Whether you like it or not, it’s very evident that indie titles are truly becoming part of the framework that makes up the illustrious game industry. For the last 10-15 years, indie games were few and far between when you compare them to the vast amount of celebrated titles that controlled the marketplace. Let alone indie games from China, a country that only, as of late, has really started to churn the wheels of influence to become a recognized name in the scene. The days of the colossal names being the center of attention are slowly starting to diminish, while the number of indie companies sprouting up from beneath the ground is growing exponentially as time passes. Take ICEY for example, the latest side-scrolling action game from FantaBlade Network, which demonstrates not only the technical prowess of the Chinese gaming scene but its ability to take an existing genre and create a game that’s totally fresh and invigorating in its visual and gameplay aesthetic. While the formula may remain in tact, ICEY is a game that takes various inspirations from games like Devil May Cry, Mega Man, and other iconic titles and creates a unique fusion of them all which brings out its charm. Role playing elements are also part of the package which create even more excitement as you traverse through the game.
Anyone who loves 2D side scrollers will certainly find ICEY to be an exciting title full of wicked combos, air dashing, and special finishers that all come together to generate a total package of action and entertainment. Despite its very short length in comparison to other side scrollers, ICEY still remains cool in its approach and delivers in a remarkable way, with a few little hiccups along the way. Those hiccups, however, are seldom seen and once you start to recognize just how awesome the game is, you start to forget about them eventually. For now, let’s look into what to expect before diving into the gameplay.
What to Expect
When we say that ICEY is a unique game, we’re not just talking about its visual and gameplay mechanics. We’re talking about all the things that are squeezed in between. For example, on the game over screen, you’ll notice that every time you die several times, the screen will say “You Die Again”, but another N will be added which becomes sort of like your death counter. If you keep dying, it eventually gives up trying and you gets a new message along the lines of. “You Can Never Remember.” This little subtle addition to the gameplay really just adds so much value because oftentimes we overlook the simplicities and merely focus on the bigger picture of the games we play.
Another example is how the game takes place within a programming software, and the developer (the developer in the game, not the actual developer) is the one guiding you through his creation as it all unfolds. So there are moments where you’ll run through the game and unexpectedly come across an unfinished level, with the developer comically stating that he had no time to finish it and so, he teleports you back into the actual game. It may sound a little confusing as you read it, but it’s essentially a game within a game and to execute that well within a title takes a lot of work, but also some deep creative thinking.
All levels are well detailed with enemies providing you with enough challenge to keep you coming back for more. As you unlock more flash, which is essentially your power meter, more abilities will be unveiled which also help to open up new areas in the game that you may not have been able to traverse to prior. Boss battles are engaging and require that you always come up with new ways to strike them down, avoiding falling into pattern and dying. ICEY is still linear in its overall approach but still allows you the freedom to tackle enemy obstacles in the way you see fit, and use your accumulated funds to purchase the powerups you desire most.
As we mentioned earlier, ICEY is still a 2D side scrolling action game on the surface, but once you dive into its sci-fi futuristic inspired world you’ll start to notice a lot of creative directions FantaBlade Network took with the game. Some of them we already explained briefly earlier, with regards to the ‘developer’ somewhat guiding you through his own game and providing you with a narrative with how ICEY is going to take down the evil enemy named Judas. We don’t know much about Judas other than that he’s a big jerk and ICEY wants him removed from existence so that the world can finally settle down and relax again. Of course ICEY is the protagonist, who wields a cool looking sword which sort of reminded us of Vergil’s Yamato, since much of your acrobatic moves look similar to his.
This, of course, is the inspiration we mentioned earlier and it really suits the playstyle of the main protagonist who’s very cold, calculated and ruthless in her approach, similar to the Devil May Cry counterpart. At the beginning of the game, you’re given a brief tutorial of how to play and execute moves based on simple yet quick button presses, which have a very hack and slash appeal to them. By pressing Y>Y>Y>Y, you’ll generate a 4 hit slash attack that puts enemies into stun, and over time, you’ll be able to upgrade that move to make it stronger and increase its stun. Other moves will require you to press both the Y and X buttons in quick succession to pull off other powerful moves not only on the ground, but also in the air which look incredible as it all unfolds on the Nintendo Switch screen.
Character animations are fluid and don’t cause any sort of interference, with enemies moving in their own unique way to cause you trouble. One unique aspect of ICEY that we should mention is how you actually go about choosing the difficulty before diving in. The game starts off by throwing you a curveball and makes you think the game is broken in some way, by repeating parts several times and then going into an error screen. Once you get past all that, you enter a room where you’re required to use the ZL or ZR buttons to answer questions that pop up on screen. Depending on what you answer, the game’s difficulty will be set and from then on it’s up to you to tackle what’s ahead. We ended going with the hard difficulty which actually gave the game more life because the enemies came in waves, which forced us to really be on our toes and create openings to unleash big damage. Regarding big damage, dashing through enemies in a well timed manner will initiate a button sequence where, by pressing let’s say the A button would result in performing a high level finishing blow and you collect special orbs. You’ll be able to unlock more options as you progress but your finishing blow stays with you the entire time. The orbs we mentioned can also be used is a powerful launcher attack by holding down the Y button to absorb them, and then dishing out the pain to enemies who get caught in the whirlwind.
The cool aspect of it all is how attacks can be chained and cancelled at any time, with very little lag in between giving you a ton of freedom to really create your own combo loops. You could easily start off with a ground combo then uppercut the enemy into the air, and keep them in the air for good chunk of time, before knocking them back down and starting over again. 40-50 hit combos or more can easily be executed if you’re well timed in your attacks and make good use of the air dash technique. Enemies will gradually get harder and so, learning how to execute custom combos can become an integral part in finishing them off to move forward.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
In the end, ICEY is totally well worth the $9.99/7.99£ and despite its short length, it’s a totally sweet experience that’s worth every penny. We ran into some framerate issues where too much was happening on screen and the game slowed down tremendously, but once all the special effects wore off, the game went right back to its normal ways. There were some sections in the game where you could take part in a sort of survival mode where you’d take on waves of enemies and your score would be logged into the games memory. Sadly, it doesn’t log into an online directory, but nevertheless, it’s a good way to actually get a better feel for how the combo system works, but also how to better predict enemy patterns. On an audio level, ICEY is actually quite stimulating and you can really hear all of the effects in the game, which only add more appeal to the already enticing experience. Playing with headphones is actually recommended within the game and we totally can understand why after playing through. FantaBlade Network is a newcomer to the scene, but created a title that would certainly place them in the category of notable names due to the uniquely crafted gameplay, and stylistic appeal that you’ll only find in ICEY. Hats off to them!
ICEY is fast paced and creates a very unique gameplay experience, even for those accustomed to 2D action side-scrollers.
Custom combo system is pretty cool.
Easy control scheme.
Language option is available for those who want JPN voice acting, etc.
A little short and can be beaten quickly if you really invest in it.
The game is not really “brand new” and is a port of the 2016 original.
Honey's Final Verdict:
So will you be picking up ICEY? Let us know in the comments below and share your thoughts on what you feel about the game. With E3 currently underway and so many more games coming down the pipeline, we’re excited to see more content and ready to tackle whatever comes our way. Big shoutouts to FantaBlade Network as well as X.D. Network for providing us with a copy of ICEY, and letting us experience their unique take on the 2D side-scrolling genre. Be sure to follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest gaming news, and of course, follow us on Twitch to catch us playing your favorite games live!
As always, for all things sweet, with news straight from Japan, be sure to keep it locked here on Honey’s Anime.
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!