Icycle: On Thin Ice Review: A Singular Blend of Artistry and Game Design
There are plenty of simple, addicting games in the App Store. There are also plenty of games with amazing artistry. Icycle: On Thin Ice, the new platform puzzler from developer Damp Gnat and publisher Chillingo, is one of those rare games that combines the two qualities, and does so in a wonderfully bizarre way.
The very concept of the game will sound strange when spoken out loud, but I’ll give it a go: in this game you play Dennis, a nearly naked man with a comically small bicycle. Dennis must traverse through a frozen, psychedelic landscape in a fool’s quest for love and sanity. Along the way, he finds various shirts, umbrellas, vacuums, and other treasures.
Um … right? I know. Just accept it and start playing.
The game basics are actually pretty stripped down. It’s a platformer, but one with no attacks or enemies. Dennis can pedal forwards or backwards, and he can also jump; once obtaining an umbrella in the second level, he can also float, Mary Poppins style. That’s it. The trick, of course, is using that limited repertoire of moves to get through the tricky and challenging levels of the game.
And the level design here is really, phenomenally well done. The devs really thought out of the box in terms of level design and the sorts of challenges they throw at Dennis. I never got the feeling of repetition playing through these levels. Each level required its own little shift in thinking or tactics. Some levels will quickly catch you off guard with design and challenges you simply don’t expect the first time through.
What really makes the game stand out, though, is its artistry. This is an amazingly beautiful and surreal game. There are screens that could easily be screen-shotted for an amazing and colorful wallpaper. The surreal artistry isn’t just window-dressing, though; it directly influences level design and even some of the challenges Dennis faces. The combination of design and gameplay is what truly makes this game work.
I should probably mention again, and stress, that Dennis is nude. Tastefully, playfully nude. In fact, this game has a certain coy sense of humor surrounding nudity in general. For example, as levels progress Dennis finds things to wear — shirts, hats, boots, scarves, but never pants. It’s never offensive, though, and so it shouldn’t bother any but the most modest players.
While Icycle is a Universal app, I definitely recommend playing it on the iPad, where the art of the game can be better appreciated. Also, there are a few moments in the game where it zooms out pretty far, and Dennis gets rather tiny. It’s not unplayable on the iPhone, but it’s definitely a lesser experience.
There are some games you just need to experience, and Icycle is one of them. It’s only a buck, and it’s well worth it. I fully expect to find the game on many Top Ten lists come the New Year.
Our Score: 5 out of 5
|Title:||Icycle: On Thin Ice|
|Release Date:||November 27, 2013|