As we screech towards the holiday period, our thoughts quickly turn to the cold weather – wind, rain, snow and staying at home in the warm. But Dennis, the hero of Icycle: On Thin Ice, thinks nothing of these sub-zero temperatures. For he is a nude cyclist in a post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland – and he is quickly descending into madness, in this incredibly surreal platformer.
But can you blame him? Lost and alone in this harsh environment without anything to cover his extremities, Dennis is alone and searching for companionship. You must guide him and his trusty bicycle through a series of levels that take place in both his reality and in the deep reaches of his admittedly broken subconscious. In a sensible move, controls are limited to left, right and jump, although because you are mostly riding a bicycle on ice, you can imagine that the controls are a little sluggish, which is part of the challenge – as are the environments themselves, which transform to create new platforms or deadly barriers.
Because of this, it’s fair to say that each level very much becomes a matter of trial and error, with 90% of deaths coming from the environment suddenly collapsing around you, or a deadly obstacle coming out of nowhere.
But this trial and error approach to level design proves far less frustrating here, as each level is relatively short, lasting only a minute or so (although several challenges encourage multiple playthroughs of each level). Initially, just reaching the end of each stage is enough – but to complete the other challenges, you’ll need to perform feats such as not dying or collecting hidden items. Each level also has ice cubes to be found, which are used to purchase cosmetic and functional upgrades in-between levels. New modes of transport, new threads and on-board vacuum cleaners for attracting ice cubes are available, and the currency is also purchasable with real money – which thankfully isn’t required as each level has more than enough ice cubes to find.
As a mobile platformer, it’s simplistic stuff – the main draw is Icycle’s incredibly surreal imagery, portrayed via some of the most wonderful animation seen on the iOS platform. From the game’s quirky silhouette introduction to its final location, there’s always something to make you smirk or feel utterly confused. It’s a game built of crisp and clean vectors with added surrealism, reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python work, and it adds something more to what is, mechanically at least, a very generic platformer. Meanwhile, Dennis himself is as simple as a character can be, given a single soundbite (a simple “Hellooooo!” shout) that adds a little character where needed without becoming annoying.
VERDICT: A relatively plain platformer boosted by a vivid and surreal art-style, Icycle: On Thin Ice is just about crazy and unique enough to warrant a look. Bite-size, fun-packed levels make for a game that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and stands out from crowd both artistically and mechanically.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.