iOS Mini-Review: Ice RageFebruary 22, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Posted in iOS Reviews | 3 Comments
Tags: Blades of Steel, hockey, Ice Hockey, Ice Rage, iOS gaming, iPhone, iPhone games, iTunes, Mountain Sheep, Mountain Sheep Inc, Sports games, video games
I really enjoy the throwback styles, old school graphics, and intuitive controls that can come with producing creative and original mobile games. For every EA or 2K mobile clone of a big flagship game, there are unique titles like the 1-on-1 hockey action in Ice Rage by Mountain Sheep, Inc. ($0.99 App Store). Ice Rage is a concoction of Ice Hockey and Blades of Steel from the NES mixed in with air hockey and pong physics. Mountain Sheep pumps the retro up even more with the action played horizontally, something we haven’t seen a lot in sports games since the 8-bit age. With a solid premise in place, is there enough substance in Ice Rage for it to be labeled a success?
The charm of Ice Rage is the short burst of frantic gameplay in each match. The games are not long; the standard and multiplayer quick matches are one minute and 45 seconds of action. The single player tournament is only 45 seconds a tournament round. There is no dead time in the game and no whistles or stoppages if the game is tied after the alloted time. The game seamlessly moves you into sudden death and you can’t blink or you risk skating past your adversary and giving up a good angle for them to shoot on your goal. The controls are perfect. The thumbstick responds extremely well and the A button handles all of your shooting and checking, taking into consideration how long you hold the button down to determine the strength of your shot. You get a nice-sized arrow to show where you are aiming and this guidance also helps in predicting where an errant opponent’s shot may ricochet off to. Just like in air hockey, the harder the shot equals the more rebound across the ice. These physics mean you can definitely score on yourself, although I found my goalie AI pretty adept at not letting soft goals in like that (the CPU goalie not so much).
When Ice Rage was first released, Mountain Sheep had only featured the standard quick match and local multiplayer options. Sure, there were (and still are) fourteen different quirky skaters to choose from (including the Enviro-Bear, who growls after he checks someone to the ice) but the standard matches got old after a while. The single player tournament was recently added and it completely opens up the replay value of the game. The tournament even showcases an RPG-like skill progression for your character. After each win you pick one block from either the speed, strength or skill category to upgrade your abilities. These power-ups are imperative when attacking Santa Claus and Skar (not the Lion King villain) at the end of the tournament. With three distinct difficulty levels and an overall leaderboard for each (there are unexplained points bonuses in each game), I found myself coming back to the tournament mode repeatedly. I experimented with different characters (I’ve settled on Jack, the All-American) and different skill upgrades in hoping to catch a different bounce and advance a little further. The hard difficulty setting isn’t just a throwaway tweak in the CPU AI either. Much like in Blades of Steel, the hard setting has you now controlling the goalie in addition to your one skater. The downside to this is that the goalie doesn’t hold the puck after you make a save (this is the pong piece); the puck bounces all the time so the AI can at times get a number of shots off on you while you’re moving up and down trying to play goalie, all the while your other skater is standing off by himself. It takes a bit of coordination and is another unique challenge built into the game.
Despite an updated version of the game now out, the multiplayer is still local only, meaning you are both physically holding the same iDevice. This flips the game to the more traditional vertical scrolling and only works if you’re really comfortable being that close to someone else. There is room to expand in the multiplayer department as well as the leaderboard standings. You’re able to see what your best score is (against everyone with the game and your friends) before you start a tournament but you can’t access that leaderboard anywhere else, like under options or having a menu altogether separate. The developers have also experimented a bit with downloadable content. For $0.99 you can purchase Santa Claus and Skar but with plenty of other skaters available, I wasn’t motivated to ante up for another two guys.
I really like what Mountain Sheep, Inc. has put together here with Ice Rage. The tournament addition is a huge selling point and even though the single player experience has been multiplied, the shortness of the games still allows you to pick up and play without worrying about having to block out 25 minutes of your time. The physics with the frenetic back and forth of the puck are really good and coupled in with simple controls and tight gameplay, Ice Rage is both easy and addicting to play.