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A Veteran's Review of ICE

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  • A Veteran's Review of ICE

    Allow me to preface this review by saying that I have been playing the ND games for fourteen years. Over those years, I have probably played each game well over twenty times--the older ones probably over fifty--and I do at least one full marathon of all 33 games (i.e., all 32 and SCK Remastered) annually. As I have gotten older, I have found myself ranking the games, characters, music, etc., in my spare time during marathons, and this year I thought I would write--and subsequently post--reviews of each game while I go through my 2018/2019 marathon (things have been very busy). I have lost access to/forgotten about my previous accounts on here, including my very first one, so I made a new one solely for this purpose. That being said, I hope you enjoy my review, and I apologize for the wait to those who have been following me!

    Since my reviews were getting so time-consuming that I repeatedly had to halt production, I am going to try to cut back on what I talk about in each section and implement some new changes as I go along. I don't want the quality to decrease, as I have tried to talk about each game as thoroughly as I wanted and time would allow, but these aren't getting a lot of traction anymore, so I don't want to waste my time talking about obscure things in the games that interest me if no one is learning or interested in that content. Anyway, if you're new to my reviews, welcome aboard, and if you happen to have read any of my other reviews in the past, this is why things are different now, and I hope you still like them!

    Before I get into it, I want to say that I also chose not to replay this game before writing this review. Since I've gotten so behind and this one isn't a favorite of mine, I thought it would be better for me to go ahead and review it. Usually, I play all of the games during marathons, or give myself one game I can skip each year if I'm not feeling it, but since I have to dedicate time to playing and reviewing sixteen more games after this one, ideally before Midnight in Salem is projected to come out this spring (fingers crossed it's for real this time!), I am going to let myself out of playing a few of the games. Still, I have played this one numerous times, and I am confident in my knowledge of it to write a proper review.

    Plot: Pack your earmuffs and thermal underwear because we are off to Alberta, Canada! In The White Wolf of Icicle Creek, Nancy is recruited by Chantal Moique to investigate a series of accidents happening at Icicle Creek Lodge and mentions something about a wolf before hanging up. Anyone getting any DOG flashbacks or is it just me? On the ride up to the lodge with handyman, Ollie Randall, Nancy hears a wolf howl seconds before an explosion happens in the distance, right in the direction of the lodge. Upon arrival, Nancy finds out that someone put a bomb in the bunkhouse, but none of the guests were harmed. Fearing that this escalation could force her to close the lodge, Chantal ropes Nancy into being her new maid and cook, so she has unlimited access to the guests and their rooms, and asks her to collaborate with police detective, Tino Balducci, who you might remember from TRN. Ollie, however, is convinced that the white wolf seen prowling around the lodge is somehow responsible for everything going wrong. Who or what is causing all of these incidents and what, if anything, does the white wolf have to do with it?

    To be honest, I didn't get this game as a child because the plot sounded completely uninteresting. When I decided to finally hunt down and purchase the last few games I was missing in my collection back in 2014, this one was the very last one I bought and played. I have to admit that I was actually pretty fond of it after my first playthrough--considering that I had played CRE, DDI, and SSH for the first time less than two months before it, I can see why--but my opinion of it has decreased since then. For one, the game's premise is really like a mashup between DOG, of which I am not fond, and SHA, which I love (but that one also has the Dirk Valentine plot that really sells that game for me), but set in the Canadian Rockies. I've never really been a big fan of the "mysterious accidents" plots, so my enjoyment largely depends on whatever subplot accompanies it. In this game, the subplot largely revolves around Trapper Dan, the original owner of Icicle Creek Lodge. To be perfectly honest, the subplot is really...boring and confusing, and there is honestly no reason to care about it in the game. I personally believe the subplot exists to give you multiple puzzles to solve, some extremely involved and time-consuming, and that's about all there is to it. Trapper Dan, to my knowledge, isn't loosely based on some historical figure, and he isn't fleshed out particularly well either. Needless to say, the plot is not one of the strong suits of this game.

