The Hardy BoysI’ve always been curious about these Nancy Drew adventure games, and finally got around to looking at one. Creature of Kapu Cave, however, may not have been the best one with which to start.

In this outing, Nancy flies off to Hawaii for a working holiday as field assistant to Dr. Quigley Kim, entomologist. She soon comes across Joe and Frank Hardy, here on a working holiday of their own. They’ve been hired to do a background check on “Big Mike” Mapu and his daughter Pua. A company is thinking of using Pua in a commercial, and want to be sure there are no “skeletons in the closet”.

Of course, there is trouble in paradise. The pineapple crop is mysteriously failing, equally-mysterious things are happening at the Hilihili Research Center, and there are rumors that Kane Okala, the “rough-skinned man” of legend, is on a rampage in the jungle. It’s not going to be much of a holiday for either Nancy or the Hardy boys.

You play both sides in this game, switching from one to the other usually – though not always – via cell phone. Nancy calls the Hardys and you take them, or they call her and you take Nancy.

The interface is very simple point-and-click. The cursor changes to arrows for movement, a magnifying glass for close-ups, a “talk balloon” for speaking with people, a hand for taking or moving items, or the item itself when you’re going to use it on something.

Below the main screen are clickable objects for viewing inventory, reading the case journal (either Nancy’s or the Hardy boys’), using the cell phone, and checking on how many “Big Island Bucks” are in your wallet.

GPS systemNancy does the most running around, and has a 4×4 for transportation. It contains a GPS system that comes up automatically on entering the car. You just click on a destination and arrive there very quickly. A couple of places are already programmed in; others you learn about later and enter their coordinates manually. After that, they appear on the map.

Graphically, the game is adequate, though certainly not cutting edge, as you can tell from the screenshots. On the other hand, you won’t need a monster video card to run Creature. Speaking of which, I had no trouble, graphic or otherwise, while playing the game. It performed perfectly throughout.

So, what’s the problem here? Primarily, a lack of real investigation, and too much make-work. This is especially true on Nancy’s side of the game.

Nancy makes radio contact with Dr. Kim (somewhere out in the field), who asks her to bring something with her. The “something” is garbled in transmission, so when Nancy finally arrives, she then has to turn around and make a trip back to camp to pick up a clipboard.

Why? Nothing special has happened in the meantime, and nothing special occurs when Nancy arrives to pick it up. It’s just pointless time-wasting, especially given the long walk from where the car is parked to Dr. Kim’s field station. Nancy could just as well have brought it on her first visit, without changing a thing in the game.

Under the microscopeThere is more of the same when Nancy has to analyze specimens taken from collection points in the jungle, along with more back-and-forth to Dr. Kim, who doesn’t seem to be a very bright specimen herself.

Eventually Nancy enters a cave where she solves various puzzles. What these puzzles are doing there is anyone’s guess; no explanation of any kind is given. It’s just something for her to do.

On the Hardy boys side, it isn’t much better. Joe is knocked out early on, and spends the rest of the game in the hospital, leaving Frank to carry on alone. This involves, among other things, working out Big Mike’s favorite three-flavor sno-cone (from among nine flavors), with no clues to help.

He also has to come up with thirty “Big Island Bucks” to rent a snorkel outfit. The way to do this is by either making shell necklaces or fishing. The necklaces are really time-consuming chores. Fishing is easier and faster, but it still takes awhile.

Creepy Kapu CaveIn all this, nothing is done about Kane Okala or the dying pineapple crop. What little investigation occurs is laughable. Nancy and Frank just sort of stumble upon the answer, rather than work out any clues.

Is there even a story here? Yes, but it’s fragmented. Nancy is doing her thing, Frank is doing his, and both converge at the end in an unsatisfying finale, where the the villain has to explain everything, because there were no clues to his identity or motives.

As a mystery/detective adventure, The Creature Of Kapu Cave is a failure. The box suggests ages 10 to adult. Possibly gamers at the lower end of that range may have a good time here; adult players are advised to skip it.miniscorp