Nancy Drew: The Phantom of Venice

Ah, bella ItaliaMolto bene, Her Interactive!

I love Italy, and the Italian language, and opera, and basically have always wanted to visit Italy and Venice in particular.  I love the culture, the history.  I love how Italian is such a pleasant language to listen to.  Have I mentioned I love opera?

So, how did I feel about this game?

I liked it.

This is one of those games that is definitely replayable (this was my second time finishing the title).  I also feel like it’s one of the easier games to get through–I had to use my own notes very infrequently, and only checked online for hints when I got totally stuck on a puzzle, which was about twice in this game.  I did have some issues figuring out logically where I should go next, but usually making the rounds of the places I still knew I had puzzles left to solve got me on the right track.

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Puzzles like figuring out which pigeon is the one carrying a message for a shady Italian mafioso.  Frankly harder than you’d think.

In this game, Nancy is doing a favor for (brace yourself) Prudence Rutherford, my least favorite recurring phone character.  Prudence has recently sold her “beloved” house in Venice to Margarita, an equally annoying old woman.  Luckily, Nancy only has to deal with one of them multiple times throughout the game.  Nancy’s fellow Ca’ mates are Colin Baxter, an art restoration expert who has been doing work for all of Venice’s upper class families with historic homes, and Helena Berg,  a German reporter who did a story once in Venice and fell in love, and now returns as often as she can.

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I mean, I can see why Prudence loves it, but not gonna lie, I liked it way more because I don’t have to interact with that woman.

Nancy is there to help the GdiF (the Italian FBI, as the game explains it) figure out who is operating as Il Fantome, and stealing priceless works of art from various high society homes, often during parties when attention is directed elsewhere.

Nancy being Nancy, she immediately sets off trying to solve any and all puzzles she comes across.  Luckily, though, she is mostly kept on task by the GdiF agent who is her contact.  As the game progresses, Nancy has to track a pigeon, spy on a dude in a nearby office, go undercover, and infiltrate a ring of art thieves.  It’s a lot of fun, and feels like a more tame version of Mission Impossible.

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As usual, the setting was a big highlight for me.  I did wish we’d been able to see more of historic Venice, but we were shown just enough of the city to give it a good sense of place.  I was a little sad the canals weren’t more heavily featured–it’s possible to play the game without ever even realizing Venice is entirely water-bound and has no real roads–but if you want you can hire yourself a singing gondolier and listen to variously well performed opera arias while being shown the same few scenes of the city until you reach your destination.  It’s a feature I mostly used so I knew what it was like, and not because I was actually interested in singing gondola rides.

The characters were fun, but seemed like we’d been there before.  Colin was a very familiar feeling character.  He particularly reminded me of Dave from Shadow Ranch.  Margarita was a fairly obvious Prudence stand-in (presumably so they didn’t have to listen to that horrible voice the entire game–and can I just say thank heaven they didn’t make calling her more than once mandatory, like it was with Franklin Rose in Scarlet Hand!).  Helena Berg gave me Lisa flashbacks (from Royal Tower), although I do think Helena is much more well thought out as a character, and I like her a lot more than I like Lisa.  Enrico was interesting, and I enjoyed Scopa.  I actually got a little too invested in it sometimes, and found myself actually interested and strategizing.  This is why I like card games better than board games–they’re easier for me to grasp conceptually because there’s a physical representation of everything that happens during play and for scoring.

The big draw for this one is one hundred percent the spy aspect for me.  It reminded me of sneaking around the castle in King’s Quest VI, or this really old game called Castle Explorer where you had to go undercover in a baron’s castle to find out if he was loyal to the king or not.  I loved being sneaky, wearing different disguises, and pretending to be the mysterious Samantha Quick.

Once again, we’re not given the option of calling both Ned and Bess, which, as usual, annoyed me, but this game has a fun dynamic with Ned visiting the Hardy’s and letting Joe work on his car.  Highly worth calling Ned multiple times, just to see what’s happening now.  While I do prefer Frank if I have to pick a Hardy boy, I love Joe, too, and totally love his snarky commentary on everything, and his ability to sound sure of himself when he’s totally not.  He’s such a great character, and getting to see him (or, hear him, I guess) interact with Ned and without Frank was so much fun.

