Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave
First posted on 04 December 2006. Last updated on 25 October 2012.
Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave, Her Interactive's 15th installment in the popular graphical adventure game series based on the Nancy Drew series of juvenile detective novels, contains an interesting mix of themes: Hawaiian folklore, entomology (insect science), and botany (plant science). Fans of the series will particularly enjoy being able to switch control between Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Frank and Joe. While perhaps not as engaging as some of the previous adventures in this outstanding series, Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave is nevertheless a fun way to spend an evening in the company of Nancy Drew and her partners in puzzle solving.
Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave begins as Nancy is summoned to Hawaii in order to serve as a research assistant to Dr. Quigley Kim, an entomologist convinced that she is about to make the scientific discovery of the century. However, things quickly get complicated after Nancy arrives on the island. For starters, Nancy finds that she is not the only crime buster on the island—Frank and Joe Hardy are also on assignment. They have been hired by CEO Richard Aikens to scope out Pua Mapu, a professional surfer girl that Aikens' Biotech company is planning to sponsor. Pua's father, Big Island Mike, runs the Immersion Excursion, a tourist's paradise. Both Big Island Mike and the Hardy Boys warn Nancy about Kane Okala, a cursed man dredged up from fearful Hawaiian myths. According to Big Island Mike, the secret research taking place on the island's HiliHili Research Facility has angered one of the island's goddesses, who has unleashed Kane Okala to wreck havoc on the island. When Nancy arrives at Dr. Quigley's camp and finds it ransacked and nearly destroyed, it may be a sign to accept the truth of these legends. However, things are not quite adding up. First, Dr. Quigley is convinced that something very strange is occurring with the wasp population, which has been growing at an unheard of rate. Secondly, someone sneaking around Big Island Mike's excursion center takes a swipe at Joe, knocking him out and leaving only a pawn shop receipt behind. Finally, Nancy must confront the egotistical and somewhat maniacal Malichi Craven, a gifted botanist who seems to be up to no good at his super secret research facility and has accused Dr. Quigley of stealing an access card to get into his facility. It is up to Nancy and the Hardy Boys to figure out who—or what—is responsible for all of these strange and seemingly unconnected events.
Fans of the Nancy Drew series will no doubt be pleased by this game's richly detailed and vibrant graphics. The lush vegetation and beaches are represented quite well. The water moves realistically and the jungle teams with insect life. With the exception of the actual cave which gives the game its title, the scenes are bright and do much to put the player in the pleasant mood of an actual tourist—it is a joy to behold. The characters are finely detailed and fully 3D, with convincing facial and bodily movements. The ambient sound and Hawaiian themed music are both excellent, though the latter is a bit limited and eventually gets repetitive. The voice acting, however, is superb, and adds greatly to the dramatic tension of the game.
Unlike most games in the Nancy Drew series, this game focuses primarily on puzzles and action sequences rather than dialog and intrigue to keep the player entertained. In a game featuring so few truly interesting characters, this is probably a good thing. There is comparatively little dialog among the surprisingly underdeveloped cast of characters. Dr. Quigley and Malichi are both eccentric genius types too focused on their research to pay Nancy or anyone else much attention. Likewise, Pua is about as dull as it can possibly be for a surfer girl, self admittedly interested in surfing and nothing else. Indeed, the only character with any flair is Big Island Mike, who comes across with the bustling energy and cologne drenched charm of a good used car salesman. Of course, switching back and forth between Nancy and the Hardy Boys leads to some humorous dialog that helps make up for the lack of interaction with the other characters.
Most of the game is spent engaged in solving fairly straightforward logic puzzles, though there are also arcade like sequences. The logic puzzles are quite simple and should not stump a seasoned adventurer for long. For instance, a sound puzzle requires the player to find and then enter a sequence of sounds heard elsewhere in the game (hard of hearing players need not fret—the tones are also spelled out in subtitles). There is a bit of Soduku in the form of numbered solar panels, and a very interesting plant fertilizer puzzle that may not feel out of place even in the Myst series. There is also a fair amount of science based activities to perform, such as collecting, sorting, and analyzing frass (bug detritus). The Hardy Boys get to engage in all sorts of money raising activities for Big Island Mike, such as gathering shells to make necklaces, flavoring shaved ices, catching fish, or snorkeling. The fishing activity is, like real fishing, a bit on the tedious side at times, but it is always fun to watch the cork start bobbing and raise the rod just in time to snare a fish. There is plenty of educational material presented within the game about Hawaii folklore and traditions, some of which Nancy will need to enter a secret cavern.
The game's interface is remarkably intuitive and should not trouble even the most novice player. Navigation is accomplished by clicking the mouse on various hotspots, which are identified by a change in the mouse pointer to indicate direction. Areas that can be zoomed in for exploration cause the mouse to change to a red magnifying glass, and are large enough to make pixel hunting unnecessary. Likewise, Nancy or the Hardy Boys will provide subtle clues for tricky puzzles, and there is always the wonderful Second Chance feature, which allows the player to instantly resume play just before a fatal decision. Nancy and the Hardy Boys also keep notebooks of important events, which can the player can refer back to at any time.
Perhaps the only complaint that anyone may have about this game is its terseness. The end comes a bit suddenly and unexpectedly, and the epilogue goes on a bit longer than usual to tie up all the loose ends left by the abrupt ending. While it is refreshing to play a game that does not waste the player's time with boring filler, some players may find themselves disappointed to have to reach the end so soon. Some parts of the game, such as an interesting looking device in the Hilihili Research Facility, appear to have been elements in puzzles that, for whatever reason, have never made it into the final version. In any case, suffice it to say that there are far worse problems that can befall a game than a player's grief that it has not lasted longer.
In short, Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave is an excellent game in an excellent series of games. Although the Nancy Drew series is ostensibly designed for young girls, all fans of adventure games owe it to themselves to give these fine games a chance.