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ups: good story, great characters, positive inclusion of science, girl positive
downs: short, simple, sometimes overly formulaic

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Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave Review
review
game: Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave
three star
posted by: Laurie Taylor
publisher: Her Interactive
developer: Her Interactive
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ESRB rating: E (Everyone)
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date posted: 11:30 AM Sun Nov 19th, 2006
last revision: 11:28 AM Sun Nov 19th, 2006


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Click to read.Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave is another solid entry in the Nancy Drew series by Her Interactive. Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave begins with Nancy traveling to Hawaii to work as Dr. Quigley Kim's research assistant. The Hardy Boys are also on the island, on another mission that may have ties to Nancy's investigation. At the outset, Nancy only knows that the pineapple crop has been devastated and that rumors on a mystical power have begun to spread. With this exciting mystery, the game opens for Nancy to again find clues and solve the mystery.

As a series game, Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave is much like a book in a book series with each game following the same character and the same general design. While this could be a problem for many games which require new controls or displays to differentiate themselves from the earlier games, games in the Nancy Drew series are individualized primarily through the storyline.

Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave again relies on the typical adventure gaming point-and-click interface. The game and the narrative progress together with the player solving puzzles to learn more about the story, which in turn leads to new puzzles. The more Nancy Drew games I play by Her Interactive, the more formulaic they seem, because they are formulaic in many senses. While this would be a firmly marked point against them, their intended audience, intent, and emphasis change the normal reviewing criteria.

Instead of advances in technology or interface design, Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave stresses the character of Nancy Drew and the game's story. Serious games-while not always as stellar as mainstream games in terms of visuals and graphics-reshape typical requirements by adding innovation in terms of concerns that the games address. Her Interactive's Nancy Drew games aren't serious games in the normal usage (a usage which is still being established), but they are serious because they appeal to the atypical girl and women players. Girls and women that already play games have already committed to enjoying typical games and the requirements therein (fighting, skilled eye-hand coordination). On the other hand, girls and women who play casual games or other atypical games don't necessarily have a way to bridge into other games or into technology in general. The Nancy Drew games by Her Interactive provide this bridge in a usable and enjoyable format.

Here lies the twist for a game reviewer. The Nancy Drew games are formulaic-collect items, solve puzzles, make phone calls-but they innovate on that formula by emphasizing different cultural concerns. Nancy Drew: Danger by Design addresses girls and food with respect to the fashion industry and healthy eating habits. Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave addresses biotechnology, and girls and science more largely. For instance, Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave requires players to use basic GPS coordinates. While the GPS puzzle isn't terribly innovative, this is an area that general girl culture doesn't include. Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave focuses on science using bugs, including butterflies (while plugging scientific terminology like Lepidoptera). The entire story presents positive images of women and science while also providing scientific information. The individual characters also present positive images of women and science with Nancy Drew working for scientist Dr. Quigley Kim. Dr. Kim studies insects and she repeatedly tasks Nancy with certain tasks related to her scientific research.

Getting girls interested in science is a problem, as showcased by the need for improved scientific knowledge for all children and adults. Education tends to be easier if the topic at hand is something that the learners are interested in or care about. Some games offer explicit education-teaching players about science and testing them-while others offer collateral learning in an entertaining format. Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave offers collateral learning by including science connected to the game's narrative and by presenting a positive format for players to relate to science.

While Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave is another interesting and important entry in the Nancy Drew series, it still would be nice to have better visuals. The backgrounds are well designed and textured, but many of the characters still look simplistic. Perhaps the characters are meant to be less realistic so that they're more appealing to younger players. Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave is also fairly short. This is a problem for a game that focuses so heavily on the narrative because it means that less of the game's best is in the game. At the same time, the short length is balanced by the affordable price which is excellent for appealing to non-gamers.

Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave doesn't deviate or innovate from the Nancy Drew game format. Yet, the format is a useful method for gameplay and Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave uses it as the infrastructure for a fun game and an important message within an entertaining game. For all current and potential Nancy Drew players, and for all the other potential players, Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave is a good choice. Hopefully, the Nancy Drew games will continue to develop within their potential in the Nancy Drew series and by fostering a new series to grow with the players who already play the Nancy Drew games. Following the series' format, a number of series books have been released over the years, including several series on mystery-action nurses. Another game series could expand and alter the basic Nancy Drew format while still capitalizing on the strengths in the Nancy Drew games.

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