ICEY isn't my typical cup of tea, but I was really interested to see what made the Chinese indie title so popular. After a few solid hours of making my way through the game, I started to understand the buzz.

Balancing the complex gaming structure that allows you to progress through the story and the fluidity of the 2D side-scrolling gameplay wasn't an easy feat, but ICEY certainly hit the mark more often than not.

A game within a game

When you start playing ICEY, everything makes sense. It's a linear 2D side-scrolling beat 'em up game that takes you across a beautiful landscape where you're tasked with slashing and dashing your way through enemies and boss battles. The beginning doesn't even start you off with much of a story. In fact, for the first 15 or 20 minutes of gameplay was a little worried the game would have no-depth to it. The good news is the game starts to get weird shortly after you defeat the first boss.

Suddenly the game receives a narrator, and we get a little background on our protagonist ICEY, and then you are right at the beginning of the game. That's right, with very little reasoning it feels like you just lost all your progress. It soon becomes apparent that something else is afoot in ICEY when the game pauses to bring up a computer-like menu telling your that the ICEY program has malfunctioned.

Throughout the rest of the game, the narrator will tell you, almost step by step, what to do, but you find out very quickly that perhaps the narrator is full of bologna. The real game is what's going on outside of the 2D side-scrolling gameplay and what's happening behind the scenes. This game within a game approach is a tricky line to maneuver, and more often than not ICEY does it exceptionally well. Both the metagame and the main gameplay into the story and one can't succeed without the other, just like you can't honestly progress without completing tasks in both.

Extremely fluid gameplay

Even though there are two different stories going on, the game still relies a lot on the 2D side-scrolling action and I was blown away of how fluid the entire experience feels. A large part of this is due to the game ability to produce high-end graphics at 60FPS. Now granted, if you are playing on an older iPhone, I would suggest turning the graphics to medium or low and setting the framerate at 30FPS, but if you have a newer iPhone play the game on the highest settings the way it was meant to be played. Keep closer to a charger though; the highest settings suck your battery life pretty fast.

The combat especially feels effortless and intuitive. Once you get the hang of which button does which action, you'll find yourself moving through the levels and slicing up your enemies at breakneck speed. Dashing into the air, performing a satisfying 20-hit combo, and having a look as good as it does in ICEY is something few games can accomplish with such finesse.

Controls

Due to the fast-paced action and the simplicity of the combat, the on-screen controls don't feel clunky which is fantastic; however, I still think MFi Controller support is the way to go when dealing with this type of gameplay. Luckily the developers seem to be working on this.

While you can't use a MFi Controller with ICEY as of right now, I'm glad to see the developers are working on it. I'll gladly welcome the update if and when it comes.

Overall Impressions

ICEY surprised me, and if you like fast-paced 2D side-scrolling adventures or games that make you use a little brain power, ICEY will likely hit the spot.

The gameplay is incredibly fast, intuitive, and buttery smooth while the graphics and art (especially on full settings) are top of the line.

My only real nitpick is that the narrator's voice could use a little more emotion and a little less of a 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe.

Other games this week

FROST: The relaxing a beautifully colorful puzzle game, where you'll need to draw paths to guide the flocking spirits to their home planets. $4.99 on the App Store

Battlevoid: Sector Siege: Blast off into this real-time strategy action space shooter where strategy, tactics, and resource management are the core. $3.99 on the App Store