This game is probably third on my list to recommend to new players (my number one pick is still Haunted Carousel).  It’s a little bit of a departure for the games, but not enough of one that I’d worry new players would get a false impression of the series as a whole.  Four out of five stars!

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Images are, as always, not mine.  Let me know if you want your image credited or removed!

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Belushi (male crowntail blue betta)

It’s always hard to find an animal dead, especially one that you’ve put time and effort into.  Belushi was a rescue betta that I took from my friend.  I say “took,” but the reality is more she convinced me to take him.  When I first saw him in person, it wasn’t love at first sight, but more of a determined feeling of “Well, you are mine now, and damn it all, I am going to make sure you have the best life ever.”

I don’t know if he had the best life ever, but he certainly had a good one.  I’ve gone through a lot of different feelings about Belushi since I got him.  My first instinct toward him was “This fish is fat.  Like, I have never seen an obese fish before, but this is my first.”  My second instinct was “This little dude has dropsy and I’m going to be back down to one fish by next week.”  I was wrong about that second one, but Belushi never did slim down.

When he came to me, he was already about a year old, probably more like a year and four months, if his size was anything to go by.  I’m not sure where my friend got him, but he had all the hallmarks of a betta who’d spent a significant portion of life in a cup.  He liked smaller spaces, was fascinated with places to hide, had striking and obvious aversions to certain colors, and never quite forgave me for upgrading him to a hang-on-back filter from his previous airstone.  There was many a time when I’d find him nosing around in the corner farthest from the filter and tell him, “Excuse me for wanting your habitat to be like, you know, clean?”  Of course, being a fish, he just continued hating his filter and being generally fishy.  He’s the only fish I’ve ever had who actually managed to kick gravel up into the filter intake and burn out the filter motor–as a matter of fact, I didn’t even know that was possible until Belushi.

After some trial and error, and a switch from a five gallon to a 2.5, as well as a much less powerful filter, he seemed to forgive me.  He certainly never turned down food–I was taking too long to feed him once and he jumped out of the water and butted the betta bit out of my fingers.  Nerd.

The friend I rescued him from had never kept fish before.  Well, that’s not quite true, I think they had some gold fish their mother considered entirely disposable back when they were kids–she’d let them play with the fish in the bathtub!–but she’d never been the sole person responsible for a fish before.  As it turns out, it was not for her.  Understandable–everyone’s different and not everyone is cut out for pets.  Upon retrieving Belushi and his tank and decor, I quietly but immediately realized I would need a few more supplies than I’d assumed.

My first purchase was the hang-on-back filter, followed by some nice, natural looking plants and a few tank ornaments, and a bag of “natural” gravel.  His decor went through a few changes along the way, but as long as he had nice open ornaments to swim in and out of, he was happy.  I also very seriously considered dosing his tank a few times, since his crowntail fins were so tattered.  Eventually I came to the conclusion that any fin rot he might have experienced was gone, and the reason his fins looked so jagged was partly down to him also being a double tail of some sort.  I was reassured that this was the right idea when after a few months, I started to see brilliant turquoise on his caudal and dorsal fins.  All that said, I have never seen a crowntail with such irregular fin spikes (or whatever you call those).  I’m guessing his destroyed fins never quite grew back.

One thing I’ve often said about Belushi is that, while I did not choose him, I have him anyway, and I’m going to take care of him.  That’s what responsible pet ownership is–taking care of a pet (even one as small as a fish) even though you aren’t excited about it anymore (and for the record, this is entirely different from someone realizing they can’t take care of their pet anymore).  The longer I had Belushi, the fonder I grew of him.  Although he’ll never be my favorite fish (although he might have my favorite name I’ve ever given a pet–named for his size, after actors Jim and John Belushi) I enjoyed having him, and wasn’t expecting his death quite so soon.

