Though my kids have been playing Nancy Drew games in school for a while now, Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is the first one that we've played at home, and so this was my first experience with the game. I'll be honest, when I first started the game and played for a few hours, I found myself wondering about the educational value of the game and why it was being played in school. The game seemed very linear, and the puzzles simple to solve, even on the Senior Detective mode. As I continued to play the game with my kids, though, and we started to have trouble solving the puzzles the first time through, and really had to think about what Nancy should be doing next, I quickly discovered just where the real challenge lie.
Nancy is called in to Icicle Creek Lodge by the owner Chantal Moique to solve a series of mysterious accidents that have been plaguing the lodge. As she's riding to the lodge with the handyman Ollie they hear the cry of a wolf. Ollie tells Nancy that he thinks the wolf is somehow connected to the accidents. Moments after Ollie finishes speaking, you see and hear a huge explosion in the distance.
When you arrive at the lodge, the first thing Ollie does is calls Chantal to tell her about the bunkhouse explosion. Then the phone is handed to Nancy, and you're put on the case. The cover story for Nancy's stay at the lodge is that she's been hired to be the new maid and cook, and as each day passes, you have to complete housekeeping and cooking duties in-between investigating the mystery. Chantal also tells you that if you have any troubles, you're to call Tino Balducci. Tino was apparently a character in Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, and while Nancy hints at that history in one of her dialogues, unless you've played that game previously, you're left in the dark about who Tino was and why Nancy is less than thrilled to be looking to him for hints.
The story portion of the game is very linear; there doesn't seem to be a time when you could do whatever you thought Nancy should be doing to advance the story. For example, at one point, we missed having a dialogue with one of the characters at the right time. When we called for a hint, Tito gave us a hint based on that missed conversation. We were never able to go back and have the conversation, but we were able to move forward and complete the task as though we'd had the conversation. While it was nice that we didn't end up with a bugged or broken game because we didn't have the conversation at the right time of day, it did leave us wondering if we'd missed any other clues in the conversation.
Things we really liked about the game were the variety of puzzles. At first, it seemed that they were more arcade style than mind puzzles, but as we progressed, we discovered more and more challenging puzzles in which we had to think rather than just mouse-click. The most arcade-style mini-game were those where we had to cook a meal. There, we had to create meals by clicking on the ingredients and cooking them to order. While we always seemed to have plenty of time for cooking — even when we started to prepare the meals a bit late — we found that to add challenge for ourselves, we'd try to prepare multiple orders at once. It got a little crazy trying to cook six pieces of salmon at once during the "dinner rush," but it still made us laugh and have fun.
We also really liked the voice acting in the game. Each character had their own voice, and the inflections in the voices really added to the story for us. As the story progressed, you got to feeling like anyone could be the one who was blowing up the bunkhouses and trying to kill the other guests. It wasn't until very close to the end of the game that we were sure about our solution to the mystery, which made playing through the game even more fun.
Some of the puzzles were hard enough that we had to save just before starting to play them and go back a few times to try again. The good thing about this is that the game bounces you back even if you do fail, so it wasn't a huge deal. We played through the game as a Junior Detective in order to have the task list up, and this helped more than once when we were stuck with what to do next. While you could do some tasks in any order, especially early on, we did find that the further we went in the game, the shorter the list of tasks to complete and, thus, the more we had to complete things in order.
Sometimes calling Tino helped, but often when we were stuck and called him, the only response we received was that he didn't have any hints for us. We did consult a walkthrough we found on the Internet once or twice just to keep moving through the game, but I think if we were able to talk to other players — or just take time to think further about what Nancy could do next — we wouldn't have needed to. The one thing I will say about the game is that I wish there was somewhere you could type notes into your own notepad. We found ourselves having to use multiple pieces of paper to take notes on.
Also, there really didn't seem to be any reason for why we shouldn't have just been able to "autodial" someone's phone number once we'd seen it. One of the longest sections in our notes was who had what phone number and why that person was significant. It would have been nice for Nancy to have a PDA-type cell phone so that when we found a number, we could add it to the memory and type notes right there in the PDA. Nancy really needs to catch up to 2007 technology, in other words. Perhaps in the next game ...
For anyone who has played previous Nancy Drew games, we can't say strongly enough that you need to play this one. While I can't compare it to previous games, my kids (age 12 and 9) both say it is one of their favorites in the series. That could just be because we played it as a family rather than playing it in school, but it doesn't matter. I'm always on the lookout for games that we can play as a family, and this one was one we all enjoyed. If you've never played a Nancy Drew game before, The White Wolf of Icicle Creek would be a great place to start. Just be warned that it might make you want to go back and check out the other games that came before it. That's what's happened to me.
The “glory days” of computer gaming for me were when games like Spectre Supreme, Pirate’s Gold, the Might and Magic series, the original Prince of Persia… those sorts of games were coming out on a regular basis. Back then I owned a Macintosh and was a die hard Mac fan. I was one of the first in my area to buy an iMac and on it learned the joy of playing games on the internet like daily crossword puzzle and “mind bender” type puzzles. My first online RPG was given to me for Christmas the year EQ was released, and I was hooked from day one. I played EQ for about a year. I started playing DaoC during late alpha testing, and was hooked on it.. well, to be honest I still am. I’ve tried pretty much every MMORPG I can get my hands on, from big names like EQ, to more obscure ones such as Underlight. I’ve been writing for IMGS since the first DaoC guide, and find I love the challenge of learning a game and presenting what I’ve learned (and sometimes my opinions), to other players.
I’m not a very strong player as far as learning PvE or quick reaction times, so I tend to stay away from games where I’m pitted against someone else in a way that requires physical (rather than mental) response. I still enjoy story and puzzle games, and in a way that’s how I still approach online games. I would much rather spend hours working through a quest than 5 minutes in combat against another player. I still get lost in simulation type games, obsessing over them until I’ve gotten them beaten. And I like being able to sit down at the computer when I’ve got less than half an hour and playing through a few levels of a puzzle game. I tend not to like first-person shooter type games, or anything with person to person violence, so I steer away from them unless they are fantasy based settings. All in all, I enjoy computer gaming so much that my life feels incomplete somehow when my computer is down.