Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek
First posted on 14 July 2007. Last updated on 21 November 2014.
There are few joys in life that bring me greater pleasure than playing the latest Nancy Drew game from Her Interactive. Now with the release of the 16th game in the series, Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek, Her Interactive has again demonstrated the quality and attention to detail that set these games apart from the typical point-and-click adventure. Although these games are ostensibly for girls and young women, I have always found them quite fun and challenging. However, with this latest title, Her Interactive has stepped up the difficulty level to the point where many gamers may find themselves just barely able to complete it. The key difficulties are a timed, rotating pipe puzzle and an absolutely fiendish "fox and geese" board game that vaguely reminds me of the infamous slime puzzle from Trilobyte's The 7th Guest. Of course, gamers can always select the Junior Mode which will make these and other puzzles easier to solve, but the Senior Mode is enough to challenge even seasoned adventure game fans. Suffice it to say, there is plenty enough to challenge even experienced adventure gamers!
Of course, the big question with any Nancy Drew game is whether the plot and characters will be exciting enough to make the game fun to play. Unfortunately, the last game, Nancy Drew: Creature of Kapu Cave, fails somewhat in this regard, with dull characters that have little to offer. Thankfully, Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek reverses this trend, by adopting a fascinating cast of characters whose motives are anything but transparent. Furthermore, the game features an animal character in the titular wolf that turns out to be a trained animal named Isis.
The storyline is fairly straightforward and typical of a Nancy Drew novel. Nancy has been summoned to Icicle Creek Lodge, a rustic pleasure destination located in an isolated and bitterly cold part of the Canadian Rockies. The owner of the lodge, Chantal, has heard about Nancy's former success at Shadow Ranch and feels she will be the ideal person to investigate what she suspects to be sabotage. Nancy will work undercover as Chantal's maid and cook, which will give her a chance to observe the suspects (the current guests, Ollie the handyman, and Ollie's daughter). These guests are Yanni, an egotistical champion skier from Eastern Europe; Lou, an eccentric college student majoring in art; Lupe, an ill-tempered birdwatcher; and Bill, a friendly engineer. Naturally, Nancy soon finds something suspicious about each of these characters as well as Ollie, who is determined to kill a wolf spotted several times near the lodge. Just before Nancy arrives at the lodge, someone bombs the bunkhouse, further shattering the peace at Icicle Creek Lodge. If Nancy cannot solve the mystery soon, the current guests will likely go home, and her business will be ruined!
The characters really work well to drive the plot. Chantal is whiny and annoying, and hires Tino (from Nancy Drew: Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon) to "help" Nancy solve the case. Tino is a brash and overconfident detective whose ingratiating personality and questionable methods contrast nicely with Nancy's. Lou and Bill are also quite fun with their friendly jibes at each another. Ollie and Lupe are also at each other's throats, though their argument is much less civil. Perhaps the best character of all, though, is Isis the wolf. Although she obviously has no spoken dialog, she plays a major role in the game and is quite effective. All of the characters are given good dialog, and the voice acting is wonderful. Fans of the series will recognize most of the talent, of course; Lani Minella is back as Nancy, and does a wonderful job as usual. It is easy to imagine how terrible a game such as this can be with inferior voice talent behind the microphone; Her Interactive has consistently scored high marks in this key criterion.
The overall production values of this game are excellent, though rumors of a graphical overhaul seem to have been exaggerated. There are a few nice enhancements to the interface, such as the ability to have the inventory and Nancy's notes visible on the adventure screen. This makes some actions, such as dialing phone numbers, much easier since they can be displayed on the screen. The characters appear to be more finely animated, with very convincing lip-syncing and facial expressions. The lodge and outdoor scenes are also well rendered, and the great sound effects certainly heighten the sensation of the Canadian Rockies during the winter. My only real disappointment with the production is the lack of music. Music plays only at a few points in the game, and while it is good, there just is not enough of it for my taste. Her Interactive just cannot seem to reach the pinnacle it has achieved earlier with Nancy Drew: Danger on Deception Island, which has some of the best music of any adventure game I have played to date.
There is no doubt that this game is a great deal more challenging than the previous games in the series. In particular, 2 puzzles are primarily responsible for the difficulty. The first puzzle is a pipe-fitting puzzle in which Nancy must rotate a series of pipes in the correct order before the timer runs out. Unfortunately, in Senior Mode the time limit is very short indeed (it took me dozens of attempts before lucking out and getting through the sequence). Of course, "dying" is not that painful of an experience in these games, since the game will automatically restore to the start of the puzzle if Nancy fails to solve it in time. The second puzzle that really seems inordinately difficult, though, is a "fox and geese" type board game. The object of the game is to evade the fox and maneuver the fox into a trap without losing all of Nancy's geese. Ordinarily, this type of mini game is not that difficult, but the puzzle requires you to win it 3 times in a row according to a specific pattern. Winning the game can be very hard (it took me some 4 or 5 hours of intense concentration to finally accomplish the goal). Indeed, this is by far the hardest puzzle I have seen in any of the Nancy Drew games to date, and I have played all 16 of them!
The only other serious problem I had with the game was figuring out how to raise some red gates in an otherwise entertaining vault puzzle. I only found a single clue pertaining to these gates, and it was too subtle for me to catch on initially. In other Nancy Drew games, you could often use a phone to get hints from Nancy's friends or the Hardy Boys, but this time the phone calls were not very helpful (you could call Ned, but not George or Bess). I would definitely have appreciated more hints!
I might add that another "chore" in the early parts of the game was to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the lodge's guests. While these scenes were fun the first few times, they quickly became repetitive. I was relieved when Ollie took over the cooking about halfway through the game; by that point, it had really become a burden. The cooking scenes should be familiar to anyone who played Nancy Drew: Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon. Also, the "snowball fight" action sequence might prove difficult for some players; thankfully, I was soon fast enough with the mouse to score a flawless victory. Finally, I even found an "Easter Egg" in the game by visiting the bathroom periodically until a message concerning "Mystico" would appear.
All in all, Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is a fine game that is well worth checking out. The graphics are great, the gameplay is intuitive, and the story quite satisfying. The scenery around the lodge is beautiful. The characters are multi-faceted and fun to get to know. The only potential problem is the rather difficult puzzles. Less inexperienced players will definitely want to play in Junior Mode. The game also carries a good message: Humans should work to protect misunderstood animals like Isis from being unnecessarily killed. To that end, Her Interactive has even adopted a wolf, Ladyhawk, from Wolf Haven International, a non-profit organization dedicated to wolf conservation in real life. At any rate, I know I am already looking forward to the next Nancy Drew adventure, and let us hope there will be more music in that game!