Reviewed: October 21, 2006
Released: October 16, 2006
In Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave , the fifteenth installment of Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew adventure mystery game series, players accompany the teen sleuth to tropical Hawaii to investigate a sudden and suspicious explosion in the population of pineapple-pillaging caterpillars.
This time, Nancy teams up with the Hardy Boys in her search for clues through various island locales, ranging from sunny beach and rainforest to secret research facility and volcanic cavern.
As with Nancy’s last adventure, the game starts the player off with an optional and fully voiced-over tutorial for those new to the series. The controls, as before, are simple and straightforward – most actions can be completed by simply pointing and clicking with the mouse – so they should be easy to pick up even for younger gamers and those new to computer games.
There are also two difficulty levels – Junior and Senior – which mostly determine the difficulty of the puzzles. For the purposes of reviewing the game, I chose the Senior level, but even at this higher challenge setting, I found the puzzles to be not difficult at all. They are significantly easier to solve than those featured in the previous installment and seem to involve simple pattern-recognition and reading skills more than anything else.
In order to advance in the game, the player will be asked to learn bits and pieces of Hawaiian folklore, culture, and perhaps a bit of the ecology, though it can be difficult to tell which segments are actually educational and which are simply part of the fictional world of Nancy Drew. From what I could tell from some quick research, the brief introduction to Hawaiian plants and some of the folklore is actually true, but most of it (like the legend of monstrous Kane ‘Okala) is completely made up. That’s not to say that the fictional aspects detract from the game, but parents purchasing this game for their children (for instance) may want to note that the educational value of this game is probably mostly limited to the simple puzzles I mentioned earlier.
The main difference this game has from previous Nancy Drew games is that you can switch between Nancy and one of the Hardy Boys by calling the other party on the phone. Sometimes switching characters and passing information between them will be necessary to advance the story, but calling up the Hardy Boys also allows the player to take a break from the mystery and play a few mini-games instead – like fishing or making necklaces from shells found on the beach.
As with the last Nancy Drew title, however, the game mostly consists of traveling through mostly static environments, clicking on something once in a while, and solving a handful of puzzles. Since the puzzles were so easy this time around, and there were fewer interactive elements in the environment, I felt the gameplay left a bit to be desired.
The 3D-rendered backdrops and brief cut scene cinematics are, like last time, detailed and fairly lifelike and scenic, especially the beach and underwater locations. The character animations have noticeably improved, especially in the faces during speech, but their bodily motions still look a bit stiff and doll-like.
Unlike Danger by Design, Creature doesn’t use cheap-looking stock photography and instead relies on the beautifully rendered 3D images, which I think was a good choice.
The Creature of Kapu Cave includes fully voiced-over dialogue, even during the tutorial, which may be a relief to players who prefer spoken dialogue to onscreen text. The voice acting is decent for its purpose, and the character voices match the game’s lighthearted tone.
The ambient sound effects convey the atmosphere very well, and the background music is, while unremarkable, appropriately low-key and undisruptive.
While it retails for only $19.99, keep in mind that Creature is a very, very short game. Part of this is due to the fact that the puzzles are so easy to solve, but I completed the game in only a handful of hours (the endgame presented me with the “wikiwiki” award for completing it in such a short time), and as the game is linear and has only one ending, there’s no real reason to go back and play it again.
A very short, very easy, family-oriented adventure game, The Creature of Kapu Cave is probably best suited to children and Nancy Drew fans who really don’t want to miss a single chapter. While the tropical environment is inviting, and the game honestly isn’t all that bad, it’s a bit expensive for such a short diversion, and most gamers will probably go for something with a little more substance for the same price.