Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek
It's time to get out the magnifying glass again as Ms Drew is back with another tricky case to solve. Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is the 16th game in this detective series from Her Interactive and there are a few surprises here with an updated interface and a slightly larger playing area. Also, the familiar opening screen with the stack of books is gone, and so too the trusty Nancy Drew theme music. I say trusty because that catchy music always promised a fun adventure and it is oh so conspicuous by its absence.
The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is set in the white wilds of Alberta in the Canadian Rockies. Chantal Moique has requested Nancy's help in investigating a spate of mysterious accidents that have befallen the guests at her mountain resort. Oh yes, and there's an enigmatic white wolf on the prowl, so Nancy needs to watch her step.
Beginning once again in Nancy's super tidy bedroom there's a tutorial for players to familiarise themselves with the interface. There's also the usual file outlining the current case and the player can choose Junior or Senior mode to vary the difficulty. In Junior mode the handy check list provides a good, continual guide throughout the game for younger and less experienced players. Nancy's notebook, on the other hand, keeps track of useful information for everyone, listing such things as observations, suspects, clues and phone numbers.
The new interface keeps Nancy's inventory, notebook and checklist at the bottom of the screen, in a narrower band in The White Wolf of Icicle Creek, hence the larger playing area. This lower area also includes icons for saving, loading and exiting, as well as for sound manipulation, so it's good having instant access to these functions from within the game. The inventory now opens in a small pop up box within the playing window and items can be used and replaced if necessary. Again this is simpler than having to continually reopen the inventory to replace items. The one exception is the various documents such as letters and notes that still shut down the inventory when closed. After reading these documents it would be nice to simply pop them back where they belong as well.
Conversations are handled in much the same way although they are displayed in a small scrolling pop-up window. As usual just click on dialogue lines to talk. The text is now considerably smaller, perhaps a little too small for some younger (or older) players.
If you've played a Nancy Drew game before then you'll know what to expect. There are half a dozen or so characters to meet at the lodge and they each have a possible motive for harming Chantal and her mountain resort. Chat to them all for clues, and there are a number of other characters at the end of the phone who might be worth contacting. Chantal herself is one of these absent characters because she's away in Edmonton meeting with her lawyers. Although George and Bess are missing, Ned is still just a phone call away, happy to discuss the case, as is Tino Balducci, a not-so-adept detective that Nancy met on a previous adventure.
Then there's the lodge to explore, of course, plus a few winding white pathways that lead to several other locations including a frozen lake and a secluded shack. Venturing outside can be dangerous, be sure to check the weather. Whilst outside a gauge at the top of the screen measures Nancy's health, let it run too low and she succumbs to the cold. Fortunately this isn't too devastating as the game automatically restores Nancy back to full health to try again. There is a way to survive in the cold for longer periods, and it isn't too hard to stumble upon.
The clock is once more a feature in this mystery as there are chores to be done at specific times and the time needs to tick over for the story to progress. Nancy can move time on whenever she likes simply by setting her alarm clock and sleeping.
Did I just mention that there are chores to be done in The White Wolf of Icicle Creek, there are, lots of them. Because Chantal is away and the maid has up and left, it's up to Nancy to keep the wheels turning. There are guest rooms to be cleaned — beds made and used towels collected — a good opportunity to do some early morning snooping. And cooking, of course, breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for much of the game. Far too much cooking, and it does get tedious. I tried avoiding it early on and promptly found myself back at the kitchen stove where there is no escape till the cooking is done. Ditto with the room cleaning which isn't so bad. At a particular point in the game Nancy is relieved of the cooking duties, but not soon enough.
Fortunately there is respite from cooking and cleaning, as along with these chores there is the exploration and sleuthing to take care of, and a myriad of other puzzles to solve and enjoy. A mysterious notebook and diary offer clues for some puzzles — deciphering a code is a good challenge. There are a couple of manipulative puzzles with rows of images to match, a fun maze that isn't too difficult, plus a board game to win multiple times and an activity that plays much like Minesweeper.
There are also a couple of timed puzzles, one of which (linking up pipes) had me tearing my hair out and fainting regularly. Extremely frustrating, and sure to raise a hackle or two for some players unless you happen to get lucky. The other timed puzzle merely takes a bit of patience... and a few repeats of course. I've said this before but it bears repeating, it would be a much appreciated addition to the Nancy Drew games if such 'puzzles' offered a way out for players who fail multiple times. Added to the above there are a couple of arcade challenges (a snowball fight and a chase) requiring quick reflexes, although both are quite manageable with a little practice.
The White Wolf of Icicle Creek looks and feels very much like Nancy's previous adventures with a point and click interface and vibrant graphics that work particularly well without keeping up with the latest 3D offerings. Maybe the characters are a little more expressive this time and the voice acting is of the usual high standard — completely over the top on at least one occasion. I had a good chuckle at the Aussie accent. The background music is unobtrusive, to say the least, maybe it could have been more prominent to build up the atmosphere, but it does leave the way open to appreciate the howling of the wolf and the crunching of Nancy's footsteps in the snow.
It's a solid adventure and it's well put together, but like many of Nancy's recent adventures The White Wolf of Icicle Creek errs on the side of games/activities with correspondingly less exploration and sleuthing. This balance was much better in the earlier games and it would be good to see Nancy doing some more serious sleuthing in the future. Because of the emphasis on 'activities', together with the arcade type interludes, I'd say that this game is more suited to younger rather than mature players. Although there's probably something to displease everyone, there's also a lot to please and a lot of fun to be had.
I should end by pointing out that the Nancy Drew theme does make an appearance during the credits at the very end. I suppose we do have to move forward but what a pity it's been relegated to an afterthought.
Copyright © Rosemary Young, 2007.
All rights reserved.
Win XP/Vista, 1 GHz or greater Pentium or equivalent, 128 MB RAM, 1 GB Hard Drive Space, 32MB DirectX compatible video card, 16 bit DirectX compatible sound card, 24x CD-ROM Drive, Mouse and Speakers.