I’m a redhead. So “no soul” and leprechaun jokes aside, sometimes I think (or hope) my heritage falls just as much in the Viking lineage as the Irish. So when I took up icebreaking arms to play Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage, I was pretty excited to channel some serious Leif Erikson vibes. And with plenty of plan-ahead puzzles, a satisfying sense of physics and a dash of childish humor, this game did not disappoint.
Here’s how things go down: you start the game as an apprentice icebreaker. In this part of the world, crushing chunks of ice is something of a rite of passage. The first level is, like many mobile games, a trial period so you can get a sense for the controls. You’re meant to go through a bunch of tests before you’re actually given the opportunity to work as apprentice to the master icebreaker.
If you’re assuming that this game will involve crushing ice into submission, you’re not alone. That’s exactly what I thought at the beginning. But you and I, we were both wrong, which is probably the one disappointment I found in the game: I really wanted to crush the ice myself. But no, your job as unpictured “God” character is to manipulate the puzzle screen so that the hero character (positioned on a boat at the bottom of the screen) can crush chunks of ice as they fall on to the boat. Why? Well, sometimes there’s a little Viking friend caught inside. Other times there’s a chest of gold. To beat a level, all you have to do is get all other Vikings on screen to land on the boat, and ultimately be freed from the ice.
But how exactly do you manipulate the screen? Well, you swipe your finger a la Fruit Ninja to slice off parts of your surroundings. Most of the time, you’re chopping off manageable pieces of ice from icebergs to be smashed by your hero’s mallet. Other times you’re slicing ropes. Still more times you’re slicing green slime that acts as sticky glue, further trapping your Viking friends—though as it turns out, the green slime is actually snot from menacing, but allergy-ridden trolls (who act as villain henchmen in the game).
That’s the level-to-level play, and as expected, the puzzles get harder and harder (and then really hard). You have to plan your slices to fit pieces of ice into gaps, or swing contraptions by cutting ropes, or create makeshift structures out of wood and ice. It’s kind of a cool concept.
I won’t go too much into the overarching story (because it’s arduous), but once you’ve passed the trial period, the great ice master gets blown away by a mysterious wind. Your quest is to go find him. You work through the story by selecting finite zones that are positioned in progressing worlds along an aerial map (much like Mario). Sometimes you have to pay your way with gold earned in levels, other times you just follow the path until that zone is completed.
There’s a thin character development system, and some quirky in-level signs that add strategy and more plotpoints to the story (by purchasing upgrades with gold). But if you want a more shallow Angry Birds experience without any extraneous exploration, the game holds up well that way too. There was something really fun about completing particularly tough puzzles, even after countless failures. And because you’re rewarded for fewer slices, you might even find yourself starting at the screen for a good 5 minutes without doing anything, just so you can plan the most efficient strategy.
It’s pretty much what you’d expect from mobile puzzler, with a few twists and it definitely holds up as a title that’s worth the money. And while I wasn’t able to swing a hammer myself to smash that ice, nor was I allowed to wield an axe and spiked-helmet (living out my true Viking fantasy), I really dug this game. And at the not-so-steep pricepoint of “pocket change,” this one really gives you a lot of smash for your buck.
Is it Hardcore?
A quirky little puzzler that’s ultimately pretty smashing