Well, Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek will go down in history for me. It is the Nancy Drew game I had to cheat to beat… Yeah. Hopefully, this won’t chase you away because my final feelings on this game are incredibly torn.
– A quick note before anybody gets on me about cheating. I was playing a single-player game, my cheating had no impact on anybody else’s enjoyment of the game. I don’t cheat if it can harm somebody else’s experience. I also try not to cheat to finish games. However… if it’s a single-player game and you want to see the end… let your cheat flag fly –
With that, The White Wolf of Icicle Creek kicks off like many of the Nancy Drew games. You start in “Nancy’s room,” where she has trinkets from some past cases. There is also a general guide to help you with gameplay and an overview of the current case. Nancy has been hired as a “maid” for a hotel that has been experiencing a string of bad luck. From a wolf sighting, people getting ill or injured, and all kinds of messes. While posing as a maid, Nancy hopes to track down who might be causing the issues.
The White Wolf of Icicle Creek plays out like many of the games in the series. Much like Shadow at the Water’s Edge, you are given tasks to complete daily and then spend the rest of your time working out the mystery. The game is largely non-linear, with you being able to discover and work through various aspects of the game at your own pace. Unlike Shadow, the daily tasks are more involved, and there are time restraints. You have to cook the meals, clean the rooms, and at least once clear the lake of snow so people can skate. I liked the more involved “side” things in this game, although the amount of them, plus the limitations on time, can start to get annoying. As a, for instance, lunch starts at noon, so if you finish something at, say, 11:30 in game, you have to decide if it’s worth attempting another task or just doing lunch.
You can miss some of your daily tasks without failing the game, so that helps a bit, but I feel like the balance with side tasks for Nancy hasn’t been perfectly achieved in this game.
Also, like many of the other games, all the characters you meet have a motive, and it’s discovering which one is the actual bad guy. This is where I am always a bit “eh” about these games. The mystery itself doesn’t play out much in an “I can follow along and figure out who it is before Nancy tells me.” You discover more motives and pieces of the puzzle, but until the actual reveal, everybody remains a pretty likely suspect. I am also not super in love with who it ended up being; of all the people, the motive and the why, in this case, felt the weakest.
That being said, the overall story is alright. I also really enjoy the wolf and her part in the whole story. You bond with a wolf while sorting through the mystery and even use her to help solve puzzles. The game has a lot of people telling Nancy that the wolf should just die, but then really makes an effort to talk about the importance of wild wolves. I don’t love the need to make the wolf so dog-like to help sell the message, but this is a kid’s game, so I get it, find a way to appeal to them.
Puzzle types are where this game both shines and falls. Of all the Nancy Drew games I have tackled thus far, this one has the most variety of puzzles and things to do. Cooking, cleaning, fishing, actual gathering of clues – something that is in all the games but is not always a focus – there is a lot to do in this game and a variety of ways to help Nancy solve things. The issue, though, is a lot of the puzzles are poorly designed or, frankly… too hard. It seems ridiculous to say because, again, the age group these games are meant to target, but remember me saying at the start I had to cheat?
There is an ice jumping puzzle that I solved through total luck. I am still not even certain how you solve it. You have to jump on ice blocks to get other ones to rise to get Nancy out of a frozen lake. Seems simple enough, except there was no solid explanation as to which ice blocks would raise which other ones. I basically hopped around, died several times, then eventually got lucky. There is also a degree of tedium. At one point, you have to get washcloths from each of the guests; simple enough, you are a maid, after all? Except no, because only a few guests will want their rooms cleaned each day. I ended up having to keep setting the clock forward while stopping for each meal, to trigger new days to finally get it.
But all of that is okay. You do some guessing with the ice jumping, a little tedium with getting some things; I can deal with this. I love point-and-click adventures, but I have yet to find one that doesn’t have a puzzle or two that aren’t the best. This game goes a step further though. You have to beat a guest (the computer) THREE TIMES at a game that involves some strategy, of course, but also a lot of luck and chance. My husband and I both looked up guides, tried to read strategies, and anything to help us, and eventually, I took the advice of people who said to open the console commands and just trigger the next part of the game from there. I hated having to do that, but this part was ridiculous. And by the way, a bunch of people have made guides for this and swear their strategies work, and they are all liars, LOL.
This all just leaves me so torn about this game. I liked the whole vibe of it, the snowy cabin, and the daily tasks. The characters are fairly interesting, even the ones that are jerks about the wolf. The wolf was a cool addition, and the variety of puzzle types and tasks was great, except for the one I could not actually do. And again, the solve of the mystery was not the best… not the worst but not the best.
So bottom line? Given the fact that I had to cheat to finish it, I am hard-pressed to recommend it. A lot of people again say the puzzle I got stuck on isn’t that hard, actually, but the way to cheat around it is also commonly sought out, so who is to say which side is right. It was one of the more enjoyable Nancy Drew games I played overall, but the two big issues are pretty glaring. If you want to beat the whole series, like I am one day hoping to do, I would say this won’t be the worst you tackle. Otherwise, if you are just looking for one or two… I’d say pick another one, sadly.