I found Belushi’s little fishy body about a week ago, crammed into one corner of the tank, looking like someone had picked up a handful of slime and smacked it down in that spot.  It was later at night when I found him, so I suspect he’d been dead almost a full day at that point.  I do my tank checks at night, usually, and hadn’t seen anything unusual the day before.  After tapping fingers near him did nothing, and I had verified that he wasn’t just hiding under one of his tank decorations, I got the fish net and scooped him out.  If it hadn’t been obvious already, he stank of dead fish the moment he left the water.  My brief inspection revealed no signs of illness.  He was just old, especially for a pet store fish.

Once I’d dealt with his body, I had a weird moment of not knowing how I felt.  Two very different thoughts were running through my head.  The first was “Well, I never really wanted him anyway.”  The second was, “But he wasn’t supposed to die yet!”  I think the first was my brain’s way of trying to comfort me at the loss of a pet.  And it’s okay not to know how to feel about a pet dying, especially one you haven’t been very attached to.  I liked Belushi, but he wasn’t my first fishy love, and he hadn’t caused me anywhere near as much worry and heartache as my other male betta–who has literally kept me up nights worrying about him, the stinker.

It took me a few moments of reflection, but once I’d sorted through all the conflicting things my brain was telling me, I settled on “Belushi was an old fish, but I am still sad he’s dead.”

Will I get another male betta?  Yes, of course.  But probably not until after Christmas.   I have quite a few fish at the moment, and making sure all of them are properly cared for and settled into my new tanks is my priority at the moment.  Once that’s done, and the holidays are over, I’ll start seriously looking.

For now, rest in fishy peace, Belushi.  You were a good, chill dude, and I’ll miss you.

Hotel Stories

This post has more profanity than I normally use.  Consider yourself warned.

Let me tell you all some stories of the last weekend I worked at my old hotel.

I had given my two week’s notice and almost immediately, shit started to go down.  I was getting scheduled for crap shifts, my request off forms that I’d completed months in advance were suddenly not honored, and I was informed I’d have to work both weekends.  All three days.

For those who don’t know how the hotel industry works, there are two types of weekends.  The first type is the type where you stand there and wonder why the hotel even bothers staying open with this few guests.  The second is the type where you stand there and try not to cry because everything is fucked.  Weekend number one is emphatically the latter.  In fact, weekend number one has the only thing that is guaranteed to make me want to shoot myself in the foot to avoid working–Hockey Dads.

Hockey Dads are the literal worst.  Among the things I have seen them do are:

  • blatantly hit on me with their wife/wives standing feet away
  • drink copious amounts of Budweiser and Miller and leave about 60 cans and/or bottles sitting out in the lobby for me to take care of
  • hit on various other women staying at the hotel
  • catcall anyone vaguely feminine looking who walks by their table
  • complain about kids running through the halls
  • refuse to control their own children, even though they’ve just complained to me about someone else’s kid
  • full on deny a child they checked in with is theirs to avoid getting in trouble

This is just the shit I remember off the top of my head.

I had Thursday off, so when I came in to work on Friday, I was met with not only a hotel undergoing both indoor and outdoor renovations, and full of hockey teams and their parents, but with a broken elevator.  A part is on order, I am told, and won’t be in until Monday at the earliest.  It was highly tempting to just walk back out the door.

Admittedly, at this point I am a week away from no longer having to work at this hotel, so I don’t give a fuck what happens to me anymore.  I start answering the phones, “Thank you for calling [hotel], my name is Jennifer.  We’re sold out tonight and tomorrow, but if you’d like to make a reservation for a future date, or have any other questions I’d be happy to help you out!”  I got a lot of hang-up calls.

One hockey dad has taken it upon himself to harry any hotel employee he can about when will the elevator be fixed, hmm?  Did you even call anyone yet?  The first time he asks, I assure him the necessary part is on order, and if he has a rewards account with us I’ll make sure he gets credited points for the inconvenience.  The second time he does this, I am less nice, and the third time he does this, I snap.  “Sir,” I say, in my best I Am A Fucking Professional Who Deserves Your Respect, Damn It” voice, “do I look like an elevator repair man?”

