Icebound
Gameplay 9
Graphics 8
Sound 8

With its Steampunk fantasy setting and fleshed out characters Icebound is a Western visual novel that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. The writing is for the most part very good and the story features plenty of intrigue. The visuals are a bit rough in places, but the excellent soundtrack deserves a special mention. It is a must for visual novel fans, but the puzzle elements and great story will appeal to other players as well.

Gameplay: Icebound features a great story, interesting setting and even some nice puzzle mini-games.

Graphics: Good, but rather uneven.

Sound: No voice acting, but the soundtrack is superb

Summary 8.3 Outstanding
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Icebound

Developer: Fastermind Games | Publisher: Fastermind Games | Release Date: 2015 | Genre: Visual Novel / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Icebound follows the adventures of an alchemist, named Dougal, and his familiar, Isaac, in the isolated frontier town of Isenbarr. The duo are inhabitants of Permia, a world that is in the grips of a thousand-year ice age. Despite a couple of cliché’s, such as the lead character being amnesiac, the Steampunk fantasy setting of this visual novel offers an interesting story and some interesting gameplay elements.

The game opens with Dougal arriving in Isenbarr looking for work and discovering that there are already a couple of alchemists in town. It seems that someone is offering a priceless reward to anyone that can dispose of a fearsome monster that is plaguing the area and so Dougal has to compete with the others alchemists. Along the way he not only learns more about his competitors, but also about the other people in town and himself. We are not going to give away any spoilers, but suffice to say that there are some nice plot twists and the game features plenty of memorable characters.

Visual novel fans will know what to expect from Icebound, but the story of alchemy, romance, mystery and deceit is strong enough to appeal to players who are not normally drawn to the genre as well. Icebound contains plenty of great lore, most of it contained in an unlockable encyclopedia about the game’s world. The game features plenty of dialogue, but at certain junctions you also get to make moral choices that influence the ending of the game. Choices that increase “Order” is marked in blue, while the ones raising your “Chaos” meter is marked in red. In most cases you can also choose to be neutral. Not all choices alter the storyline in significant ways, but the order/chaos system is interesting enough to warrant a second playthrough to see what you missed the first time round. During conversations you are also sometimes presented with a list of questions to ask. Important ones are marked with an asterisk while the rest are optional, but well worth asking to flesh out the story a bit more. Despite touching on some darker elements the game also contains quite a bit of humor.

The fact that Dougal is an alchemist is also tied to the ten optional mini-games you’ll encounter during the game. These puzzles are optional, but very entertaining and definitely left us wanting more. The goal of the puzzles is to match colored tiles with their corresponding slots on a grid, but you cannot place two of the same colors next to each other.

After your initial choice each tile must also be placed next to an existing one and as the story progresses so does the complexity of the puzzle grids. The challenge mostly comes down to making the right choice with your first placement, but overall the mini-games are very enjoyable. Players who simply want to get on with the story can safely skip the puzzle scenes though.

Although the visuals of the game are for the most part really good the overall effect is also rather uneven. It definitely appears like different artists, with different styles worked on the characters, backgrounds and CG scenes, which can be a bit jarring. The CG scenes in particular feature a very rough, sketched look that doesn’t really match the rest of the game. The uneven art direction doesn’t detract too much from the experience though.

Icebound is quite a lengthy visual novel, which means there is plenty of reading to be done. The game doesn’t feature any voice acting, which could be a deal breaker for some players due to the amount of text. On the other hand, the music featured in the game is very good. Our favorite tracks include the upbeat “Certified Organic”, mellow “Sunset Field”, and sinister “Heaven’s Shadow.” In total there are more than 20 songs, including a few variations of certain tracks. In typical visual novel fashion the entire game is mouse driven, so we didn’t encounter any issues with the controls.

With the influx of visual novels released on Steam lately fans of the genre are spoiled for choice, but Icebound is definitely a title that shouldn’t be overlooked. It features solid writing, an interesting story and plenty of memorable characters. The game was Greenlit last year and the Steam release we played features trading cards as well as achievements. A demo for Icebound is available from the official website, so anyone even vaguely interested should check it out.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP SP1
  • Processor: Pentium 4 1.7 GHz
  • Memory: 128 MB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Integrated Chipset
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
  • OS: Mac OS X 10.6
  • Processor: Pentium 4 1.7 GHz
  • Memory: 128 MB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Integrated Chipset
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
  • OS: Linux x86/x86_64
  • Processor: Pentium 4 1.7 GHz
  • Memory: 128 MB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Integrated Chipset
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space

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