It’s time for the newest release of Her Interactive’s
Nancy Drew adventure, The White Wolf of Icicle
Creek. This offering marks the sixteenth game in
the series. This time the developers have tried to listen to the fans of
this wonderful series of female detective interactive stories and have
updated their traditional format. Have they succeeded in their quest? Yes,
much of the format has been improved – though in some instances I wish
they had just left well enough alone.
again we find the inquisitive Nancy Drew (ND) on the brink of a new
investigation. This time we travel to a new country for the series:
Alberta, Canada and the vast, gorgeous Canadian Rockies. At the request of
an innkeeper, Chantal Moique, Nancy is asked to investigate a series of
inexplicable “accidents” happening at Chantal's wintry getaway known as
Icicle Creek Lodge. Turns out that Nancy Drew has been highly recommended
by Bet and Ed Rawley of Shadow Ranch
(hmmm, I remember that ranch
and the barrel chase on that horse!).
Chantal, while not present (she’s off in Edmonton meeting with her
fathers’ attorneys about impending lawsuits with regard to the lodge) is
always reachable by phone. Now, besides these strange accidents visited
upon the guests at the lodge, there's a menacing white wolf that keeps
everyone up at night and terrorizes the guests with its mournful howling.
Strangely enough, the wolf seems to appear when these unfortunate
accidents occur, and then it mysteriously disappears. A supernatural
portent of impending disaster -- or a cunning canine?
game opens one night after the caretaker, Ollie Randall, has picked up our
intrepid teen at the local airport. As they drive along the desolate, snow
covered road to the lodge, a furious explosion rips through the velvet
curtain of the quiet countryside. It’s one of the outbuildings on
Chantel’s property! There is an eerie silence afterward as the two sit
there, stunned…and then all we hear is the lonely cry of the wolf howling
in the distance, disturbing the starless night.
The Look and Feel
my biggest disappointments with The White Wolf of Icicle Creek
occurred at the beginning. Where is the opening Nancy Drew theme music and
the expected stack of books that have always reminded me of the real Nancy
Drew Mystery novels? Where is The Second Chance? I understand that time
marches on and innovations must take place. That's progress. But there is
still such a thing as tradition. Her Interactive kept the “Award”
Certificates at the end of the game, so why not keep Nancy’s theme music?
Well, actually it is there – stuck at the end during the credits, badly
compressed as though it was an afterthought. What is in its place?
Nothing…dead silence -- not good. As a Nancy Drew gaming fan, this small
opening had always been a source of anticipation for me, knowing that
Nancy and I were about to embark on a new and exciting journey while
sleuthing and snooping together. I hope that in future episodes, Nancy’s
music will return to its rightful place.
The interface in White Wolf
sports a different look. The playing screen seems larger to me and the
background frame can now be changed to black or green. The lower left side
of the screen contains the things that Nancy will need, such as her
knapsack filled with objects – letters, notes and other items that Nancy
needs to help with her sleuthing. Her checklist is there if you are
playing in Junior Mode. The new item is her journal, which includes
Observations – Clues – Suspects – Phone Numbers, etc. These options, once
activated, will not automatically disappear once you have utilized them
until you click on the “X” in the upper right corner. This attribute can
be a help in some situations and a hindrance in others…it depends on the
gamer and her own preferences. On the right side are the Options: Load,
Save and Quit. It should be noted here that when saving, it is important
to click on the “Floppy Disk” icon and then type in a new title for your
save. This will protect you from accidently writing over your previous
saves. When in the Load screen, be careful not to click on “new,” as it
will restart the game. As in the past there are unlimited saves -- always
a treat. Subtitles appear in the centre of these two sections. The
subtitle text is smaller than in previous episodes and may take the
die-hard ND player some time to get used to -- and no, you can’t change
Navigation is still the same for
White Wolf as in previous ND
adventures and the wonderful beginning is still there… Still there…every
time the game opens. Perhaps in future installments the developers will
provide an option to click on the tutorial for gamers who require it,
instead of opening with it each and every time a gaming session begins.
