Ice Breaker: The Gathering
The clans of the Norse-themed world of Nitrome's popular Ice Breaker series are gathering, but they need your help to release their Viking warriors from their icy, impossible, Goldbergian prisons! Ice Breaker: The Gathering is not only a new entry in Nitrome's Nordic physics-puzzle franchise, but also Nitrome's first foray into episodic gaming. The "clans" in question represent collections of eight levels, and starting this week with the Elder Clan, a new clan will be unlocked every week until shortly into the new year.
Fans of the series will be familiar with the mouse-based, click-and-drag "slicing" mechanic, which is used to release itty-bitty Norsemen from their icy sepulchres, cut loose various contraptions from their hempen bindings, and otherwise interact with the game world. The goal as always is to return the prodigal Vikings to their Head Jarl's longboat, where there will be much celebration at their return. Somewhat paradoxically, there does not seem to be much ice breaking in this installment of Ice Breaker, as Nitrome endeavors to increase the sorts of puzzles they can create by introducing new puzzle elements. The Elder Clan in particular makes heavy use of bombs, which can destroy ice, stone, and wood (and Viking!) alike, and which are detonated with the same slicing mechanic used in the rest of the game.
Analysis: Despite these newer elements supplanting the marquee mechanic of the game, the puzzles are still quite fun and rewarding, and largely require a fair bit of thinking without being too taxing. The bite-sized portions of the installments mean that they can be played guilt-free during any break in the workday, though some may crave more. With a new clan every week, however, those with larger appetites will not have long to wait. Also, Nitrome has introduced a new feature which allows players who restart a difficult level three times to bypass that level and unlock the next. Players have to wait a full day before the new level unlocks, so there is still incentive to complete these stumpers on your own, but it is another way to feed your Ice Breaker fix, should you ever get stuck.
Ice Breaker: The Gathering provides short but succulent tidbits of new Ice Breaker levels for fans of the series. It will be interesting to see how Nitrome's experiment in episodic gaming develops, and if we will see other episodic games from them in the future.