Nancy Drew: The Captive Curse
First posted on 05 September 2012. Last updated on 14 September 2014.
Nancy Drew: The Captive Curse is the 24th game in the long-running Nancy Drew series from Her Interactive. I have played and enjoyed all of the Nancy Drew games, and this game is definitely among the best games in the series. I am sure it will appeal to existing fans of the franchise, but it is also a great entry to start for gamers new to the series. It has fun puzzles, an intriguing setting, good atmosphere, and memorable characters. I highly recommend it.
This time, the "sassy detective" has been hired by a German investor named Markus Boehm. Markus sends Nancy to Bavaria to solve a mystery at Castle Finster, an ancient castle that he owns and wants to turn into a profitable tourist destination. Unfortunately for Markus, a terrifying monster has been seen stalking the castle and nearby woods, and its description matches that of a fearsome beast mentioned in the castle's darkest folklore. According to the legend, the monster will not go away until it has kidnapped a young woman from the castle. Nancy soon realizes that she is being set up to be the monster's next victim! The youthful sleuth must use all of her skills to explore the castle, question and snoop on the suspects, solve puzzles and riddles, and, of course, learn all about German folklore and traditions along the way.
The game includes a colorful cast of characters, including the burgermeister named Karl, the visiting storyteller named Renate, the rambunctious child of the security guard named Lukas, and the castellan named Anja. I suspect some gamers will not know the meanings of the words "burgermeister" or "castellan", but as with other games in the series, this game is intended to enlighten as well as entertain. By the end of the game, I feel like I have really visited a castle in Germany and know a lot more about the country's unique culture and traditions.
All of the characters have a different motive implicating them in the mystery. Even the caste's owner, Markus, has a possible motive to fabricate the monster's appearances to bring more notoriety to the castle, which turns out to be more of a financial burden to him than he has let on. Karl dreams of being a board game designer instead of a manager. Nancy even gets to play a prototype of Karl's game, Raid—a mini-game that is almost good enough to justify purchasing the game just to play it! Anja turns out to be Markus' former girlfriend, but the split may not be as amiable as she implies. Lukas loves pranks and is just clever and ambitious enough to create a monster costume. Finally, Renate has a habit of showing up at the castle just as the monster sightings begin, which may be more than just a mere coincidence. All of these characters have plenty of fun and occasionally hilarious dialog. Also, Nancy's boyfriend, Ned, is having second thoughts about their relationship, and the detective will need to get some advice and make some calls to placate him. Fortunately for Nancy, Frank and Joe, the famous Hardy Boys, are available to give her advice about Ned and, of course, the mystery of the monster.
Of course, adventure games depend on clever puzzles to keep the players entertained, and this game has plenty of them to offer. Most puzzles can be solved by paying careful attention to the environment, listening to what other characters say, and reading Nancy's notebook, where she keeps notes about suspects and observations. Many of the puzzles tie in to the Germanic theme, such as deciphering codes based on German words or playing German games with Karl and Lukas. There are also a couple of mazes to navigate and the usual mix of object based puzzles, such as using a pair of tongs to move a hot lever. Some of the logic puzzles are difficult enough to challenge an adult, so younger players may want to select the lesser difficulty level. (The game offers 2 levels of difficulty: Senior Detective and Junior Detective.) This is particularly the case with a few timed puzzles. As usual with adventure games, it is important to talk to all of the characters repeatedly and follow up on all the leads listed in Nancy's notebook.
The voice acting and music in this game are as good as all the previous Nancy Drew games. The actors are convincing, and the scripting is competent. The character animations are better in this game than in previous games. Apparently, work has been done by Her Interactive to improve their 3D modeling and the characters' emotional expressions. The interface has not changed, however—this is a point-and-click game with a first-person navigation system.
I cannot find any serious criticism to this game. I expect all fans of the series to enjoy this game. The writing, puzzles, artwork, and music are all finely executed. However, the soundtrack gets repetitive after a few hours of play. I am a bit disappointed that there are no puzzles or dialogs involving beer, considering the German setting. I suppose, however, that Her Interactive has consciously chosen to avoid all references to alcohol for the sake of younger gamers, which is understandable. I am also puzzled as to why there is no dancing mini-game based on German folk dances or a cooking mini-game in which Nancy makes weiner schnitzel or other traditional German dishes. Dancing and cooking mini-games have appeared in earlier Nancy Drew games and are quite fun to play. Still, the mini-games that are included here, especially Karl's board game, are excellent.
To sum up, Nancy Drew: The Captive Curse is a brilliant and charming game as well as a wonderful addition to Her Interactive's Nancy Drew franchise. Whether you are an existing fan or a gamer new to the series, I highly recommend it. Until next time, auf wiedersehen!