Self-referential video games can be quite entertaining if done right. Does Icey's action-intense campaign blend well with its meta narrative? Unsheathe your blade and let's find out.
Icey stars the mysterious titular heroine who's on a mission to simply end the life of an evil entity known as Judas. You control her by running and dashing around somewhat open environments that may have a few branching paths and secret areas to discover. Whenever you come across enemies, you're forced to fight them all in a closed-off section of the stage. You do so by unleashing weak and strong attacks as well as timing your evasive ability in order to catch foes by surprise with a sneak attack. Once an enemy is weakened enough, you can end its life with a powerful attack and absorb the energy that it gives off then use it to harm all the other onscreen foes. Whenever you can chain enemies together with back-to-back full-screen energy attacks like this, it feels just awesome. In the end, the tight controls and reflex-based combat is rather impressive and enjoyable.
What sets Icey apart from similar games is its innovative story. Basically, a narrator regularly describes Icey's current circumstances. Also, you'll occasionally be taken out of the game to witness a mysterious programmer altering code that supposedly affects the game world. Anyway, this narrator desperately tries to guide you along and tells you to follow the onscreen arrows. However, any gamer will obviously disobey him. This results in him becoming increasingly angry at you which is downright hilarious at first. That being said, after a while of him throwing temper tantrums in all of his nerd rage, he'll surely get on anyone's nerves. I wish that this dynamic was a bit more complex because it really starts to get repetitive fast. Don't get me wrong, it's unique but just way overdone here.
In addition to the core combat, you'll earn cash and a couple of new abilities as you progress. The first ability allows you to dash almost non-stop in mid-air which makes you very agile in both exploration and combat. The second merely allows you to dash through thin walls and that's not nearly as cool. Anyway, you can use earned cash to purchase additional combat abilities as well as upgrade them. Learning and experimenting with new moves is pretty fun and can give you an advantage in battle. On top of this, having a larger health meter and taking less damage will help gamers who are struggling. Luckily, you can replay stages and grind as much as you wish.
All of this being said, there really isn't much point in mastering these abilities because Icey can easily be completed in one sitting. Heck, you can even do and see everything it has to offer as well as obtain the platinum trophy within a few hours. In addition to its short length, the gameplay doesn't have any substantial variety as all you generally do is work your way from point A to point B while fighting off similar enemies. Sure, there are a handful of boss fights but none of them are particularly memorable. I did come across one mini-game but it was pretty similar to the main game so it's not like anyone would spend more than a couple minutes with it.
Although Icey contains an entertaining meta narrative, it really isn't much of a game. However, the combat can be quite fun (albeit underutilized) so if you're looking for a short and strange experience then Icey will be worth checking out.
- + Solid combat system that'll thoroughly test your reflexes
- + Strange yet compelling narrative
- + Rewarding upgrades and unlockable skills
- - Not enough gameplay variety
- - The narrator can be very annoying
- - Extremely short campaign