Developer: Playcaso
Price: FREE
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Update: 2/18/2013, Version 1.3
It’s been a while since I tried to get a rubber duckie into the waiting arms of a blue squirrel. Over the past several months Playcaso has been hard at work tweaking Slice the Ice‘s formula and inner workings a bit, and the results are worth the effort. On top of a bunch of performance tweaks and social media enhancements is the real bullet point: an expanded selection of free-to-play levels. Instead of the initial 20 levels that are over far too quickly players now have access to the first 40 from the Icelands and Snowlands worlds. Some levels still need unlocking, sure, but now players can really sink their teeth into the game before they hit that paywall and the score has been adjusted to reflect this.

Yes, Slice the Ice involves cutting things and yes the title rhymes, but believe me when I say it’s something different. Okay so it’s also still a physics-based puzzle game but there are plenty of things people can do with physics and puzzles. Of course all the originality in the App Store won’t help if the game itself stutters like that sweaty kid in the spelling bee.

Scrappy, a blue polar weasel (*shrug*), loves nuts and really loves rubber duckies. The catch is that he’s stuck on a raft and all those nuts and ducks are suspended far out of his reach. How is he supposed to get his little blue paws on them? By having players strategically cut chunks of ice from the surroundings. A separated hunk of frozen water will slide and tumble its way to the bottom of the level or the nearest choke point, whichever comes first. Any nuts touched along the way will be counted as “gotten,” but the duck has to reach the raft for the level to be considered complete. Naturally the levels and ice layouts are built with this in mind.

There’s a subtle kind of devious brilliance to Slice the Ice’s levels. One may require planning cuts around a polar bear’s mighty punch (it launches anything that gets too close) while another puts a stationary pivot point in a long and slender chunk that will act as a sort of frigid pendulum once freed. These brain teasers can take several attempts to nail that “Perfect” score, but it’s all worth it – even the lackluster finishes – just to see Scrappy snuggle those ducks. He really loves ducks.

First and foremost on my “But…” list is the amount of content on hand. 20 levels is a nice selection for a free-to-play game but having so many more worlds (4, with an estimated 80 levels, total) completely walled off behind in-app purchases seems like a rather cruel tease. Especially considering that unlocking each of the 4 worlds costs $0.99 per world–around $4 total [Note: I’ve been informed by the developer that it’s actually $0.99 for one pair of worlds rather than $0.99 apiece, making it a much more reasonable IAP model.]. Of course it’s free, so there’s always the argument that 20 levels is still plenty. Except for the other fact that Slice the Ice suffers from some pretty annoying performance issues. It’s never quite bad enough to ruin a game or kill the fun, but it skips and jumps a heck of a lot for a game that doesn’t use any sort of fancy 3D graphics engine.

I undoubtedly had fun playing Slice the Ice, but the whole ordeal was over much sooner than I would’ve liked and an extremely large portion of the content is closed off. Although replaying each of the initial 20 levels for a “Perfect” is certainly still an option so long as one can get past the jerkiness.


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