On the surface, Icey is a 2D side-scrolling Beat’em Up style game which was originally released in 2016. It founds its home on Android, iOS, Windows, and Playstation 4, receiving high praise. Like many other indie titles, Icey has entered Nintendo’s hit parade this year. This is our review for Icey on the Nintendo Switch.
In Icey, you play as the titular Icey – a young girl with no memory in a world dominated by the genocidal madman Judas. Mysteriously, Icey seems to be the only thing outside of his sway and she has been branded as The Chosen One. Seated on his ascended throne high above Ultimopolis, Judas has set himself up as The Chosen One in order to learn the Secret Names of God and only the real Chosen One can stop him. We’ll dig into this a bit, but first: gameplay!
Icey is very satisfying in its fighting mechanics and its pacing. It has a combination system of regular and heavy sword strikes along with dashes and teleportation moves to make the combos even deeper. Attacks can take place on the ground, in the air, or a combination of both. Some moves will cause you damage, but sometimes that risk is worth the payoff.
New skills, abilities, and upgrades can be unlocked as you play by finding in-game dollars. Many of these dollars will come from taking your enemy’s milk money, but hidden throughout Icey’s world are cash machines which you can beat up a la Street Fighter. Nothing makes a trip the the ATM compete without punching the literal cash out of it.
There is also a Perception system which allows you press the A button at a specific time to exploit a momentary weakness in your enemy. After defeating enemies through Perception attacks, Icey can absorb their residual energy, regaining health and unleash it in a furious, area-of-effect attack on the remaining enemies. The fluid combos and satisfying Perception finishers are a solid foundation for the rest of the game.
But this is where things get weird.
The story of Icey is narrated to you and it doesn’t take long to learn that there is a meta-narrative that is taking place alongside the game’s main story. Icey, the charter, is guided by the narrator with arrows and verbal cues, but when she strays off of the path, he is quick to chide her actions and belittle you, the player.
It is an interesting take in its Deadpool-esque fourth wall breaking style, but the emotional range of the narrator sways between passive-aggressive micromanagement to full on annoyance. The narrator, we discover, is the developer of Icey, the game – which sends these interactions into the realm of Inked (review in the link), setting the stage for conflict between the creator and their creation. Some of these moments of interaction result in the game ending right in the middle of exploration.
What this does is creates a multipathed experience for players in which they can uncover what all is going on behind the scenes. Some of these paths are a humorous look at the world of game development while others get into the personal conflicts between the narrator and his team. I don’t want to spoil too much in this realm because there are some weird, wacky, and shocking moments that take place when you go off of the path.
Unfortunately, this is the point at which Icey suffers. Because the narrative is split between the story of the game itself and the meta-narrative, neither of them feel like they go as deep as they could. The path Icey (the character) follows is fairly predictable: a character discovers a latent power or ability, their higher purpose is revealed, and only their power can stop the evil threatening the world. On the side of the meta-narrative, the details we get are bits and pieces of a greater whole, but still, leave a fair bit wanting.
I would also be a fair bit negligent if I didn’t draw on some of the religious allusions used within Icey. Don’t worry – they won’t go too deep.
Icey’s villain is named after the biblical character Judas Iscariot, who is most famously remembered as the betrayer of Jesus. He is more of a tragic character than you might think, but that’s a story for another time. Icey’s Judas, however, has more in common with Christendom’s big bad, Satan – a once power angel who was not content with his own position of authority, He wanted to BE God. Much like Icey’s tale, things don’t end in his favor. Ever.
I am always a bit intrigued by the use of religious imagery within a video game, especially through the lenses of other worldviews. What I have observed (specifically in anime or eastern developer video games) is that they usually winds up being like someone describing the plot of C.S. Lewis’ classic The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as a large African cat and a frost mage fighting over the last nightstand at Ikea. Allusions to some source material, but the application is only in name. This is the case with Icey.
With all of this in consideration, Icey is a pretty cool game.