ICEY nearly flew under everyone’s radar. This game was made by a Chinese indie developer and got, as far as I know, no attention by gaming media pre-release (at least in Western media, no idea about Asian). The only reason I even heard about it was due to JesseCox and TotalBiscuit both recommending the game on their YouTube channels.. And that scares me because this is one of the best games I have played and I almost missed it.
ICEY can be summarized as Platinum Games combat with Stanley Parable humor and Dark Souls storytelling. It is a 2D spectacle fighter and exactly what I would expect if Platinum Games made a 2D fighting game. It reminded me a lot of Dust: An Elysian Tale, another 2D fighter I would recommend if the art style does not bother you. There are combos, a counter-attack system, and an upgrade system. The combat animations are gorgeous and have a very strong weight to them. There is a good variety of enemies for you to cut through and boss fights are difficult, awesome, and memorable. This game’s combat is reason enough to get this game.
But it does so much more than that. There is an in-game narrator that not only tells you your objective but displays arrows for you to follow. You could listen to the narrator and follow the arrows, or you can go explore and do something else at the narrator’s chagrin. Making the narrator go off his “script” is hilarious. He goes from being a serious dramatic narrator into the Stanley Parable narrator and it’s amazing. The narration is all in Chinese but the English subtitles (as far as I can tell) do a perfect job of conveying the humor and emotion. I did not find any translation errors while playing the game.
The lore of the game is done Dark Souls style. You get bits and pieces here and there and you have to put it together yourself. The story is interesting and you will be wanting to find all the pieces to put it together. I am trying to not spoil as much as possible so I am going to be very vague. Let’s just say there is more going on in ICEY than the narrator let’s on. In my opinion, saying anything more hurts the experience.
These three elements, the combat, the humor, and the story, all sync together perfectly and play off one another. The way it all connects to one another is the magic of ICEY. The only other game I can think of where story and mechanics come together so perfectly is Papers, Please. I honestly cannot recommend ICEY enough. The game is short, it only took me 4.6 hours to finish the game, but it was the best 4.6 hours of gaming I have had this year. I beat this game in one sitting because of how engrossed I was in it.
Now those of you who have played it know I did not mention something very key to the game, that other reviewers (including the one’s linked in this review) are mentioning. I consider it a spoiler so I left it out, when you play the game you will know what I am referring to within oh let’s say 10 minutes of playtime, probably less. I really just want you to experience this game as the developer intended.
I do want to talk more about ICEY’s mechanics so I will be doing mechanics post at some point. That is going to be super spoilerly so I can gush even more about how good this game is without ruining it for anyone who has not had the chance to play it yet. Keep a look out for that sometime soon. In the meantime, play this masterpiece.
Developer: Shanghai Fantablade Network Technology Co. Ltd.
Release Date: 11/17/2016 – Steam