Oh, that Nancy. She just gets all the best jobs. They may be unpaid, like in The Creature of Kapu Cave, but at least they're in cool places. She gets around more than most airline pilots. Her last mystery was set in Paris, and this time out she gets to hang out in Hawaii.
In her fifteenth PC adventure, Nancy finds work as the harried intern of a rather squirrelly entomologist on the big island. Research, as we know, is one of Nancy's intrinsic gifts. She gathers information, conducts immersive interviews, and questions findings -- she was born to be a researcher, or maybe a college professor, if she ever grows up. Dr. Quigley Kim, the bug researcher Nancy is working with, thinks she may have made the kind of breakthrough that gets you on the cover of Time magazine. However, before Quigley can find fame and fortune, Nancy needs to figure out what caterpillars have to do with the diminishing pineapple crops, whether the Hilihili Research Centre is run by an evil svengali trying to grow a new type of plant, and finally, how Frank and Joe Hardy's employer fits into the whole picture. And if that is not enough, a mythical Hawaiian creature, Kane 'Okala, has improbably come to life, and may be wreaking a new brand of eco-terrorism on the island. Before she is through, Nancy is going to suss out a thief, do some spelunking, use her phone a lot, and learn more then she ever wanted to know about bugs.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say that the sound design for this game is head and shoulders above average. As usual, Her Interactive has pretty much dropped a musical soundtrack for a slate of ambient sounds. This is unobtrusive and works subtly on your senses, lulling you into the game world. The sound of the ocean, wind chimes, the lapping of water... I just wanted to go down to the beach and spend the game there. Unfortunately, Nancy did let me know I was doing too much doddering, and not enough time sleuthing. How can one so young be such a workhorse?
One of the best new additions to the new game is the inclusion of Frank and Joe Hardy. My husband, who normally has no interest in these games but still owns every book in the Hardy Boys series from his youth, was suddenly intrigued. I must say, I have given the Nancy Drew games to many boys to play in the past and never once has anyone complained about playing a girl. But including the Hardy Boys will surely increase the appeal of these games to boys, not to mention female tweens and youths who might be growing too old for Nancy.
The Hardy Boys first made an appearance in last year's Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, but mostly as passive observers. Here their involvement is much more significant, and throughout the game, players get to control Nancy, Frank, and Joe. At various times, one character has to do specific actions or supply needed information for the others to proceed, and this is a definite step in the right direction. Jumping between players provides a bit of variety and adds a needed spice I thought was missing in the last title, Danger by Design. Most of the time, I found the game provided enough information to puzzle out when you should be playing as Nancy or one of the boys, but if you do hit what appears to be a dead end or are not sure what to do next, use your handy phone and perform a body switch.
One thing this series never does is create boring characters. This game is no different. Quigley is more comfortable dangling from a tree than working with our heroine. When she does talk, she splashes out whatever comes into her mind until someone cuts her off. On the opposite end is Malachi Craven, the brilliant, narcissistic, and demanding head of the Hilihili Research Centre. Stroke his ego and he will give you just about anything you ask for -- well, after you do a few chores for him. Finally, you have Big Mike and his daughter Pua. Mike might be doing a little illegal moonlighting when he is not running his excursion centre, while Pua is a surf champion being considered for a sponsorship deal, unless she is riding a wave of lies. No, there is never a dull moment around Nancy's people.
Voice work again is done to an exacting standard. This series has never failed to deliver in this area and Creature of Kapu Cave is no exception. Especially well done are the voices of Frank and Joe Hardy. The actors sound absolutely age-appropriate and deliver the dialogue they were given flawlessly. The voice work done for Quigley sounds appropriately off-kilter, but also right for her age. Dr. Craven's voice, meanwhile, usually drips with condescension, except when he was blowing his own horn. Finally, Big Mike has an aspect of shadiness to his voice that kept me guessing about his motives. Of course, it always helps when you have the good dialogue these games generally provide. Dialogue trees update as needed, so that information gathering is painless and multiple responses make allowances for different gamers' personalities.Continued on the next page...