He stood there, looking stunned, while his wife, who’d come down and heard the whole exchange, smacked his arm and furiously told him to stop bothering me.  Every time I saw him for the rest of the night I’d wave and say “Still not an elevator repair man!” and watch his face turn pink.

Later that night, after checking a guest into his room, he decides to come back down and tell me all about his plans for the night, followed by a “What time do you get off?”  In no mood to fend off some drunk asshole’s advances, I answer, “Not soon enough” in a voice I’ve perfected over the years to sound like I’ve just been attacked by seven dementors and had my soul sucked out of my body.  He stammers for a few seconds, then leaves.  I am pleased.

A woman on the phone with a taxi company came down and demanded I tell her the hotel’s address immediately.  I pointed to our little selection of business cards and told her “any of those would have the correct address.”  She continued to just look at me, so I picked up one of the cards with the GM’s name on it, handed it to her, and smiled.  She took the card on reflex, while trying to protest “No, just tell me the–never mind.”

I regret nothing.

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Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull

Somebody out there loves me.

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After the debacle that was White Wolf of Icicle Creek, the last thing I wanted to do was keep going with this little attempt to play my way through every Nancy game.  But I’d already downloaded this one, and the internet connection went out, so I sucked it up and figured if I hated this one too, I could just shut it down and read a book for a while.

Great news:  I loved this game!

There were a couple actual scary moments, some really great puzzle design, I loved the characters and the setting, and I enjoyed getting to play as Bess.  I kind of wished we’d been able to see Bess, but this is almost as good.

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Lamont, in a scene from Bess’ perspective.

The story was pretty well thought out this time–mysterious crystal skull, possible murder, several really great suspects for the mysterious circumstances surrounding the Bolet estate, and of course, a maze of puzzles for Nancy to swan off and solve even though they’re meant for Bruno Bolet’s relatives, not Nancy.  I did like that the puzzles really seemed to fit with the actual thrust and point of the mystery this time–it was pretty obvious we were solving these things to find the crystal skull from the first point we learned of it’s existence.  I also liked that there were some things Bess had to do for Nancy–like getting into certain places, talking to a few people, and information gathering from outside the Bolet estate.

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The garden area of the Bolet Estate.

I also really liked the character designs.  Henry Bolet and Lamont in particular stood out to me as really cool looking characters, and Renee was almost there, although she and Dr. Buford do hit the uncanny valley for me where Henry and Lamont don’t.  The characters themselves were strong in this game, too.  Even without a ton of backstory for them, they came through very clear as characters, and you got a sense they had other interests, other things to do, and weren’t just populated to serve as gatekeepers for whatever task Nancy has to do next.

The thing that makes these two elements really work for the game, though, is the setting.  This is another of those games with a really strong sense of place, and the Southern Gothic aesthetic really cements the mystery in place with this creepy, anything could happen vibe.  The constant rain, the ambient sounds, the music, the sound effects, the dark but lush backgrounds, the set designs . . . this all works together to create this really, delightfully creepy mystery story.  I actually jumped at least once during gameplay.

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Henry Bolet, Ned’s friend and our um . . . host? (We kind of gate-crash his house and then stick around despite him clearly not wanting us there.)

It’s not a perfect game, though.  There are four puzzles I can think of off the top of my head that were not great.  The first is the repetitive combing of the cemetery directory you have to do.  How about no?  That one really wasn’t so bad, though, I’d have done that one again without complaining too much.  The second is the final eyeball puzzle, once you have all 25 of them.  I am not good at the whole combing through parts of words to see if they make other words thing.  It’s probably because I’m such a fan of good spelling and grammar in real life that when I am asked to look at a paragraph of text and find hidden words, I can’t do it unless I have a word list.  The third puzzle that I disliked was the wasps puzzle, not because it was hard, but because it got progressively harder the more you used it.  Which is unfair, since you are required to play this mini-game at least three times to complete the game itself.  It felt like being punished for wanting to finish the game.  And finally, the skee-ball puzzle.  Or whatever you want to call it.  Around here, we’d call that skee-ball, but I’m sure it has different names in different places.  That one probably took me two solid hours to finally complete, and that’s not counting the times I got so frustrated I quit and came back later.  That is just the time I finished the darn thing.

