As fiction's foremost girl detective, Nancy Drew has found herself in the midst of some pretty strange cases. The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is certainly one of her most puzzling escapades, although the biggest mystery to be solved here is why it is taking place on the Nintendo Wii. While there isn't anything horribly wrong with this first-person point-and-click adventure, it fails to take advantage of the system's innovative controls in any meaningful ways. This is essentially the same game that was released on the PC well over a year ago, albeit with a few annoying minigames tacked on to remind you that you're swinging a remote instead of scrolling a mouse.
The plot remains the same as in the 2007 game. Nancy has been asked to visit the remote Icicle Creek lodge in the Canadian Rockies to investigate a series of suspicious accidents apparently related to a curse put on the area by, you guessed it, a supernatural white wolf. If Nancy doesn't figure out what's going on soon, these occurrences might drive the resort out of business. The story is exactly what you would expect from a Nancy Drew mystery; you get a setting in the snowy northern wilderness and lots of weirdness to unravel while dumb older people wander around without a clue.
You probably won't be able to get through The White Wolf of Icicle Creek without being annoyed, though. As in previous games in the Nancy Drew series, the spunky sleuth mixes a lot of chores in with her mystery solving. Nancy is at the lodge undercover, working as a member of the housekeeping staff so she can spy on the guests and see if any of them are involved in the skulduggery. Yet while this role lets Nance hide her status as one of the world's greatest detectives, it also saddles her with a lot of dreary tasks. You have to start off each day by making beds, gathering up towels, and cooking meals. There are also arcade challenges, such as dueling a local brat in snowball fights, racing a snowmobile across the frozen wastes to check avalanche conditions, and full-contact ice fishing. All of these activities are handled with the Wii Remote. So when called upon to whip up lunch for lodge guests, you mime creating the goodies, like quesadillas, by jerking the remote around. To grate cheese, for instance, you shake the remote from side to side, while chopping tomatoes is done by pulling the controller up and down to mimic wielding a kitchen knife.
These odd jobs were also present in the PC version of the game, but they were handled with mouse scrolling, and you could coast through them on autopilot. Here, you have to spend time getting the remote motions down pat as well as deal with erratic controller sensitivity. Everything feels off, either requiring overly intense movements (cheese grating demands a frenzied remote shaking that would be more apt if you were playing maracas) or a really light touch. The same goes for actions such as snowmobiling, which is little more than a demolition derby ride. If you go fast enough to have a little fun, you inevitably go boom against snowy rocks. If you go slow enough to make it to your destination intact, you might fall asleep on the way.
The payoff for such activities is minimal, and even the snowmobiling and fishing competitions seem like pointless busywork that barely relates to the mystery you're trying to solve. The motion-sensing functionality seems to have been tossed in solely to justify the game's release on the Wii. You're constantly wondering what such dull chores have to do with uncovering a white wolf's curse. The only plus here is how Nancy's maid duties immerse you in the tedious reality of detective work. She at least manages to scrounge up clues while trudging through the daily chores of making beds and stuffing towels into laundry bags. Expect to do a lot of yawning and empathizing.
The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is marginally more fulfilling when it sticks to traditional adventure gaming. There is a tremendous amount of detail here, and you feel as though you're involved in an actual investigation, since you spend a lot of time checking out your surroundings and chatting up the locals to get a handle on what's going down. The game favors detective deduction over the mechanical "pick up everything that isn't nailed down" approach so common in adventure games. Set-piece puzzles are reasonably diverting, too. There are a number of locks to figure out, codes to decipher, and so forth. Some are a little less engaging, such as the Minesweeper variant where you try to shovel snow off a skating pond without going through the ice, and another where you balance on ice floes to make it back to terra firma.
The visuals aren't nearly as good as those in the PC game, but the graphics do bring the cozy lodge and the frigid environs to life. A great sense of characterization in the dialogue adds to this lived-in feel. Nancy is as plucky as always, and the supporting cast is well developed and ably voiced…with the exception of Canadian stereotypes such as a lumberjack called Trapper Dan and a doofus ice fisherman named Bill who speaks with a stereotypical Canadian accent and tacks "eh" onto the end of sentences. Load times present the only real problem with the presentation. The game constantly goes to the disc for data, pausing briefly for loads every time you take a couple of steps. This gives the whole game a choppy feel, since you generally can't turn a corner or walk down a few stairs without triggering a "Loading…" delay.
Even with its flaws, Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek is an acceptable first effort on the Wii for this long-running series. There's enough charm, great attention to detail, and realistic investigation to minimize the irritation caused by the unneeded Wii Remote jobs. More development will be needed with the next port, however, because not enough has been done to ensure that The White Wolf of Icicle Creek takes advantage of what the Wii has to offer.