Speaking with characters (whether on the phone or in person) hasn’t
changed much. Interestingly though, the question box has been redesigned
and moved to the right. It is now easier to scroll through dialogues -- a
The visual appearance of the adventure is at times very
realistic. The snowy Canadian Rockies provide a backdrop with some
breathtaking vistas to view. The Full Motion Video (FMV) cut scenes were
interesting to watch and beautifully executed. The interior of the lodge
and other area settings were appealing and they give the gamer a good
foundation for interaction.
The “foley” or sound effects are a true delight to listen
to -- especially the explosions, wolf howls, and footsteps crunching in
the snow, adding much to the ambiance of the
game. However, I found
the music lacking. Well, maybe I should say that I found the lack of music
pronounced. Unfortunately, this aspect left me
wanting more and added to my boredom during aspects of the
long and sometimes tedious puzzles, making this an adventure that was
difficult to become immersed in for any long period of time. Sad, as the
storyline was actually well done and the scenery pristine and beautiful.
Although an underscore should have been created for this
game, I did feel that the voice talent made up for its absence. The
characters were expressive and lively as usual.
Lani Minella is simply the
best in the role of Nancy Drew. The number of characters to interact with
-- whether it is in person or by phone -- is truly large.
I found that this particular episode had the most interesting full-blown
"Easter Egg" in it, as well as quite a few minor ones. References to every
previous ND mystery abound. (Just be sure to save
your game and then exhaust every dialogue tree when telephoning certain
characters). This gives a great replay value if
you like that sort of thing, as I do. There are even a few characters from
past adventures who are mentioned or who actually appear in the game. I
did miss the fact that Bess and George are nowhere to be found. However
Ned, Nancy’s long-suffering boyfriend, is reachable by phone
(if you know where to look for the number).
And I've heard a rumor that the girls will be back in future episodes
White Wolf of Icicle
much in the way of sleuthing and snooping: two things for which Nancy is
justly famous. As I mentioned earlier, there are many characters to speak
with, both in person and by phone, whether it is to find clues, hints or
plot exposition. There are lots of things to discover and explore, as long
as you remember that certain daily tasks must be accomplished at certain
times of the day (such is the life of an undercover detective when she
assumes the role of a “domestic goddess”). Although I did notice that
the plethora of historical studies and facts are sadly missing in the
current issue. This was an area that I’ve always enjoyed within the Nancy
Drew mysteries – one that I hope that the developers decide to return to
in future adventures.
The Maid duties were
hilarious (especially Ollie's comments), but became rather tedious after
awhile. I thought that I was missing some new clue in these rooms. But by
the third day, I realized that the chores were just "busy work" to extend
the length of the game. I thought there would have been more snooping
possibilities -- perhaps Nancy would be discovered in a room she had
entered without permission, for example. But no.
With only a few exceptions, the characters remain in
exactly the same place throughout the game.
Maybe someday they will move
The Second Chance feature
has been eliminated. Now, there is no need to panic. There are plenty of
second chances throughout the adventure. They occur either automatically,
by reloading, or by simply backing away. And yes, you can get fired or die
in this game. But I must say that during the arcade sequences, if Nancy
loses or drowns or gets buried alive or sets the lodge on fire or blows
herself up (amazing what our Nancy can do, isn’t it?) the mini-game
will reset itself. Still, I would recommend saving before and after all
puzzles and mini games to ensure minimum frustration.
puzzles are very interesting: mazes, combination and sorting, strategy.
Did you know that the Fox and Geese puzzle is over 300 years old?
