When handled well, breaking the fourth wall in a video game can be very effective at impacting a player while adding a new layer of enjoyment to total experience. However this isn’t always the case and can immediately bring the fun of any game to a screeching halt, as is the case with ICEY from FantaBlade Network. ICEY is a 2D action platformer that relies heavily on breaking the forth wall and speaking directly to the player, while at the same time having it overshadow its great visuals and solid gameplay. At the expense of having an intriguing story to compliment the action, ICEY focuses more on being self-aware with its humor and poking at those that play it a little too much.
The best parts of ICEY will probably be ignored because of how annoying the narration will be to everyone. You only ever hear one voice throughout the entirety of the game, which guides the titular heroine through every area with instructions of where to go and what not to do. Going off the laid out path will result in some humorous dialogue from the narrator, which is the designer of the game, but it very quickly loses its charm. Choosing to explore around a bit will have the narrator get upset and talk down to you for ignoring where you’re supposed to go.
This is funny and cute the first few times it happens, but after hearing it more afterwards, it just becomes annoying and downright bad. Some of the jokes are inside pokes at game design and gamer culture, but they aren’t that funny and sound like the narrator is trying a bit too hard delivering the lines.
While the lines from the narrator are given plenty of attention, the actual story for ICEY seems largely ignored. The basic setup is that ICEY must kill a being known as Judas in order to save the world, and you aren’t given more details beyond that. The narrator tells you very little about the world or ICEY herself, which leaves very little room to get behind what is happening.
There are cryptic screens with written details about Judas and some of the other parts of the game, but much of this remains confusing by the time you finish the story. Because of this, everything just ends up being awkward and unfulfilling towards the end of the game.
The gameplay of ICEY is handled with better care. Fighting enemies and moving around obstacles is smooth, with incredibly solid and responsive controls. You have a number of attacks and combos that ICEY can use on enemies and bosses, all of which can be upgraded and improved upon at upgrade stations in various points of the map. Despite the narrator condescending you for exploring, traversing the stages can be interesting when you’re finally given the chance to look around.
However, there isn’t a map that you can refer to in the menus when moving from place to place, which can be very troublesome in some areas. Enemies themselves can provide a tough challenge, with a few moments where larger groups can be overwhelming and bosses spiking up in difficulty. Being clever with your reflexes and dodging to counterattack does however make quick work of most enemies.
It’s a shame that a lot of energy went into prioritizing the inside jokes and off-based humor, rather than building upon what makes ICEY so interesting to play. The confusing story and annoying narrator may turn some people off, even though the visuals and gameplay are very well done. It doesn’t take a long time to finish playing through ICEY, but it doesn’t end up being too rewarding either. If you enjoy games that take a risk in some areas, then you might find something intriguing about ICEY. However, most probably won’t take a liking to being talked down to and condescended by the games they play.
This review is based on a digital review code for ICEY for the Nintendo Switch, provided by X.D Network Inc.