In the distant future – long after an icy apocalypse has frozen everything solid – one man, tired of being utterly alone, has just constructed a snow woman in order to keep himself company. It doesn’t seem – however – that anything is ever allowed to go poor Dennis’s way, for his new imaginary girlfriend’s head promptly falls of the moment he attempts to kiss her. This in turn leads him on a wild – utterly dangerous – and oddly mesmerizing tricycle ride through the world’s frozen remains, and only his peddling and umbrella skills can keep him alive.
At least that’s what I could piece together based on the developer’s website for Icycle: On Thin Ice (out now, $0.99), a game where you control an utterly naked man – riding a tiny little tricycle – across various frozen wastelands. Although you’ve probably never heard of it before, Damp Gnat’s On thin Ice is actually a sequel to their original Icycle (a short – equally bizarre – flash-based platforming adventure). On the other hand, far more of you have probably seen Damp Gnat’s other – far more famous – iPhone release: Wonderputt (a miniature golf game that is 100% naked man free).
Anyways – before I tackle the obvious 800 pound Gorilla – I’d like to start off by claiming that Icycle features wonderfully simple and functional controls, which is a must since the game usually feels like a slightly easier version of I Want To Be The Guy. On the left-hand side of the screen you have Dennis’s forwards and backwards buttons, with the back peddle ability definitely being a welcome addition to the series’ second entry. Meanwhile – on the other side of the screen – the jump button now doubles as an open umbrella command, via which Dennis can attempt to glide to safety over all manner of obstacles.
Utilizing these the player will have to successfully navigate our naked hero across a diverse range of frozen landscapes, wherein it seems that the worst sort of disasters constantly follow Dennis anywhere he travels. I fully stand by my earlier analogy that Icycle plays out in a fashion similar to I Want To Be The Guy, as its dynamic scenery means that you will only ever know about upcoming threats after first witnessing them. However – unlike IWTBTG – Dennis’s great adventure generally manages to remain predominantly fair, where as the other title went to great lengths to deliberately become cruel and unusual.
Scattered about Dennis’s accursed path are curiously floating ice cubes, often placed in difficult to reach corners, which basically serve as Icycle: On Thin Ice’s upgrade currency. By using these you can acquire different outfits for Dennis to wear, alternative means of transportation with faster travel time, more powerful vacuum cleaners that make ice collecting easier, and even upgraded umbrellas for longer periods of gliding. However – no matter how hard you try – there will never be an option for you to buy/find pants for Dennis, because clearly trousers were the first things to perish when the apocalypse struck.
While you could opt to acquire these ice cubes more quickly via IAP options, this really isn’t particularly necessary since I was able to unlock nearly everything in the game during a span of about two days. While you would definitely need to purchase lots of extra ice cubes if you wished to regularly use the buy an extra life function, the very nature of the game renders this an all around bad idea. Due to how the dynamic nature of Icycle’s scenery often ensures that you won’t know what your next threat is, an extra chance usually means that you’ll just die again whenever the next obstacle activates.
Adding even more replay value to this icy package is that each of the game’s twenty levels has four different challenges that the player can optionally complete, with a fully functional copy of the original game being unlocked for free if all 80 are finished. A player can – alternatively – choose to pay an additional $0.99 to permanently unlock this right of the bat, which is basically a fair offer for what is essentially a second game. Do keep in mind that the original Icycle contains neither the sequel’s umbrella failsafe, nor permits Dennis the ability to ever back peddle (which can quickly become annoying).
All right, now that all the matters of game play have finally been covered, it’s high-time that I got around to addressing this title’s 800 pound gorilla: namely the ‘uniqueness’ of Icycle: On Thin Ice’s visuals. The best way to describe this would be to compare the visuals to what Monty Python’s animator – Terry Gilliam – might have drawn should he have dropped acid one night, and then decided to make a story about a naked man riding a tricycle. As a result of this – even though you never actually see anything illicit – Icycle really isn’t something you should ever play in public, even though it does nicely fit into bite-sized sessions.
Difficulty aside – and there will certainly be quite a few failures occurring as you escort Dennis along his way – this is overall a journey that is both fascinating and mesmerizing, albeit in a very weird sort of way. Due to all the curious mishaps that cinematically attempt to crush Dennis, it’s not uncommon to find yourself replaying earlier levels just to rewatch the sheer spectacle of it all (which is also a good way to stock up on ice). In particular there’s a certain dream sequence – of an especially memorable nature – that happens after Dennis has been knocked out, and will likely not be something you’ll forget anytime soon.
I would – in conclusion – have to recommend Icycle: On Thin Ice to anyone who can tolerate that Dennis is always naked, and also stomach how this game’s levels are all extremely proficient at killing you. At a time when so much of the iTunes Marketplace feels like utterly unoriginal cookie cutter copies of each other, this is one title whose brutal originality is an absolute breath of fresh air. Admittedly, that breath of fresh air is being exhaled by a very naked man – whom is desperately peddling a tricycle away from a collapsing building – yet is still a blast of icy freshness all the same.
iFanzine Verdict: If you can get past the fact that Dennis is a naked man on a tricycle – and the weirdness of the game’s visuals – you will quickly discover that Icycle is an adventure that is both beautiful and mesmerizing, not to mention a real challenge. The best analogy would be to liken the whole experience to IWTBTG, as Icycle’s dynamic levels will often cinematically kill the player via obstacles they didn’t yet know about. While IAP options do exist that let you buy extra lives, the game is – by my own personal experience – quite easily finished even if you never once choose to fork over extra cash. In a marketplace filled with tons of physics launchers, endless runners, Farmville clones, and other such imitators, Dennis’s journey is definitely a breath of icy freshness.