SAN FRANCISCO – "Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek," from Her Interactive Inc., is the 16th installment of the girl sleuth's series of mystery games for PC. Once again, a solid game plot makes up for not-so-solid graphics.
The game comes along at the same time as the recent released movie "Nancy Drew," starring a cast of relative unknowns in a story with a completely different plot, but I digress.
The video-game version finds Nancy undercover in the Canadian Rockies in the dead of winter, posing as a maid and cook at the Icicle Creek Lodge in order to investigate a strange series of accidents that have all but driven the place out of business.
The latest dust up? Contaminated potato salad that left four people violently ill.
OK, so no one got blasted by a plasma rifle, but it's still gross, right?
The stakes go up as the bunkhouse explodes into flames as I arrive for work. It all threatens to drive the place out of business unless Nancy gets to the bottom of it.
The I'm-just-the-maid ruse gave me, playing as Nancy Drew, access to the guest rooms where I snooped around the still screens by clicking the golden direction arrows. That's about as fast-paced as things get in the early going.
But there's an in-game clock ticking to remind me not to snoop all day and to get lunch ready for the guests, lest I be fired by the lodge manager.
There were some nifty puzzles I had to master to make my way through the game.
To properly chat up a particular guest for information, I indulged him in a game of Fox and Geese by the fireplace.
I've never played Fox and Geese before, but now I'll enjoy the traditional board game offline as well. Surprisingly for me, old games within new games is a cool concept.
Later, I shoveled snow off the skating pond to get into the good graces of a couple of lodge guests. This ended up as a Minesweeper-type puzzle, with different shades of blue ice letting me know when I was nearing a crack that would send me plunging through to the frigid water below. Again, pretty cute stuff.
Aside from the puzzles, mind power and memory is king here.
For instance, I got suspicious of one lodge guest after she told me she was staying there to observe birds, especially orioles.
I busted that as a blatant lie after snooping around the front desk where I spied a regional birding guide that explained that orioles only show up in the summer.
I'll keep an extra close eye on her, as that little fib made her a prime suspect.
That's really what the Nancy Drew series is about. Mental notes and their level of importance set amid some scenic background of general interest.
It's really quite testing and if you can put up with the hokey dialogue long enough, you'll soon be sucked into the atmosphere of intrigue.
I was, and I'm giving "Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek" three out of four stars.
The game is $19.99 and is available for Windows-based PCs only. It is rated "E" for everyone.