    Setting: It isn't my favorite, but I definitely like the setting of this game. I've (sadly) never been to Canada, but I think the setting is very fitting for a remote lodge in the Canadian wilderness. The decor definitely gives you that rural Canada feeling and appears to be inspired by indigenous art and culture, though I haven't been able to identify a specific tribe or nation. Given the large number of indigenous people who live in Alberta, it is appropriate that the lodge should reflect one, or several, culture(s) in its decor and architecture. Icicle Creek Lodge looks warm and cozy--and uses warm-toned colors and woods predominately--which is a wonderful contrast to all the snow and cool-toned exterior settings in the game. There are a great many places to explore outside, including Chicken Ridge, Avalanche Creek, Skookum Ridge, the skating pond, Trapper Dan's Needle, and Icicle Lake. None of them are especially eye-catching to me or worth discussing more, but I think they did a commendable job of making all of these spaces look nice despite being covered in animated snow, which isn't exactly glittery and beautiful, with minimal scenery (the evergreens and mountains definitely helped spruce things up a bit, though I wish the backdrops and scenery was a little more varied and realistic).

    Characters: I can't say that I am fond of any of the characters in this game, but they are, at least, quite a diverse group of people with even more diverse interests. I will discuss them in order from least liked to most liked, and I'll throw in a brief discussion of any minor characters I think warrant discussion at the end.

    I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but my least favorite character in the game (that you can see anyway) is actually Freddie. I know she is hardly a part of the story, but I absolutely hate having to throw snowballs at her every single time I want to go down a certain (quite important) path. It isn't even a quick process, and I have to listen to her declare war on me. I cannot tell you how many times I accidentally went that way only to have to play her silly game, grab another useless toasty pack, and then turn back around to go another way. On top of it all, her voice really gets on my nerves (sorry, Lani!), and I am forced to cook an extra meal for her too. I know she's a nice little girl who is just lonely and misses her mom, but I am so irritated by her presence.

    Ollie is easily my second least favorite character in the game, which probably shouldn't come as a surprise given how much I dislike his child. I was quite certain I wasn't going to like him within the first five minutes, and that opinion never changed. He is grumpy and a huge slacker, constantly throwing more chores and responsibilities at Nancy as if he has completely forgotten why Nancy was actually brought to the lodge. He even says he could run the place by himself (what arrogance), but Nancy is obviously the one running the place for most of the game. Instead of helping out around the lodge, which is his job, he spends all of his time, literally days, "building" a wolf trap because he believes the wolf is responsible for everything going on at the lodge, like slashing tires, giving people food poisoning, pouring ice on stairs, planting and detonating explosives, trapping people in the sauna, and breaking windows on the second floor. Riiiiight. The game tries to make you feel sympathy for him because Chantal refuses to give him a raise--I wouldn't either, the no-good offloader--but I have trouble caring enough about him to lament his financial struggles. He is just flat-out unhelpful and rude, and his presence means I have one extra meal to cook three times a day.

    Next up are Lou Talbot and Bill Kessler, who are honestly tied for me. Lou is basically a cross between Harry Potter and the most stereotypical (Californian, misunderstood) art student imaginable, and I might actually like him if he wasn't such a massive jerk. I intentionally lay on the paprika in all of his food to get on his nerves. Bill Kessler, on the other hand, is a bit nicer than Lou outwardly, but he still forces Nancy to do chores for him all the time and can be a bit of a jerk as well. He's also an extremely stereotypical Canadian man, to the point that he has the accent and says "eh/aye" at the end of his sentences. It's really disappointing. Both of them are reasonably interesting as far as backstories go, but that's all I can say here.

    I don't know why, but I actually find Yanni to be entertaining. He is incredibly superstitious, like Ollie, and thinks that there is a mad bomber on the loose targeting him because he is "the best cross-country skier in the world." He's apparently terrified of wolves, saying that the gaze of a wolf will make one go blind and that his grandmother was eaten by wolves. Whether or not he believes any of this is uncertain, but I still find most of his other dialogue (and outfit) to be hilarious. Unfortunately, like the other stereotypical characters, he is modeled after an extremely stereotypical Eastern European/Russian athlete. Still, he is, at least, nice to Nancy most of the time, and he doesn't send Nancy out on any errands that I can remember.

    Guadalupe Comillo is easily the best (visible, human) character in the game, which is kind of sad given how small of a role she plays in it. Still, I admire her for her work and for the lengths she goes to to protect Isis. There isn't much to say about her other than I find her to be intelligent and compassionate, which is a quality most characters in this game severely lack.

