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Hands-on with Damp Gnat's bonkers cycling sim Icycle: On Thin Ice
By Kristan Reed 15 April 2013
Game Name: Icycle: On Thin Ice | Developer: Damp Gnat | Publisher: Chillingo | Format: iPhone, iPad | Genre: Platform
It's not entirely uncommon to wander around Brighton on a drizzly Tuesday and be passed by a gentleman on a unicycle, just going about his business.

In this gentleman's eyes, the destination is less important than the journey. This is what you're dealing with in this slightly cracked part of the United Kingdom.

So, when Damp Gnat's creative heartbeat Reece Millidge turns up in one of Brighton's 400 (give or take) gourmet coffee shops to show me a game about Dennis, a naked chap in a woolly hat on a penny-farthing, no one - not least I - should be the least bit surprised about that.



With its surrealist, silhouetted Bond-tinged opening sequence, Icycle 2 makes the best-possible first impression, and leaves me excited about the feverish direction it might take.

As it happens, that direction is 'right', as you guide our hero through a sequence of side-scrolling environments collecting icy shards in the name of bonkers platforming jollity.



Creative ambition

With nods to René Magritte's and Terry Gilliam's surrealist animations (and even Russian propaganda), each level seemingly serves to exist as a slightly weirder and more unnerving one than the last.

And it's this fractured, utterly uncompromising approach that drags you along from room to room, wondering what fresh hell our lovestruck bald protagonist will be dragged into next.

During the game, though, your focus remains pure and uncomplicated. You're just there to hoover up the aforementioned shards. Saying that, your performance in harvesting the icy litter is based on two old favourites: speed and accuracy.

The better you do, the more currency you have to buy more stuff. In this case, those collectibles are hats, including a dapper bowler, which apparently everyone makes a beeline for the moment it becomes available to purchase.



Rampant

This rampant silliness speaks to the inner child of any jaded journeyman platform adventurer. Yet while Damp Gnat retreads familiar ground with the left / right / jump mechanics at the heart of Icycle: On Thin Ice, the fresh context becomes the hook.

So, it's perfectly logical to find yourself armed with an umbrella to sail woozily down through restless, shifting environments, or to catch the updrafts to gain altitude.

In later levels, the creative team develops these base mechanics further, with screenshots showing what appears to be a fire extinguisher jet pack strapped to Dennis's back.

With 12 levels of confusing madness to carve a path through, Icycle: On Thin Ice isn't a game that's likely to outstay its welcome, sure. It is a game, however, that you'll most likely thoroughly enjoy while it lasts.

While we await Icycle: On Thin Ice's arrival over the next month or so, why not check out the browser-based Flash original for free or Damp Gnat's crazy golf title Wonderputt.
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