Platform: PlayStation 4
Review Date: 9/29/17
Icey is a female warrior who is guided through forests, sewers, empty houses, and abandoned cities in pursuit of a murderous villain named Judas. Or so we're led to believe. The entire game is narrated by someone who holds a grudge against Judas, and he also breaks the fourth wall in the persona of the developer of the game. He takes pleasure in telling Icey to kill people, and gets extremely annoyed when you don't follow his instructions to the letter. Annoying the narrator is encouraged in order to boost your skills as much as possible and see everything the game has to offer.
While the frenetic gameplay is very solid and exciting, the narrator is a constant irritation and the novelty wears off very quickly. Part of this is due to the smug and pretentious writing, but a larger part is due to the annoying vocal performance. On several occasions I was tempted to switch the language to Chinese just so I wouldn't have to listen to his grating voice anymore. Even with all of the narration, the story is weak and ambiguous, and raises more questions than answers. We never learn anything about Icey or her background, only that she's a pawn in the narrator's game. At one point, she encounters a pile of corpses that look just like her, so she's probably just another expendable soldier in the war against Judas. We also don't know who Judas is, what he's guilty of, or why the narrator is so keen on having Icey destroy him.
The graphics are attractive and the anime-inspired character design for Icey is excellent. The colorful level design is simplistic, but functional, and an amusing riff on "Silent Hill" at the beginning of the game gave me a huge smile. The public domain music is pleasant and sets the right pace and emotional tone. It's a short game that can be finished in a couple of hours, and the difficulty ramps up at a steady pace. Boss battles are challenging, and towards the end they become extremely punishing. The final battle against Judas is considerably more difficult than anything leading up to it, which forced me to give up after about a dozen failures. Another area of aggravation is the game's menu, which makes no sense and is very confusing to use. Adding even more frustration on top of that are a bunch of performance bugs where the game stops responding altogether. It's hard to tell if these are intentional points of friction (which would fit in with the game's modus operandi), or just the result of poor programming. Even though the core gameplay is fun, nearly everything else about the experience is frustrating and disappointing, which ultimately leaves a bad taste.