Reviewed: June 22, 2007
Released: June 12, 2007
Nancy Drew is at it again in her sixteenth mystery in Her Interactive’s series of PC adventure games featuring the popular teenaged girl detective. Since her last adventure in tropical Hawaii, Nancy has gone north to Alberta, Canada, to discover the cause of a series of “accidents” plaguing the guests of Icicle Creek Lodge.
As expected, in Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek players will encounter a number of suspects, clues, and puzzles as they attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery—but fans of the series will probably be happy to hear that this particular installment is both more involved and markedly improved over the last couple titles.
If you’ve played previous games from the Nancy Drew series, you will find the setup very familiar. As with the previous titles I’ve reviewed, Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek begins with an easy-to-follow and voiced-over tutorial explaining the simple point-and-click controls of the game. The main difference you’ll notice is that the game really cuts to the chase this time: the tutorial loads up immediately after the game developer logos flash by, doing away with any sort of initial menu screen. Instead, games in progress can be loaded from the tutorial using Icicle Creek’s much improved user interface.
The new interface, while similar to that of previous Nancy Drew games, is much cleaner, sleeker, and easier to use, allowing players to see their items and notes in partially transparent windows while they move and interact with objects in Nancy’s world. As before, the color scheme can be customized, though the default black and dark teal work very well to keep the game interface comfortably subdued for a reasonably immersive sleuthing experience. In fact, I thought the intuitive and unobtrusive new menu and interface design were among the best improvements featured in this latest Nancy Drew title, as they make navigating Nancy’s inventory and notebook much more manageable and therefore noticeably improve the overall gameplay experience.
Otherwise, Icicle Creek plays fairly similarly to past Nancy Drew titles and consists of exploring, picking up items, talking to suspicious guests, solving puzzles, receiving threatening letters, and the like. As per its precursors, Icicle Creek includes a satisfactory number of varied mini-games and puzzles, including everything from decoding encrypted journal entries to navigating a snowmobile through a maze of rocks and trees.
The player is also given more freedom than in the previous two titles. Unlike in Danger by Design and Kapu Cave, the passage of time in Icicle Creek doesn’t rely purely on game events; instead, time in Nancy’s game world passes whether you’re moving or not and is marked by a clock displayed in a corner of the screen. As the new maid and cook at Icicle Creek Lodge, Nancy needs to take care of some duties every day at certain times (if you don’t want her to get fired and end the game), but other than that, she basically has the entire day to explore the surrounding areas and solve her mystery. Fortunately, if you find the day is passing too slowly, you can jump to the appropriate time by setting Nancy’s alarm clock and telling her to take a nap.
In general, most of the puzzles and games are pretty fun, and the first half of the game is well paced. I have to admit, though, that some of mini-games got a little tedious. While the cooking mini-game may be educational as a memory drill, having to go back to the kitchen three times a day at particular hours to do the same thing all over again quickly becomes awfully dull, and being forced to play Fox and Geese multiple times felt a bit like mild torture.
Also, the pace unfortunately begins to drag as Nancy’s Canadian adventure progresses, especially when certain game events require her to spend several days filling out a questionnaire on the personal habits of elusive guests, so that the player has to spend those days trying to figure out these habits while collecting laundry and cooking three meals each day.
Overall, the game benefits from the more freeform play style, but the enjoyment factor suffers from the monotonous chores. Hopefully, next time the developers will think to cut down on the repetitive activities earlier in the game and replace them with (at the least) optional mini-games.
As before, the static backgrounds are beautifully designed and rendered in great detail. Also as before, the environment would have probably been more enjoyable (and navigation probably would have been a little less confusing) if they had been true 3D environments and freer movement had been allowed. For what they are, though, they look well put-together and only occasionally suffer from being so dark so that objects the player needs to interact with are almost impossible to see.
The characters and animations are much improved from Kapu Cave and have much smoother movement, though they still look somewhat wooden by today’s gaming standards, since they usually don’t move very much at all and sometimes forget to blink. All in all, the graphics are decent, and the animated cut-scenes blend in well with the rendered backgrounds.
As I mentioned for the last two Nancy Drew titles, the fully voiced-over dialogue is a welcome change of pace—especially since the voice acting, as before, is decent—to reading on-screen text; and the ambient sound, effects, and background music are appropriately creepy.
Icicle Creek retails for $19.99 and is probably about par for the course as far as value goes. It’s not very replayable due to its linear nature, but the game includes two CDs of content and is a significantly longer game than either Danger by Design or Creature of Kapu Cave. (I took three days, playing a few of hours each day, to complete the game on Senior level.) Some of the game length was bolstered by the repetitive daily tasks, though, so in the end, it’s probably just a little beefier than the last two installments.
The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is a better and longer game than either of the last two Nancy Drew titles and is probably worth getting if you enjoyed the other games in the series. Suitable for all ages, the game also contains some educational tidbits on wildlife and brain-teasing puzzles that may make it a good choice for children and families, though prospective buyers may want to note that there are some characters that fall into possibly offensive racial stereotypes. In any case, though, it’s a decent adventure game, and fans of the series will probably find it worthwhile to take a look.