Whether you’re a full time seasonal fan of the NHL, casual sportsman, or just a gamer in general, you’re going to have plenty of fun with NaturalMotion’s latest iOS title, Icebreaker. For those familiar with the Oxford-based company, the name “breaker” should be ringing a bell. Last year, NaturalMotion teamed up with 505 Games to produce Backbreaker (American football,) which sported the fantastic Euphoria animation engine, delivering lifelike character motion.
Before it was a game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Backbreaker started life as an iOS title dubbed Backbreaker: Tackle Alley. Stripping away the actual rules of American football, the objective of Tackle Alley was simple; make it from one end of the pitch to the other whilst avoiding the opposition and a number of on-screen obstacles. It may sound ridiculous in concept, though proved to be a bundle of fun, it’s sequel Backbreaker 2: Vengeance, being one of TSA’s all-time iOS favourites.
Slap a pair of skates on, grab a hockey stick, and you have Icebreaker. Like the original Backbreaker, players must take off from their own goal area, evading the opposition and skirting in and out of “point zones” before scoring at the other end. There are a total of ten challenges, each available in three difficulty variants, composed of five “waves.” The more skillfully you play, the more points you will earn which will determine your star rating with a maximum of three available. These golden stars are entirely cosmetic, though are required in order to unlock some of Icebreaker’s most prestigious achievements.
Icebreaker is played using both a tilt function and an on-screen interface. Tilting your device from side to side will steer your custom player, whereas leaning it forwards or upright will dictate how fast you travel. The symmetrical interface is composed of six buttons, two designated to Dekes (essentially sidesteps,) both left and right, two designated to spinning both left and right, one assigned to sprinting (burst of speed,) and the other used for taunting your opponents, which grants a point bonus. Lastly, by touching anywhere else on the screen, you will initiate a “Hard Stop.” When in-play, this manoeuvre will cause your character to halt immediately, allowing you to avoid incoming slides and checks from the opposition. Though you will encounter a few hitches, the game plays brilliantly and interface is effective and most importantly, comfortable.
Unlike Backbreaker, aside from the holographic boundaries, there are no other obstacles to traverse. Also, there are only two modes available in Icebreaker called “Challenge,” and “Endurance.” The latter is basically a non-stop 50-wave challenge which is also available in the recently updated version of Backbreaker 2. Though both modes are succinct, crammed with plenty of replay value, the one aspect that made Backbreaker 2 an absolute winner was the inclusion of Vengeance Mode. This essentially turned the tables, allowing players to assume the role of the defender, and it’s a shame the mode didn’t make a return.
For a game you will only likely play for 5-10 minutes bursts, Icebreaker is a real looker. Characters are customisable with a number of skin, team, title, and number options, allowing you to build your own unique player. The vibrant colours used and attention to detail (such as the ice reflections) are however second-class when compared to the game’s Euphoria animations. Though it may not happen often, when you get taken out by an opponent, you sure as hell know about it; your character will act depending exactly on where they were hit and from which angle. The added element of ice also comes into play as your battered failure of a player slides painfully across the pitch upon landing.
- Plenty of replay value.
- Fantastic visual appeal.
- Euphoria brings the action to life.
- Addictive, rewarding gameplay.
- Simple and efficient controls.
- Too similar to Backbreaker.
- Not enough gameplay variation.
- Lack of a defensive game mode, similar to Vengeance.
If you have already played Backbreaker 2, chances are, you may walk away from Icebreaker feeling a tiny bit disappointed; the gameplay and structure is near identical, not offering enough variation. However if this is your first foray into the breaker series, then Icebreaker is ideal, and from a technical standpoint head and shoulders above most iOS titles you will find kicking around.
With Backbreaker: Tackle Alley leading to the console release of Backbreaker last year, what’s more interesting about Icebreaker is the prospect of NaturalMotion combining its engine technology with the power of current consoles together to bring ice hockey to the masses in its most brutal iteration.