I also think the pay off for most of these puzzles was way under what it should have been.  In the early Nancy games, when Nancy had to solve a puzzle or find all the pieces to something, the payoff for what was inside was usually the final piece you needed to solve some other, bigger puzzle, or a letter or article that gave you a big clue.  The majority of puzzles here pay off with a single eyeball.  Yes, you do need all twenty-five of these eyeballs to finish the game, but it did get to a point where I was going “I bet when I finish this long, complicated task, all I’m going to get is a dumb eyeball.”  You really don’t want to get your audience annoyed like that, especially when some of the puzzles to get the eyeballs are so stupidly hard they take two hours to complete, not counting ragequits.

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Dr. Buford, enjoying a bowl of crawfish and a little conversation with Bess.

Overall, though, this was a great game, and a much needed break from the slew of meh and “please, no” I’d been dealing with over the past few games in the series.  I rate this one a solid, delighted four out of five stars.  Actually, I probably rate it more like four and a half out of five.  I already have plans to replay this one next year during Halloween.

Images, as always, from Google.  Please let me know if I’ve used yours and you want it removed or credited.

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

So, I like a lot of different things.  If you’ve poked around my blog at all, you may have noticed that I like books, and computer games.  I also like supernatural/horror television shows, fishkeeping, superhero movies, small animals (especially rodents), make up, and dolls.  For a while I was so into dolls that my entire bookcase was filled with Monster High dolls.

Anyway, the point of all this is just to let anyone out there reading this little ol’ blog that I’m going to post some random content that’s not just Nancy Drew reviews (although my Legend of the Crystal Skull review is coming along nicely).  For sure I have some makeup product reviews coming up, and I want to talk about being a pet owner and responsible animal husbandry type stuff (except not as boring as that sounds, I swear!)

So, like, don’t be surprised when I suddenly start talking about eyeshadow palettes or keeping fish, or why I hate Mattel (I don’t really, I just also think they come in and ruin everything as soon as they smell money).

Love you all!  Happy holidays to you, whichever ones you celebrate, and if I’m not back before Christmas, then for sure you’ll be getting some posts in January!

 

Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek

*I will not be using photos from the actual game for this review, because I just can’t bear to look at it long enough to even pick through other people’s screenshots.  Instead, enjoy a selection of hand-curated gifs that illustrate my frustration and dislike with this game.

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What–why–what?

Here is problem number one for me:  I have very rarely heard a poor review of this game.  So, naturally, I was expecting a really solid game with a few flaws, but good characters and storytelling.

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So, yeah, I hated this game.  It was boring, the in-game time mechanic was dumb, there were scheduled times you had to do chores which ate into your time to go outside, which meant that it took you longer to finish the game since you were constantly having to go back and make food for everyone, or clean rooms.  The only exception seemed to be if you were on the phone with someone, it wouldn’t penalize you for not making food for everyone.

The chores themselves wouldn’t have been too annoying–if you didn’t have to do them every single day.  If this was more like the situation in Shadow Ranch where you can get all your chores done first thing so you can have the rest of the day to run around and solve the mystery, I might have enjoyed this aspect more, but instead you’re required to prepare meals at certain times, and get the rooms cleaned by noon.  It doesn’t help that working in a real hotel, the reality of cleaning one to four rooms and doing meal prep is that it would literally take your entire morning, you’d have a few hours in the afternoon, and then you’d have to come back to make dinner, and at that point you’d be exhausted and have to go to bed.  So to me, the whole thing was highly unrealistic in the first place, and just ended up feeling like busy work to artificially extend the game.

