Developed by indie studio Nitrome, Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage is an impressive touchpad puzzler vetted by Rovio in its first step towards becoming a mobile publisher. Much like Rovio’s own celebrated top-seller, Angry Birds, Icebreaker is built upon simple mechanics that continue to expand in fun and challenging ways. It can get tricky at times, but Nitrome’s debut is undoubtedly one of the best iOS games to release this year.
Unlike most puzzlers, Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage tells a narrative, albeit a fairly superficial one. Set in a vibrantly colored Norse kingdom, players assume the role of an eager apprentice looking to become a fully-fledged icebreaker. However, what seems like a fairly straightforward process turns into a perilous gauntlet as our hero is sent to rescue his Viking allies held captive in faraway lands. It’s not a story to be taken seriously and manages to inject a healthy dose of comedy into the overall experience.
Spread across 95 stages, Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage has plenty of content on offer considering the asking price (with more to come in future updates.) Structured similarly to other puzzlers, players must complete one stage before moving onto the next. To complete a stage, you need to cut away chunks of ice and navigate trapped Vikings towards your boat. If they fall into the water or are killed by one of the game’s many hazards, however, you must start over.
At first Icebreaker introduces the core mechanics. By swiping your finger you can slice ice blocks in any direction and, like any of the game’s other objects, will react accordingly thanks to the responsive physics. After the first few stages, however, things will become increasingly complex. Objects and hazards such as ropes, chains, wooden floats, goats, trolls, and crows and steadily be worked into the game, creating more elaborate puzzles. Though some can be real brain-teasers, they are all incredibly well-designed and award players with a gratifying sense of achievement.
For those wanting to go that extra step further, there are also gold coins and chests to be collected. Often placed in hard-to-reach spots, these add a new dimension to Icebreaker and can be redeemed to unlock hidden paths and bonus levels. Another -and perhaps more gruelling- challenge is the par system, allowing players a limited number of swipes to complete a level.
As expected in most mobile games, there are micro-transactions. They aren’t pushed as heavily as in other games, mind. Players can part with real cash to unlock god-like powers, enabling them to breeze through a level. It may be standard practice and something we’re all used to, though making these powers earnable in-game would have been a nice bonus.
Sporting beautiful pixel art partly inspired by Norse mythology, Icebreaker is also a fantastic game to look at. Its colour palette is mainly restricted to brick reds, beiges, greys and browns yet it uses this as a strength, presenting itself wonderfully.
Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage is truly innovative, fun to play, and deserves a place alongside Angry Birds and Cut The Rope as one of the best puzzlers available on iOS devices. It’s challenging, humours and looks great on both iPod and iPad with enough stages to become a staple in any mobile gamer’s daily playlist.