    The real best character in the game is Isis, with poor Julius McQuade coming in right behind her. She is smart, beautiful, and very helpful. I am not one of the fans that is head-over-heels for Isis, but in a game almost deprived of decency and good qualities, I am happy that there is at least a lovely wolf for us to love. The worst character in the game by far is Chantal. She is one of the most unlikable characters in Nancy Drew history. She cares nothing about people at all. The only reason she is even upset about the incidents at the lodge is because she is afraid of losing money and her father's respect. She even promises Ollie a raise and then reneges it. Despite bringing Nancy in to help her, she never listens to what Nancy has to say about anything and forces Nancy to work with Tino Balducci against her wishes. She also wants to kill Isis and doesn't believe anything Nancy says about her, and she refuses to give Nancy information that could help her investigation. Truly, she is one of the worst characters in the game, and I would have been happy leaving her lodge in ruin after rescuing Isis from the bloodthirsty guests/employees.

    Music: All of my life, I have been attracted to instruments that sound cold. The tinkling of a music box or xylophone, the sharp, light sound of a flute or piccolo, and the clear ring of a bell are among my favorite sounds, and music which utilizes the cold-invoking properties of these instruments brings me immense joy. For that reason, you might think that I would rank this soundtrack extremely high, but you would be wrong. (That is not to say that I don't think it delivers a cold sound exceptionally well; the real problem is that I don't find it to be sonically interesting.) My biggest complaint about this soundtrack is that there isn't a lot of diversity in the compositions. This past year, I watched a few movies that took place in rural Northern Canada/Alaska and played a game (i.e., Kôna) that took place in Northern Quebec, and one of the things that I remarked on in all of them was how they used music to do more than just create a cold atmosphere. This game, however, uses the exact same instruments (i.e., drums and other rhythmic percussion instruments, chimes or a xylophone, flute, some type of wooden flute, and violin) in every composition without fail, and none of the music really reflects rural Canada either. Listen to every track and you will hear the same techniques used (e.g., echo and heavy vibrato), and many of the songs have the same drum part as "Chase" or similar motifs, which would be great if they were used in an interesting way. Truly, go back and listen to the soundtrack and you will see the similarities between every composition, even "Olympic" which is my favorite and the only distinct track because it features different instrumentation and starts with a 3/4 time signature and switches to 4/4 halfway through. The soundtrack fits the environment well, but that's all it does.

    Puzzles: Puzzles are both the strong point and downfall of this game. Since this is a puzzle-heavy game, I am going to list where I think the puzzles fall categorically and give a brief explanation. The categories are as follows: good, mediocre, bad, and horrible.

    Good: Shoveling skating pond, Isis smell test, fish/rabbit/owl slot machine, vault maze, pig key, wolf key

    I think all of the puzzles in this category are really original or fun without being insanely difficult, though the skating pond and slot machine can be time consuming. I think the best puzzle in the game is probably doing the vault maze with Isis. There's significance to the story, and it is moderately difficult, at least on a first playthrough.

    Mediocre: Tino's survey, shack lock, decoding Trapper Dan's journal, racoon key, moose key, cooking, Trapper Dan's pyramid

    The puzzles in this category are mediocre because they aren't difficult or particularly annoying. I know some people really despise the cooking, but I actually enjoy it. It is a bit irritating having to interrupt your investigation three times a day to cook for people, but I think having that extra component adds something to the gameplay, along with the temperature gauge. I have to not only be aware of my time but manage all of my outdoor adventures so that I can get back in time to cook for everyone. Plus, I really like putting paprika in everyone's food to get on their nerves.

    Bad: Fishing, maid duties, sauna pipes, driving the snowmobile, Snow Princess

    The puzzles in this category are either boring and easy or mildly irritating. I don't have much to say about them except that the game would have been better off without them entirely, though the fishing does give you the opportunity to get a cool Easter Egg.

