Reviewed: February 3, 2009
Released: December 2, 2008
It's not terribly surprising that the infamous teenage detective who has delighted young readers since the 1930's, Nancy Drew, has also enjoyed popularity as the star of a long series of computer and video games. Unraveling mysteries that are both intriguing and family friendly is just the kind of thing that just about any ten to fourteen year old kid (especially a girl) is going to have a blast with. As a 23-year-old kid who never grew up myself, I must confess that I too have become a fan.
In this Wii version of the PC game Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek, the young detective finds herself in the Canadian Rockies at a remote vacation lodge where sabotage, unexplained accidents, and the appearance of a mysterious white wolf weave into a case to be solved. Nancy is hired by the lodge's owner to snoop around the guest's rooms and the areas surrounding the lodge to find out who done it, why they done it, and how they done it. Nancy assumes the role of the lodge's new maid and cook so as to not arouse suspicion, and the game is split between doing tasks such as cleaning rooms and cooking meals according to a specific schedule, and looking for clues into the case.
The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is pretty easy on its players, which makes sense considering the target demographic is preteen to early teenage kids. That being said, it is within the player's best interest to keep to the somewhat menial tasks of playing maid while trying to do the more interesting detective work, just to keep from having to do a deed over again. If you skip preparing too many meals or cleaning the rooms, Nancy will be fired. However, all that means as far as the game is concerned is that Nancy will have to redo the last scene to make up for slacking.
The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is a pretty fun point and click adventure game with detective work and the usual puzzle solving elements thrown in, but its translation to the Wii is not all that great (it was a PC game first). Graphics are sub par, to be gentle, and while the game doesn't look like a total mess, movement is jumpy, character designs are a bit on the jagged side, and the game often takes way too long to load, even when Nancy is just trying to have a simple, short and easy conversation with another character. This jumpiness coupled with the slow load times can be frustrating when trying to point and click your way across even a short distance. The game runs on a 24 hour schedule--though the time passes about twice as fast as a regular day--and so when Nancy is trying to get things done before mealtime, well, the shoddy load times can be very frustrating.
Occasionally, The White Wolf of Icicle Creek utilizes the Wiimote's motion sensing--oddly enough, mostly when Nancy is preparing a meal for the guests at the lodge. Players must shake the controller, for instance, to grate cheese, or make cutting motions to slice toast. If the necessary action isn't performed in a timely fashion, the meal can take too long, or worse, burn, resulting in unhappy lodge guests and Nancy's eventual firing if the problem persists. Some meals are easy enough to prepare, while others are unnecessarily difficult due to the poor connection between the Wiimote's motion detection and the way the game translates said motions. Shaking powdered sugar onto French Toast was by far the most daunting of culinary tasks, and making the perfect prime rib steak was as easy as throwing leftovers into a microwave.
Control issues aside, since The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is so forgiving, the somewhat poor controls are a minor annoyance for the game as whole. The only other complaint I have is some of the voice acting. Thankfully, Nancy's voice is pretty decent. Inflections are convincing and the tone is pretty spot on. She sounds very much like a teenager who seems much more mature than the average, but still young and friendly--the way Nancy is supposed to be as a character. Some of the other voice acting is, however, really terrible. A little girl, who you thankfully get to bean in the face with snowballs as something of a mini-game, sounds a little too much like Cartman from South Park; instead of the cute, stuffy-nosed little rascal that I get the feeling the game developers were attempting to create. Another character has a Canadian accent that is so ridiculous; you'd think the intention was to make fun of Canadians.
Still, flawed as I found The White Wolf of Icicle Creek to be, I enjoyed it. A lot. It isn't terribly challenging of course, but it still has a sense of mystery to it that makes it intriguing and perhaps nostalgic for those of us who survived puberty and fondly remember good old Nancy Drew. If you're young or young at heart, The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is worth a play. If you want something more flashy or challenging, look elsewhere. But for the rest of us, Nancy Drew continues to be a welcome addition not only to our bookshelves, but our gaming shelves as well.