It is not everyday that we get to experience indie games developed in China, and even better, quite unique one like ICEY. This one is developed by Shangai FantaBlade Network Technology Co. Ltd (quite a mouthful) and it is the kind of game that will catch you by surprise. What do I mean by that? Well, this is a META game in disguise, as the description of the game on Steam very nicely says too.
First things first, ICEY is an action game where you control a cyborg girl who tries to find the truth and do various shenanigans that have to do with uncomplicated lore that I stopped caring about half-way through the game. Although I am a lore lover kind of person, I tend to lose interest quite fast if the environments and the enemies around me tend to be repetitive. But the important part of the game is that it focuses on the decisions on the players and not so much on the fights themselves.
The game does have a very nice combat system and for the ones seeking a challenge, the AI can put up quite a fight in harder difficulties. Again though, combat is not what we need to talk about when it comes to ICEY. In ICEY, the narrator keeps telling us to do certain things. He explains to us what is going on and lays out arrows on the stage so that we can complete our mission. The real question though that the developers of the game wants us to ask is; should we really be following these guidelines?
Disobeying orders is fun and can be very rewarding in ICEY. Going against the system and being individually independent is something that the game does not want you to be, but in order to fully experience it, you have to be. It is simultaneously complicated and simple, since all you have to do is say “f*ck it, I’ll just go the other way,” but at the same time you are also thinking “is that really what the system wants me to do? Do they expect my moves?” The game might not be at an Undertale level of meta meanings and hidden paths, but it certainly achieves in making us question our surroundings.
Visuals and audio wise, the game excels quite nicely actually. Apart from the classic anime-style main character that we have, which I totally expected to see unfortunately, the enemies and the surroundings are very well designed. I did get a bit tired of looking at the same enemies all the time, but the bosses had a bit of a different aesthetic to them, setting them apart, making them look bigger, badasser. I just wish the studio would have followed a non-anime approach in order to give the main character a more characteristic look, one that will make me bond with her more. Now every time I see her, I just get reminded of the huge abundance of anime girl faces I have seen before this game came out.
The audio, both the Chinese and English versions of it, are done very nicely and the voice actors really add to the whole experience since listening to them actually makes you feel as if you’re part of this unexplained (yet) world.
The game is available on Steam for 11,99€. Its DLC is free with the game and just recently came out, so you can expect even more from it than just the original content.
Subliminal messages and subconscious understandings aside, ICEY does a good job at what it sets out to do and leaves us with a pleasant feeling after having finished it. You may even feel like playing it again actually.
+ Well designed visuals on most parts
+ Good voice acting
+ A meta game in disguise that indeed does a good job at raising questions
+ Good action challenge for players who are looking for one
– Uncharacteristic character design
– Repetitive gameplay
Konstantinos “Kelfecil” Christakis