Like the title says, this whole article is a spoiler for ICEY so beware! And like I said in my review, go buy and play this game it is absolutely worth it.
ICEY is a game about making the player feel like they are circumventing a game designer’s intentions while the developer is actually guiding the player to do exactly what they want them to. The developer did this through two ways, player’s inherent desire to explore a game world and by creating distrust between the player and the authority figure, the narrator.
The first point is self-explanatory for most people. Almost everyone who has played a game has tried to break it at some point. “I wonder how I high I can climb.” “Can I jump over this wall?” “If I crouch down just right can I go under this?” All gamers have this inherit desire to explore a game world and discover the limitations of it. This is reinforced due to how developers have been designing games for years. That cliff that looks just out of reach almost always has a power up in it. We are trained to explore every nook and cranny because it usually rewarded us somehow. It’s operant conditioning plain and simple if you want something to google. ICEY does this by rewarding the player with the narrator’s humorous lines. Doing something that will lead you to an ending is usually hinted at by the Narrator saying something humorous to whatever you just did. The narrator and the arrows both point to and objective for the player, just the player does not know the narrator is directing them.
The other method was by creating a distrust with the narrator. Specifically the narrator when he uses his serious tone. This happens very early on in the game when you reach the broken bridge where you initially fought Dahal. The narrator tells you to cross the bridge before realizing it is no longer there and then takes a moment to figure out where to direct you. It shows the player that the narrator is not all-knowing and may know less than you do. It is also very clear that you can jump that gap ratherthan falling down as the narrator suggests. This moment creates this distrust and makes the player want to defy the narrator when he uses his serious tone because he is not all-knowing. One mistake is all it takes.
I made a sort of decision map while playing in order to figure out all the endings. Doing so made me realize that each area basically has two ways out, an ending or entry to the next area. This is good game design because the player learns, subconsciously or consciously, where they need to look for each ending. If you got an ending in an area, you know you can safely move to the next. The only time this is not true is the theater house where there is three endings, one boss related and two hidden ones which are back to back, go into the first door to get one ending, go into the door next to it to get the other. That is the only ending I found difficult to find.
Now this is not true for achievements which is unfortunate as you need all of them to get the true ending. I did have to consult a guide to get all the achievements. The good news is that the achievement descriptions often give hints to what you have to do. The bad news is the game’s ending is spoiled by the achievement descriptions. The music player one is the only one I feel like I could never have gotten unless I had consulted a guide.
Now what exactly the story of ICEY is supposed to be, I have no idea. I think Judas developed ICEY and this virtual world to summon an Elder God to destroy mankind. The chosen one, ICEY, had to be someone with no identity of self in order to be able to make contact with this being named Hastur. The bosses you fight are people who have been uploaded to this virtual world as sacrifices. No idea what the Yellow King ending was meant to be though, as they say The Yellow King is a play that drives people mad, not an actual being. As you can tell, I am still trying to figure the story out as all the sites I have seen discussing it are not in English. If you have any theories be sure to comment, we can be the first English website to figure out what is going on.