    Horrible: Fox and Geese, ice floe, ENDGAME CHASE

    *heavy sigh* The puzzles in the category are so awful that I doubt there is a fan out there that hasn't been practically traumatized by them. The ice floe puzzle is really difficult--I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to beat it without help and failed--and has that time component that only makes it worse. Fox and Geese is really infuriating. I actually liked it the first time because I like those kind of board games, but having to play it and win four times in four different board locations is absurd. I have a strategy that I try to apply each time, but it requires moving my pieces in a very specific way before I can even start trying to beat Bill, so I end up sitting there for an hour (or even two) playing Fox and Geese. It's unnecessary to play it that many times. The worst puzzle in the game, however, is the endgame culprit chase. No lie, I almost didn't beat the game because it took me LITERALLY two or three hours to get through that section without dying. I was so angry my brother was worried I would end up having a stroke. I have not had that much difficulty since then, but I think it still took me forty-one minutes one time and close to thirty another time. The fastest I did it was, I believe, seventeen minutes, which is still really awful. You are rewarded with that hysterical cutscene of the culprit flying off a cliff, but that still doesn't make up for the pain that is that section. That part alone is why I chose not to play this game again before writing this review. I'd probably still be trying to beat that section right now otherwise.

    Graphics: Thankfully, this game is a major upgrade graphics-wise, putting both the environmental graphics and character models back on par with, if not better than, the games before CRE. There is an impressive opening segment where Nancy and Ollie drive to the lodge, as well as some close-up animations with Isis that I think are worth noting. The character models are unique and diverse, with increasingly realistic facial expressions. Lupe is the worst model, in my opinion, but that might be because of her limited time in the game and that hideous haircut.

    Ending: Well, I think I already touched on this a bit in the puzzle discussion, but I don't think the ending is completely bad. I have to admit that I was really thrown by the culprit choice given that we had discovered so many strong motives in the other characters throughout the game. I love when I am actually surprised by the culprit, but I thought the choice was actually poor and the motive explanation was even worse. It was the ending explanation that actually ruined my perception of the game, as I would have been much fonder of it had it made the plot less ridiculous than it was already. Anyway, besides the shock value and "action" involved with that ending, I think it was really poor, except that everything worked out as best as it could for Isis.

    Other points of interest: I have mixed feelings about the voice-acting in this game, as some might expect. The voice work itself is fine, but I dislike how most of the characters are based heavily in stereotypes with accents to match. That doesn't have anything to do with the performances these actors gave, but it is something problematic that should have been avoided. None of the vocal performances stand out to me, but they are not subpar either.

    Another thing worth mentioning is that this is the first game featuring the first full-screen engine and third user interface! I don't have extremely strong opinions one way or the other about the user interface in this game, but I like that it takes up less space on the screen. I'm sure I will have more to say about it in other games, depending on what features are added to it for that game.

    The Takeaway: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek, while not being nearly as bad as its predecessor, is a game I consider to be in the dark age of Nancy Drew games. I played this game for the first time in August of 2014, and it was last game missing from my collection. There was no nostalgia or juvenile taste/interest to influence my opinion of the game, but I thought it was mediocre to decent at best. Not great, not horrible, just okay. It has some interesting gameplay and good puzzles, but it is bogged down with generally problematic characters without much depth, uninspired music, and a weak plot. With that being said, I give this game four and a half stars.

    So the final question is obviously whether I think you should play this game. It depends. If you are a dedicated fan who wants to play all of the games, then go ahead and play it. It isn't the best game, but I don't think you will be questioning your life's choices, at least up until you hit those three awful puzzles I talked about. At least, you will get to meet a ND animal that fans love immensely. If you've got a good many games under your belt and you're looking for another game to play, or if you're new to the ND games, I'd advise you to look somewhere else for now. It isn't the easiest Nancy Drew game or the most interesting, so I wouldn't personally use it to introduce anyone to the series. If you're looking for another Nancy Drew game to play, my personal favorites are Treasure in the Royal Tower, The Final Scene, Curse of Blackmoor Manor, Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon, and Secret of Shadow Ranch out of the older games. If a new(er) game is more your speed, and especially if you have already played the aforementioned titles, then I highly recommend Shadow at the Water's Edge, The Deadly Device, Ghost of Thornton Hall, and The Silent Spy (again, all in my top ten).


    Thank you for reading my review! I hope that my perspectives and ramblings inspire someone to play this game, replay this game, look at it through fresh eyes, or try it for the first time. I should be posting a review of Legend of the Crystal Skull within the next day or two, and I will continue to post them as I continue my 2018 Nancy Drew Marathon into 2019...I hope my dedication to writing these reviews is crystal clear.

    Previous review:The Creature of Kapu Cave
    Next review: Legend of the Crystal Skull

    Last edited by yukixiaomeimei; December 12, 2019, 01:16 AM.