Take one look at the ever-growing library of Nintendo Switch eShop titles and the term ‘2D side-scrolling action game’ crops up more often than not. Nintendo Switch is already home to many and fans of the genre certainly have a great and extensive range to choose from. Developer FantaBlade Network adds its futuristic slasher ICEY into the mix and although the title won’t take more than a couple of play sessions to get through, its odd yet unique spin on the genre offers an experience that’s more than worth its asking price.
You play as ICEY, a robot humanoid that wouldn’t look out of place in any sci-fi anime past or present. She’s armed with a sword, a hefty amount of agility and a distinct lack of speech. The omnipresent voice you do hear in this game is the 'developer' who explains the goings on around ICEY, and it’s a voice you’ll need to get used to quickly as it's there until the credits roll.
It’s quickly made apparent that the main objectives here are to take down the evil and powerful ‘Judas’, defeat Judas’ mini-boss comrades and to try and piece together the reasoning behind ICEY’s existence in the process. Without the constant metacommentary, this title would easily fall into the bargain bin of cookie-cut sci-fi hack ‘n’ slashers out there. However, with the narrator continually bugging you to follow his every instruction and direction, it’s increasingly difficult to refrain from sticking two fingers up and going your own way – like when you were told to stay put at the shopping centre but couldn’t help but run off to go on your own adventures.
Plastered over the beautifully detailed high-tech backdrops – and forcefully pointed out by the narrator – there are glaringly obvious arrows showing the way towards Judas’ whereabouts. It’s push/pull factor of seeing these and hearing the narrator almost shout at you to go in the said direction that makes this title more about playing against the rules than rushing to the finish line. Wander off and he’ll get agitated. Get back on track and he’ll turn smug. It's a nice touch and certainly makes the experience more immersive with a cleverly reactive voice constantly hovering over you delve deeper in. There’s hidden cash to help upgrade your move-set, humorous dialogue to be subjected to and other incentives (no spoilers here!) to tempt you away from the main story focus.
This isn’t to say it’s all plain sailing, though. At various points, we find ourselves reaching for the option to turn the voice off entirely and instead opt for text only. Yes, the narrator does a thorough and often playful job of dishing out context to ICEY’s actions, but it does have a tendency to become irritating. Still, hearing the narrator becomes increasingly frustrated the more you disobey his instructions did make us chuckle.
The game handles very well mainly due to its accessible control system that's pleasantly uncomplicated to get to grips with. Slicing and chopping your way through a small but varied roster of enemy robots is a silky smooth affair with ICEY executing impressive acrobatic kills with just a few presses.
Pressing a combination of ‘Y’ and ‘X’ sees ICEY chain together a satisfying sequence of quick jabs and slower but more powerful slices. Pressing ‘A’ stops your chosen foe in their tracks and triggers slow-mo lethal finishing attack. It's dramatic but it works. Using money from fallen enemies and boss battles opens up more powerful and interesting move sets that, when levelled up to their max, makes for some astounding multi-chain kills.
It’s this simplistic yet effective approach to the combat system that helps makes this title home to straightforward yet interesting playthroughs - it’s simple to jump straight back into the action and to get to grips with the mechanics. Hammering the buttons to make ICEY aimlessly fling her sword does the job, but learning the combo’s creates a dazzling display of manic manoeuvres that’s a treat to witness.
Combat isn’t just relegated to the ground, though. Squeezing the ‘R’ trigger and ICEY warps to any given direction and taking the combat off the floor and into the air isn’t just useful; it’s fun and addictive and adds a layer of strategy to the mix. Plus, it makes you feel even more awesome when it works well. And for those out there who tend to hoover up every item and max-boost every stat, there’s the option to go back and revisit all of the locations which help gives ICEY some replay value. A simple and functional horde mode is also included, but it’s nothing special to bring you back for more.
Battling your way through screens of mechanical enemies to reach the final boss won’t take very much time at all, but exploring the compact yet detailed world around you is enjoyable. Hidden are some thought-provoking snippets of narrative that touch on the hardships of developing games, for example, and the clever delivery of its storytelling is, at times, ingenious. However, the simplistic approach to battle and a confusing and convoluted story plot could prove bothersome for some who are looking for something a little more in-depth. ICEY does, however, succeed in providing quick, tight blasts of fun that’s sure to please fans of the genre that are looking for something a little different.