The actual story in the game is . . . something about a wolf sabotaging things?  I’m honestly not sure what the mystery was supposed to be, as it was pretty obvious the wolf had nothing to do with the bombings, accidents, and mishaps that were going on at the lodge.  So, really, it’s a case where we need to catch the saboteur.

Here is the problem with that:  Ollie kicks people out of the lodge.  That’s kind of a spoiler, ish, but not a huge one.  And it’s pretty obvious that once someone has been banished from the lodge, they can’t be continuing to wreak havoc in the area.  Also, the reason for the culprit’s actions is dumb, and I had pretty much convinced myself that I’d figured out who they were only to have it go the other way, which was highly cliched and very much annoyed me.

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I was also highly upset by the way most of the characters thought about and spoke about the wolf.  Whether they were characterizing the wolf as a dog or making universal statements about all wolves being evil, it had me rolling my eyes and grunting in frustration.  Wolves are an endangered species, and while I know it’s a good ten years since this game came out, even at the time we shouldn’t have been talking about wolves like that without making it abundantly clear that wolves need their protected status, and we shouldn’t just run around shooting them because they might have caused an explosion what the hell?

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I hated the Fox and Geese game, and I hated the pyramid puzzle.  They were unfairly hard for me, even on Junior level.  I was actually frustrated enough I thought about just quitting the game and watching a walkthrough or a long play on youtube to finish my review.  I ended up checking a walkthrough site for the pyramid puzzle, once I’d finally finished winning Fox and Geese FOUR TIMES (and how dumb was that?  Why would they make you do this?  FOUR TIMES.  FOUR.  I could see once, but four seems excessive.  Especially for a game that is very logic based and methodical and difficult.  And unlike the chess puzzles in other games, or the Chinese checkers puzzle in Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, this has you playing against an AI and I hate that.  I hate it so much.).

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Okay, so, what did I like?  Not much, to be honest.  Guadalupe looked like she’d borrowed Charleena Purcell’s tiny-arms/weird-hair design.  Bill and Lou were pretty well designed, but fairly unmemorable.  Ollie was probably the best designed character, but we barely talk to him.  Yanni was annoying, but well acted.  I hated Freddie with a passion.  Apparently she’s supposed to be six?  To me she sounded like someone doing an impression of a child with Down’s Syndrome, and it was very uncomfortable for me to listen to.  (As far as I can find, I am the only person who had this reaction to Freddie, although more than one person has said that it’s kind of pointless to have her there, all she does is give you hand warmers that you don’t even need if you’re careful.  As for the distaste I have for the way she is voiced, I’m going to give Lani Minella the benefit of the doubt on this one.  I think this is just a weird thing that I am interpreting in a way that aligns with my experience–I attended an elementary school that was partnered with a special education program that helped socialize and educated children with Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and a few other neuro atypical syndromes, and it was not uncommon for boys in particular to begin making fun as they got older, instead of being empathetic.  Because people are terrible, and people hitting their adolescence are particularly terrible.)

I did really like the wolf as a character, although I wasn’t crazy about Nancy having to use the wolf to solve the puzzles to finish the game.  Some of the phone conversations were fun, although no one stood out to me this game, unlike in previous games where I’ve fallen in love with phone characters.  I hated that we had Tino Balducci as our only source for hints, although he wasn’t as annoying as I feared.  It was also stupid that we had the ability to call Ned, but not Bess and George.  I’m always annoyed when the game lets you call Ned but not Bess.  For some reason that just rubs me wrong–Bess and George are Nancy’s best friends, but she can only call her boyfriend?  What girl only puts her boyfriend in her phone when she’s traveling?  I suspect the reason has something to do with Bess being in the next game as a playable character, but why couldn’t we have George by herself then?  Do they think we’re only interested in Bess and George as a team?  Obviously not, considering future games, but I digress.

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I literally had to force myself to play this game to finish it.  I didn’t want to.  There was wine involved.  I considered vodka at one point.

