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The Captive Curse is Close to Captivating

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  • The Captive Curse is Close to Captivating

    I have fond memories of playing this game for the first time after purchasing it during the Steam fall sale and playing it with M during a premature blizzard that extended Thanksgiving break. As a result, I had rose-colored glasses when I thought about it afterwards. After sitting down and playing it again, I still enjoyed the game’s overall atmosphere, but I’m rather disappointed in the plot and gameplay.

    Presumably, this game takes place directly after Shadow at the Water’s Edge where Nancy is called at the last minute to come to Castle Finster in Germany and investigate its monster sightings. The reason why I assume this is because shortly after the game begins, Nancy gets into a fight with Ned (!) about being delayed in coming home. She doesn’t say where she’s coming home from, but in my mind I like to think that it’s Japan. Anyway, Nancy spends what supposed to be three hours investigating the castle to figure out who’s causing the monster sightings that are scaring the castle residents and driving tourists away.

    The premise is fun enough, but the plot that spirals from it is executed poorly. This is yet again another instance of Nancy being able to solve the mystery by being in the right place at the right time. Leading up to the disappointing ended, the clues the Nancy follows consist mostly of random pieces of paper that are just left behind everywhere with no explanation as to who left them behind or why they did. I know that previous Nancy Drew games have done this since it is an easy way to figure out a combination or whatnot, and I’m able to overlook its usage when it’s done sparingly, but this method of delivering information was overdone in this game.

    The characters in this game are decent. The first person who Nancy meets is Lukas, a young trouble-maker who lives at the castle because his father is the head of security. He’s fun to talk to, but that’s about it. Next, Nancy meets the castle mayor, Karl, who’s rather incompetent and feels that he’s unlucky. He’s the least entertaining character. There’s also Anja, who works the gift shop and is really the one who’s taking care of the castles. I enjoy hearing her complain about Karl, and Nancy uncovers more about her during the game. Lastly, there’s Renate, an old woman obsessed with the legend surrounding the castle—back in the day, the castle freiherr’s daughter was kidnapped by the monster. She’s interesting to talk to and she also develops during the game. I do feel that the game was lacking another perspective to the monster sightings. It’s not made entirely clear, but castle seems to be the residence of a small village of people who are all completely terrified of the monster. This is all Nancy really learns about these people, and I think that it would have been a nice addition to have a character who represents the village and shares their perspective.

    In addition to being too heavily reliant on finding random pieces of paper, I feel that the overall gameplay is lacking something else. In almost every Nancy Drew game, Nancy at some point needs something from another character, and the character agrees to give it to her, but only if she does something for them in return. I guess that these game progression techniques aren’t needed in every game, but I’ve always enjoyed them because Nancy usually finds herself momentarily doing something unrelated to the mystery, and it draws more interest to the character, depending on what the task is. The game lacks any of these types of interactions and is completely reliant on Nancy finding everything that she needs. The puzzles in the Captive Curse were enjoyable, though. There was a diverse selection with varying levels of difficulty, but none were obnoxiously difficult.

    This game is also lacking in its fun stuff. There are two mini-games that Nancy plays, but neither of them made me want to go out of my way to play them again. The first game that she’s introduced to is Raid, a creation of Karl. I really liked how this game mentioned that Germany is the origin country for a lot of great strategic board games since it’s totally true, but then the game makers attempted to create their own for the purpose of this game, and I feel that their attempt fell flat. Scopa from the Phantom of Venice was more strategic and entertaining than Karl’s board game. You essentially have to move your game piece from point A to point B by spinning the dial and then battling your opponents with cards in your hand, but it’s really a game of more common sense and luck than strategy. The cards are also really weird-looking. The other game, which is a bit more fun, is a game that Nancy plays with Lukas called Monster. There’s two different roles in this game—you’re either trying to guess which sheep are pretending to be monsters based on which sheep they kill, or you’re controlling the monster sheep and trying to avoid being discovered. This game has a lot more strategy than Karl’s game.

    Despite its drawbacks, I would still recommend the Captive Curse. I love the atmosphere, as it reminds me of visiting Kriskindlemart during Christmastime. The characters are enjoyable and the puzzles are fun. Most importantly, though, you can’t miss Nancy arguing with Ned, because it is quite entertaining.
    I discovered that Secrets can Kill. I Stayed Tuned for Danger. I read the Message in a Haunted Mansion. I uncovered the Treasure in a Royal Tower. I watched the Final Scene. I washed away the Secret of the Scarlet Hand. I pet the Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake. I rode the Haunted Carousel. I dodged the Danger on Deception Island. I lassoed the Secret of Shadow Ranch. I overcame the Curse of Blackmoor Manor. I unwound the Secret of the Old Clock. I traveled on the Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon. I unveiled the Danger by Design. I captured the Creature of Kapu Cave. I discussed politics with the White Wolf of Icicle Creek. I unearthed the Legend of the Crystal Skull. I unmasked the Phantom of Venice. I exposed the Haunting of Castle Malloy. I paid the Ransom of the Seven Ships. I heeded the Warnings of Waverly Academy. I chased the Trail of the Twister. I stood in the Shadow at the Water’s Edge. I shattered the Captive Curse. I upheld the Alibi in Ashes. I opened the Tomb of the Lost Queen. I condemned the Deadly Device. I sang to the Ghost of Thornton Hall. I did justice for the Silent Spy. I repaired the Shattered Medallion. I navigated the Labyrinth of Lies. I illuminated the Sea of Darkness. I was awake at Midnight in Salem.
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