This was my favorite puzzle I think. What I liked about it was the
strategy that the gamer needs to use in order to complete it. During the
beginning of the adventure you can study and learn how to play this
fascinating and ancient game with seventeen geese and one fox -- this will
prepare the gamer for the real tournament later on when the gamer will use
only fifteen geese and one fox. There is also a sequential movement
pyramid that involves matching, a slot machine, a remote mechanical maze
where you must give commands to another character, and cipher decoding.
The only things missing are a Tower of Hanoi and a slider.
Then there are the arcade
interludes: snowball fights, a snowmobiling maze (watch out for the
trees, rocks and snowmen), snow shoveling, ice fishing and of
course…the exhilarating but dangerous “Timed Ice Floe Dancing.” These all
had varying degrees of difficulty and may well challenge the average
adventure gamer to near distraction (even in Junior Mode); but I would
encourage you to stick with it. These arcade sessions reminded me of the
sequences in The Polar Express or Great Journey and seemed
to be geared toward the younger set. After all, the ND series is geared
toward girls between the ages of eight to fourteen, and we more mature
gamers should remember that. These “mini” games involve throwing (clicking
and semi-aiming), raising and lowering an object while targets and
obstacles pass by, a minesweeper location game, jumping forward or
backward in six different directions during a timed sequence, matching and
logical connection dexterity in four different directions during a timed
sequence, and racing a vehicle (about the size
of a small bee)
through an open maze-like obstacle course (thankfully
not a timed sequence but dangerous for Nancy at any rate).
For the most part,
The White Wolf of
installed and ran without a hitch or glitch on my system in Junior Mode.
However, in Senior Mode, near the end of the game there is a known glitch.
During the remote mechanical maze puzzle the “command box” may not
disengage even when the upper right icon is activated. When you save and
then close down the game and reload the save, the problem will not go
away. This can prove to be very frustrating, as you may need to still
utilize your inventory, which will show as an overlay over the command box
and will be inoperative. But no despair is necessary here, as the
developers have produced a patch for this for both the CD and downloadable
versions. The patch is available on the
Her Interactive Technical Support Page. Using the patch does not
compromise any of your previous saves. It is also very important to note
that the system requirement for this game may have been underestimated.
Besides having a 32MB
DirectX 9.0 compatible video card, you should also make sure that your
video card supports 3D and pixel shading. If you do have an older graphics
card, make sure that you are using the most recent drivers possible.
It seems to me that the
Nancy Drew series has come a long way during the sixteen adventures that
Her Interactive has produced. All of them have indeed offered a positive
role model for young girls. This is something which is sorely needed in
this day and age where the stresses of peer pressure run rampant. These adventures have provided
those of us who are “mature ladies” (still girls at heart, of course) an
opportunity to remember our fondness for the Nancy Drew books we may have
reveled in during our youth.
So, we come to the
question: would I recommend this game even with the negatives I found
within? That depends on the gamer. If you are easily frustrated with
puzzling and arcading, then I would caution you: this latest game is
unusually difficult. However, if you are an adventurous and courageous
soul – like Nancy Drew -- I would suggest that you may not want to pass it
up. The new look does make sense. The backdrop graphics are gorgeous, the
FMV’s are very interesting to watch, the storyline well thought out, the
voice talent right on target and the enigmas and arcade sequences are
logically devious. For those of you who enjoy different types of
“puzzling” along with a mild interactive mystery, The White Wolf of
Icicle Creek may be a game to put on your list.
OS: Windows XP/Vista
GHz or greater Pentium or equivalent class
CD/DVD-ROM: 24x CD-ROM drive
32MB DirectX 9.0 compatible video card
employ 3D and pixel shading)
16 bit DirectX compatible sound card
Keyboard and mouse
OS: Microsoft Windows XP Home
CPU: Pentium D 950 3.4GHz
RAM: 2GB DDR2
Video: BFG nVidia Geforce
7600GT OC 256MB 128bit
Sound: SoundBlaster Audigy
DVD ROM: DVD-ROM DVD-1S16P 16x
Monitor: Northgate 20' Flat
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