the puzzling let the game down. The little tasks (such as fishing or necklace making) are not forever endearing. One was fine, perhaps a second, but there are a few more than that. Making necklaces or catching fish is a way to make money, and you will need a fair chunk to rent some snorkelling equipment towards the end of the game. So you will need to do sufficient of them, and to be frugal with money elsewhere, in order to have enough.
Other puzzles (or challenges) will also cost you money to play, and their resolution is no more than trial and error. Creating Big Island Mike's favourite "shave ice" concoction is an example. Each attempt will cost you money, which will in turn mean more necklaces or fishing. You can play a little in-game video machine also, which may allow you to win some of the more exotic necklace components.
These puzzles aren't really puzzles, just repetitious filler. Walk around, find shells, leave the beach, go back, find more shells, etc. Buy bait, fish, and hope you catch fish worth more than the bait. Just chuck in the line, watch for the dipping float, then pull it out and hope. Little in game diversions if you will, but not really adding anything.
It's perhaps an aspect that the younger audience might like, but not all of them I suspect. I don't recall it being as prominent in the earlier games I played. Perhaps it snuck in in the later games. Perhaps it's just one of the tweaks I mentioned for this episode. If so, it should be toned down in episode 16, with more integrated puzzles to enhance the story being added.
The more integrated puzzles are good fun, such as sorting the collections from the specimen traps and finding your way through the underwater passage. A couple have a little timed aspect which adds to the urgency. There just needed to be a few more of them.
Like all Nancy Drew games, you can play as a Junior Detective, or choose Senior to add a modicum of complexity. As always you can access the "second chance" option should Nancy meet an untimely end.
I assume the cultural aspects of Hawaii featured throughout the game are authentic, and I have to confess I don't recall ever having played another game set in Hawaii. The story is typical Nancy; some mysterious happenings, a shadowy figure or two, some people not being what they seem; and just what is going on at the research station? Whatever it is Nancy will sort it all out. Plants and bugs abound, and there are a limited number of other characters with whom to interact.
A GPS type map and a jeep will help you get around, with a couple of locations requiring triggers in order to access them. It's a feature common to quite a few of the Nancy Drew games and it adds to the feeling of travelling through the jungles and related country.
You don't have to do everything to complete the game, and a look back over a walkthrough confirms this. This helps the flow, as it lessens the occasions on which you can't find the one thing needed to move forward. Dialogue, as always, can all be subtitled if you wish.
Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave provided me with about 5 hours of gentle entertainment, and no doubt it will take longer than that for novice players. Plus if you really like fishing and necklace making, you can engage in those activities plus play the little video game for as long as you want, which will add to the length. It's not a scary game at all, unlike some of Nancy's previous adventures, which may be a plus or a minus depending upon your preferences. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke... And I can say with confidence that Nancy's next adventure, which involves wolves and icicles, will be somewhat colder but no less warmly received.
Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2006.
All rights reserved.
Windows XP, 1 GHz or greater Pentium or equivalent, 128 MB RAM, 1 GB Hard Drive Space, 32MB DirectX compatible video card, 16 bit DirectX compatible sound card, 24x CD-ROM Drive, Mouse and Speakers.