It’s not a total surprise point-and-click adventure games seem to be creeping into the Wii’s gaming repertoire with greater frequency. Most of the time, the console’s remote seems to do a good job of mirroring the duty of the PC mouse that inspired the genre’s moniker.
Sadly, the bulk of point-and-click adventure games being released on the Wii tend to be ports of older PC titles, instead of freshly developed ventures. For better or worse, this is the case with the long-running Nancy Drew series on the PC. After 19 titles for home computers, it has now finally found its way to a console release.
Gallivanting about in sub-zero temperatures with wolves howling and prowling in the not-too-far off distance may not sound like a great time to most folks, but one thing teen sleuth Nancy Drew doesn’t pass-up is a good challenge. Her first venture on the Wii, The White Wolf of Icicle Creek, is not the latest of Nancy Drew’s adventures, yet it brings the series to Nintendo’s console with enough classic charm to give some casual gamers reason to overlook a few fumbles here and there.
When a series of uncanny accidents – including several near-death experiences and an exploding bunkhouse – sends some guests and employees high-tailing it from the creepy Icicle Creek Lodge, the owner of the establishment stops accepting new customers and calls in Nancy for an undercover mission to get to the bottom of the things. The matter is further complicated by a mysterious, howling white wolf that seems to be frequenting the snow-covered woods near the lodge. Traveling to the frigid Canadian Rockies, Nancy must pretend to be the lodge’s new maid and chef long enough to scope out the few remaining guests, uncover clues about the strange incidents, and reveal the suspected saboteur. Given the source material – an amalgamation of several different Nancy Drew classics – the story is quite engaging and will appeal to mystery enthusiasts and players who are familiar with the young detective heroine.
In terms of gameplay, Nancy Drew fans will find the mixture of adventure and sleuthing they’ve come to expect from the series is still intact. You’ll sneak about the lodge to search for clues, call friends and conduct phone interviews with folks to gather information, speak with guests and other possible suspects, and engage in much of the requisite puzzle solving expected from a mystery point-and-click adventure title. However, Nancy’s undercover role in White Wolf of Icicle Creek also means you’ll be doing a lot of menial labor as well. Time passes as you play, and each morning you’ll have to check guests’ rooms for any dirty linens, which must be collected in a sack and deposited in the laundry chute. Since Nancy is also the interim chef, you’ll have to make three square meals a day at the appropriate times or face the wrath of the lodge’s owner.
The cooking aspect of the game is nowhere near as cohesive as you’d expect from full-blown foodie titles on the Wii, but it tries to imitate similar gameplay nonetheless. In the kitchen, you’ll hunt and peck around to gather all the ingredients needed for the meal and then engage in a step-by-step cooking mini-game. It’s a nice addition, even if it’s not particularly well implemented control-wise. Other mini-games, like fishing, a Minesweeper-like ice shoveling task, and a snowball fight with a bratty kid, are among a number of diversions that add a pleasant variety to the overall gameplay. These activities are well-integrated into the game and don’t feel tacked-on, but they suffer from often poor controls.
Navigating the lodge and the icy tundra beyond isn’t as easy as it should be. Pointing the Wii Remote at interactive elements changes the cursor to let you know what can be handled. This works fine, but moving is a frustrating step-by-step endeavor. You’ll jump from one section of a room to the next, by clicking on directional areas that pop-up (if available) when you highlight edges of the screen.
Though you can turn to the left and right, or reverse your direction, it’s easy to get a bit confused on your special orientation. Even when you do get the hang of it, moving quickly around the game is nearly impossible. This is further hampered by lengthy load times during most room transitions that cause the pacing of lag on occasion.
Time can be adjusted manually by fiddling with an alarm clock located in your room. This is important for progressing, when you get stuck or are unable to proceed, since certain people can only be found about the lodge during different times of the day, and venturing outside into the cold can only be done when the temperatures have risen to safe levels. Speaking of which, staying out too long in the cold can have dire consequences. Exiting the safety and warmth of the lodge is necessary (and a good change of pace from the stuffy indoors). Entering the cold brings up a body temperature meter that slowly ticks down the longer you spend exposed to the elements. Don’t let it run out completely or poor Nancy will wind up as a Popsicle.
While Nancy sounds a bit older than her years, the hefty volume of voice work throughout the game is well done. As you meander through the lodge and into the snow beyond, you’ll also hear lots of atmospheric sounds like footsteps, growling, rustling, and other nuanced effects that add to the mystery vibe. The graphics are decent, yet they fail to impress. Most of the scenery looks good and characters are reasonably detailed. Animations, on the other hand, are overly mechanical.
Nancy Drew’s console debut doesn’t make a huge splash, but it’s solid enough for fans that aren’t into PC gaming to take the series for a spin. The new Wii elements are nominal, and this mostly straight port seems like it belongs better on the PC. Still, the story is strong, a scalable level of challenge works well for younger or older players, and anyone who’s followed the digital adventures of Nancy Drew yet hasn’t played White Wolf will derive some enjoyment from the console version.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
The game looks good in some areas and not so hot in others. 2.6 Control
Loading lag, shoddy Wii Remote motion controls, and unintuitive navigation will turn some casual players off. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice work is good and the sound effects are decent. 3.8
A solid adventure sprinkled with plenty of mini-games to boost the experience.
3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.