ICY: Frostbite Edition
It seems survival games are not dying. In fact people have been playing around with the concept since MineCraft made it popular again, moving towards apocalypse survival. The Long Dark has been quite a fun distraction for myself as of late. The story especially is quite a sensational difference in survival games which I am loving. It is voice acted by some phenomenal names and really has me hooked.
ICY: Frostbite Edition takes that winter apocalypse and passes it into a different genre which I feel needs way more love: The choose-your-own adventure. Blending a well-written story with plenty of RPG mechanics and some finely-drawn environments you would be well within your rights thinking this is quite a good adventure. But soon the lack of polish will grind away and your fun a little, and you will have to push through not only winter but also just some pretty naff design choices.
You take the role of yourself, with some simple RPG mechanics to determine your skills. After nearly dying in a snow slide and losing your memory you are saved by a group of nomads. Together you survive the apocalypse, scavenging and hunting for what you can. After a bandit attack and contact with a mysterious technologically advanced group of raiders, you and what friends you have left must travel across the land to save them and find out who the hell these people are.
When you imagine this game, think Sorcery – probably the best thing I have on my iPad. You move between nodes, with each node allowing either hunting, fighting, story progression or a mixture of the three. It makes progress rather linear, but this feels like a solid fit, always giving you small progression steps. Maybe some new equipment; maybe some new story tidbits; or maybe you’re gonna get chewed by an animal or shot by raiders.
This pairs off well-ish with the combat. The combat is quite a departure, and plays like a strange card game. You get a reel of 12 icons, and can combine up to 9 of them to attack with whatever weapons you have. The system works, that’s all I can really say about it. It seems rather stark compared to the other mechanics in play, but I cannot really give it many complaints.
What I can complain about is the lack of polish. The game is pretty, no doubt about that, and the hand drawn pictures and scenery really give the game some unique storybook stylings. But there are a few elements, and you will mostly see it in the fonts picked, which stick out starkly against the finely drawn images which make the bulk of the game. Moving back to the combat for a second, the first time it loaded up the icons were all very apparent to me for no other reason than they stuck out like a sore thumb against the rest of the world. It’s as if there were two different artists with no communication.
This starkness detracts slightly from the story, which can sometimes drag thanks to poor formatting making it difficult to follow what is story and what is speech. There is no voice acting either, with only intermittent sound effects to break up the near silence. Some would have been useful, especially for the main characters to break up some of the more bulky texts, otherwise you fatigue quite quickly.
It might be better to consider ICY as more of a Visual Novel with RPG elements rather than a story-driven RPG. While I enjoy the story despite the lengthy text boxes the RPG fighting and collection appeals to me. Execution is marred by out-of-place textures and fonts as well as an overall lack of final polish. Overall it manages to hold its own with a 6, and earns a place for me next time I fancy a simpler style of game.
We need more visual story games like this though.