Reviewed: April 28, 2009
Released: December 2, 2008
The ever-popular Nancy Drew PC mystery adventure series makes its debut on the Nintendo Wii with a port of the series’ sixteenth installation, Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek. I previously reviewed the PC version of the same game, released about a year and a half before the Wii version, and they’re virtually identical but for the new mini-games that have been redone to accommodate the Wii remote. The storyline is the same: Nancy has gone north to Alberta, Canada, to discover the cause of a series of “accidents” plaguing the guests of Icicle Creek Lodge—and just as in the PC version, Nancy plays both teenage sleuth and volunteer maid and cook, so she’ll have to balance her detective work with completing some rather dreary everyday chores.
The Wii version of Icicle Creek is very straightforward to play and uses a control scheme almost identical to the point-and-click mouse interface of the original PC title. Gamers used to console games rather than PC adventure games may find the interface a little hard to get accustomed to, since navigation is a far cry from the usual smooth movement in simulated 3D environments that most modern games employ. Instead, Icicle Creek uses a traditional 80s and 90s PC adventure-game click-through interface that merely replaces the mouse with the Wii remote. That in itself isn’t a crime, but the interface choice is a bit disappointing because the controls would have been a great opportunity for a PC port title like Icicle Creek to let the Wii’s advantages shine.
Instead, the Wii remote’s unique features are really only used in certain mini-games, and the clumsy implementation could use some improvement. For instance, in the cooking mini-game, wiggling or waving the remote to simulate grating cheese or slicing up a steak sounds like potential fun, but the violence with which the player needs to shake that remote to get the job done just doesn’t always match up intuitively to the task the player is performing in-game. While using the Wii remote’s motion sensing technology does add a bit of novelty to this port, the cooking process is harder to get through on the Wii than on the PC because of these clunky added motions, and the necessity of cooking several times every day on top of picking up everyone’s dirty laundry every morning turn the mini-game into a real drag.
Other than the tedious daily chores getting in the way of quality detective work, though, Icicle Creek plays like a solid adventure title. The player will have Nancy exploring several very detailed locations, picking up strange items, talking to suspicious guests, solving puzzles, receiving threatening letters, and all that good stuff you’d expect in a mystery game. And, as mentioned above, the game includes a varied selection of mini-games and puzzles, including decoding encrypted journal entries, ice fishing, and a Minesweeper clone. Depending on your taste in games, some of these will probably engage you more than others. The Wii version of the game also adds some bonus material not in the original PC title, such as finding and piecing together fragments of a photograph as Nancy progresses through the game.
Overall, the game benefits from a relatively freeform play style and classic Nancy Drew storytelling, but the enjoyment factor suffers from the monotonous chores and annoyingly frequent pauses to load data. Given the player and critic responses to the PC title and this perfect opportunity to improve on the original gameplay, it would have been refreshing if the developers had decided to cut down on the required daily drudgery; but otherwise, Icicle Creek is a satisfactory port of the PC game.
Though the graphics in the Wii port aren’t as crisp as those in the PC game, the static backgrounds are still beautifully designed and rendered in great detail. The setting would have probably been more enjoyable (and navigation a little less confusing) if the game used true 3D environments and freer movement had been allowed, especially given the expectations of the console audience. For what they are, though, the visuals look well thought-out and really bring the game to life. Completely redone for the Wii, the menus are cleanly designed and the dialogue box text very easy to read. The characters and animations look somewhat wooden by today’s gaming standards, but all in all, the graphics are decent, and the animated cut-scenes blend in well with the rendered backgrounds.
As with the PC Nancy Drew titles, the dialogue is all decently performed by voice talent, and the ambient sound, effects, and background music are appropriately creepy.
Icicle Creek retails for an affordable $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 it’s a significantly longer game than the two PC titles that come before it in the Nancy Drew chronology and is, as far as I know, one of the only games of its genre available on the Wii. I took three days, playing a few of hours each day, to complete the game on Senior level, though a portion of that time was admittedly spent completing the repetitive daily tasks. For a gamer that enjoys mystery adventure titles and has no access to a PC, it’s worth a play-through.
The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is certainly an acceptable adventure game, but it does leave me wondering why it was ported to the Wii without more improvements to adapt the game to the Wii’s unique controls, especially considering that the PC title came out well over a year before the Wii port was released. The movement interface could have perhaps taken advantage of the d-pad, for instance, and the mini-game motion controls would have benefited from some tightening up.
The game has the advantage of being suitable for all ages, however, and it 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 also want to note that there are some characters that fall into potentially offensive racial stereotypes. In any case, though, it’s a decent adventure mystery title, and fans of the Nancy Drew series will probably find it worthwhile to take a look if they haven’t already played this on the PC.