This game was not fun.  This game was not interesting.  There wasn’t a solid story or characters driving it.  The graphics were nice, but that wasn’t enough to engage me over a sustained period of time, and definitely not enough to get me interested.  The only reason I didn’t resort to leaving the game unfinished is because once I got the two most frustrating puzzles done, it wasn’t hard to finish.

Mostly, though, I just wanted it to be over.  One star out of five.  Definitely not worth playing, in my opinion.

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Gifs are found via google and are not mine.  Her Interactive owns the one image of White Wolf of Icicle Creek I could stomach adding.

Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave

I’m gonna be honest–I see this game’s flaws.  But I like it anyway.  It doesn’t have a great plot, but what’s there works, and it goes back to the standard of teaching very basic STEM, which I honestly think Her Interactive excels at more than anything else they do–certainly upon replaying the games, I’ve been less impressed with the games that go for history and much more interested in the ones that teach biology, chemistry, or engineering.  Maybe it’s because, as a historian myself I feel like the Nancy Drew games don’t dig far enough?  Maybe it’s because the STEM aspects age better, while history is actually quite fluid and changes based on new discoveries, analytics, and theories literally all the time?  Not that the sciences don’t change, just that the basic principles stay the same.

I digress.  Much like Quigley.

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The plot suffers from not having enough viable culprits–Quigley has no motivation, if you ask me; Malachi Craven, while testy, has no reason to do any of the few things Nancy’s trying to figure out.  It actually becomes pretty obvious early on that the Mapus are the best, most likely suspects.  A lot of your tasks are busy work–this is more obvious in the Frank/Joe scenes, where you have to constantly fish or hunt for shells in order to do pretty much anything.  Nancy’s tasks are sciency, and I don’t mind them for that reason, but the Hardy’s basically have to do arts and crafts for this guy before they can snorkel, eat shave ice, buy fishing bait, or do anything interesting, pretty much.  There’s one mini-game that’s entirely pointless (you don’t need the prize to win the game), and most egregious of all–you have to pay to read things.

The Hawaiian environments are gorgeous–something Her Interactive takes full advantage of, with the brilliant blue water and the lush green jungle.  I’ve never been to Hawaii, but the beach in particular reminded me of this little resort off the coast of Honduras we went to once . . . and now I want to go back.  The sense of place in this one is pretty strong, and I always think the games that have that strong sense of place work better than the ones that are more generic.

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I don’t mind Frank’s redesign as much, but Joe looks like he’s got a weird growth on his head that he combs his hair over, and his face looks squashed in.  They don’t look like brothers to me, either.  I’m being nit-picky, and I realize this, but these characters are important, okay?

It’s also not a hard game.  Probably the most difficult tasks were some of the frass fetch quests, but even those were pretty easy to figure out.  All the information you need for these tasks is given to you in-game, occasionally for a couple Big Island Bucks (ugh), but usually without.  I actually think this might be second in line behind Haunted Carousel for me as beginner recommendations.

I do have to say, I think the only reason Quigley’s voice doesn’t bother me is because I grew up watching The Nanny, and compared to Fran, Quigley really isn’t that bad.

There isn’t a lot more to say about this one.  The game is solid, and has a nice, solid base in  biology and isn’t difficult.  I would definitely recommend it as a first game, either for a beginner adventure gamer or someone just getting into Nancy Drew.  I’d still say Haunted Carousel is probably the better first game, but this one is also a good choice.  Things keep flowing, if you get stuck with Nancy you can switch to Frank or Joe, and nothing ever seemed too difficult or unintuitive (I’m adding that last caveat there because I’m currently playing White Wolf of Icicle Creek and intuitive that game is NOT.  It’s actually weirdly jarring, coming from this game to Icicle Creek.  Maybe it’s just my own baggage with winter and snow?  I digress.  Again.  I’m not doing it on purpose, I swear!  And we’ll get to my feelings on Icicle Creek soon enough.).  Three out of five stars.

Images are, as always, from Google.  Let me know if you want something taken down.