Game Review: Ice Cream Surfer (PS4, Nintendo Switch, PS Vita)

Ice Cream Surfer, developed by Dolores Entertainment, crept onto consoles with very little fanfare. The indie side scrolling shoot-em-up was a budget priced game and from the title alone, it left players wondering what to expect. It certainly didn’t imply what type of game it was, let alone hinted at the bullet-hell shooter that awaited gamers tempted by the retro-styled game that lay before them…

Ice Cream Surfer – A Strange Tale…

From the start, you know this isn’t your typical arcade shooter. Most usually feature a clichéd storyline putting the player in control of a lone hero defending the Earth (or some similar planet) against alien invasion in a sci-fi themed space based shooter. Ice Cream Surfer couldn’t be further from that trope if it tried. Instead the story centres on the hero, the aforementioned Ice Cream Surfer. He is defending the Flavor Galaxy against attack – along with his team of heroic allies – from the evil Broccoli.

Yes, you read that right… Broccoli. He’s angered at the children of the known galaxy and their love of all things unhealthy, their passion for ice cream and most importantly – their loathing of vegetables. Something we can all identify with, I’m sure. Anyway, the evil Broccoli has assembled a veggie army to seek revenge! What ensues is a six-stage side scrolling shooter spread across different worlds with the usual end-of-level bosses to defeat, where it’s down to you to save the day (and tasty treats for everyone!).

Getting Started

At the start you get to choose which of the five characters you want to control, which of the three difficulty levels to play at (a welcome addition for an arcade shooter) and then you’re thrown into the action and the first thing that strikes you are the retro pixel art visuals and chip soundtrack.

Now, I don’t mind this for games as long as it fits, and for a tongue-in-cheek game like Ice Cream Surfer it works quite well. Controls are quite responsive albeit quite basic – a single button to fire and powerups are activated automatically as you collect them unlike the token system used by Gradius. Each time you destroy an attacking vegetable (or other creature) a gem is dropped. Collect these and it builds up a power meter. Once this is filled you can press a second button to trigger your character’s special weapon for a high power attack, but you’re limited to a single shot until you’ve collected enough gems to use it again.

The one thought that struck me straight away when it came to the visuals for Ice Cream Surfer was the Konami classic Parodius. However, despite both shooters having a comical and somewhat surreal look for the visuals, that’s where the similarities end.

Identity Crisis

I really didn’t quite know what to make of this. The level design doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense and neither do the creatures you encounter on them. With the storyline mentioning a vegetable army, it’s bizarre to find yourself come under attack from lightbulbs and disembodied heads floating in space. I was able to make sense of the story moving from one planet to another (presumably with our heroes in search of Broccoli) but there isn’t even a static screen to explain the search to progress the story. Instead, once you’ve got past the first frozen level, the rest start in space then transition to a planetary atmosphere until you reach that stage’s boss.

I have to be honest and say that I was impressed with the diversity of each of the characters. Instead of a purely cosmetic change, each handles differently and has completely different weapons and special attacks available to them. Truthfully, with the game being so short this is essential to give it some degree of long term appeal coupled with the varying difficulty levels.

During testing, I played several versions of Ice Cream Surfer and noted that the console versions offered a two-player co-op mode which was sadly missing from the PS Vita port (even when using a PlayStation TV which can allow for two player games) although it’s an understandable omission. With such low sales, adding this for PSTV owners would have been an additional expense for the developers and ad-hoc multiplayer using wi-fi might not have been responsive enough for this type of game.

Over Too Quickly

But ultimately what really lets Ice Cream Surfer down is its brevity. With just six levels and an unlimited supply of continues at your disposal you’ll complete it in no time at all. As I said before, it might have similarities in the look to Parodius, but it doesn’t hold a torch to that classic in terms of longevity or gameplay and lacks the addictive qualities of Konami’s hit.

It’s fun in short bursts, but nothing spectacular and if you strip away the visuals, it’s really just an average shoot-em-up underneath the retro visuals. It’s relatively inexpensive, as was the limited edition physical release from Red Art Games, but it’s far from the being the best example of the genre.

About Simon Plumbe 213 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

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