NOTE: Keys were given to the the Indie Game Riot team by the game’s publisher for review.
As a turn based, interactive story with quick thinking elements, ICY really has its work cut out for it compared to other narrative-heavy titles. With very few animated parts overall, the constant white static which greets the player each time they start up the menus or map can be a little jarring after some time. Every panel does look as if the artist put real effort into creating them, but trying to create an interesting arctic environment is difficult to say the least.
Another problem is the world you’re introduced to and the backstory you’re lumped with initially. “You’ve lost your memory in an accident”, is a fairly lackluster method of the writers saying, “we’ve got some pretty epic plot twists in store, but couldn’t find a more creative way of dressing them up”, to the player. While some of the best screenplays have relied on memory loss or amnesia by trauma to great effect, ICY doesn’t do that.
In the game, you fill the snow-covered boots of an unnamed survivor who you must first customize. You suit your decided style of play by adding points to attributes like ‘melee’, ‘hunting’ and ‘speechcraft’. These skills are reminiscent of traditional RPG’s like Mass Effect which make you choose carefully what you, and your character, will be good and, of course, terrible at. This drops you into the first scenes of ICY, which are hand drawn, void of color and very unfriendly.
You’re part of a clan, or ‘family, that is planning to move South to avoid even harsher conditions and a pack of ruthless bandits, known the ‘Red Horsemen’, who have been extremely active in the area. Right before the big walk, your leader falls ill and actually dies before anyone can do anything to help. This leads to the camp being attacked and some of you, including the player, being taken hostage by roaming marauders. After some weeks past, the bandits hand over two of your friends to some highly armored, tech-wielding mercenary figures who take your friends away just before you manage to escape, because of a conveniently timed Red Horseman attack which sets the rest of the story progression.
Two types of mouse pressing rule this cold-hearted title in earnest: conversational clicking and combat clicking. The former dictates what you say to your ‘family’ members that you interact with and how you settle any disputes that rise up while in the freezing wilderness. Whether you choose to rule with an iron fist, making your word law or trying to be as fair as possible is down to the conversation options you pick, but it takes a long time for any choice to have a notable effect on the game. Combat clicking, however, is slightly different as you’re given options that tie directly to a single instance of a fight rather than solutions (like in the conversations). In these scenarios, your objective is to survive and possibly kill the enemy by either reducing their overall health points to zero or their morale.
Because none of it is animated, you do lose almost all of the intensity that’s normally felt by the player during any skirmish with otherworldly foes or just human bandits. This lack of basic movement throughout the game is stifling too, because when you move across the world map, your party icon doesn’t move either.
Seemingly random events can happen at any time as well, constantly keeping your band of (in my case) disgruntled murderers on their guard. Whether they’re activated by the party moving over a certain point on the map or just time bombs that are simply waiting to go off at any time, is actually unclear because clicking the same point on the map can trigger more than one event.
ICY tries its hardest to be challenging, with a rogue-like atmosphere and the air that you can die at any given moment, but falls short. That’s not to say it isn’t interesting to play, but it is not as gripping as its deathly cold claws would allow for.