When I first heard about Ice Cool I was underwhelmed, but when I first saw Ice Cool I was intrigued. Cute little penguins were being flicked, spun, jumped and scooted around a large board, and I was instantly drawn in by the awesome moves that the player in the video I was watching was pulling off. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the game and pull off some of the sweet moves that I'd seen. Take a quick peek at the video below so that we can get on the same page ...
If you don't think that looks like fun, then you don't need to read any further, because this game has nothing for you. For everyone else, I can confirm that Ice Cool delivers on the fun-factor. Even if, like me, you end up clumsy rather than clutch most of the time, Ice Cool provides unending smiles, especially if you have kids. From the neat nesting boxes and cute cartoonish art, to the simple, straightforward gameplay, Ice Cool is delightful.
Ice Cool plays 2 to 4 players, in a round robin style format. Each round, all but one of the penguins in Penguin School are trying to get their hands on some fish without being caught by the other penguin, who plays the Hall Monitor. The hungry penguins need to be flicked through various doors in order to gather up fish of their color, while the Hall Monitor tries to catch them by bumping into them. Each round lasts until one penguin has gathered their fish, or until the Hall Monitor has caught all of the penguins and taken their ID Cards (this doesn't eliminate penguin players, it simply scores points for the Hall Monitor). The game ends after each player has taken a turn as Hall Monitor with the winner being the player who gathered up the highest total on their gathered points cards, which are gained for fish caught and for ID Cards held after each round.
The premise is silly, but it works perfectly for a conceit to get players flicking their penguins around the board, bouncing off of walls, and each other, in a quest to gobble up points cards and, more importantly, laugh and have a good time. The design of the penguins makes them easy to flick and slide, and, because they can be curved and jumped, some seriously awesome and memorable moves can be pulled off by those lucky, or skilled, enough.
The board only has a single configuration, but there are always at least two directions for players to head in, and the layout makes for a great cat and mouse game as the Hall Monitor chases the other penguins around the board. The board is large enough that players will usually need to stand up and move around the table in order to get to good flicking angles. For me, the need to get up and move around is a positive, especially considering the light theme and nature of the game, but your mileage may vary.
The only real downside to the game is the points cards themselves. While players who end up with a handful of 1's can use them in pairs to take extra turns (while keeping the cards to score at game end) the nature of the random points acquisition means that the score can be quite inconsistent and swingy. The randomness to the cards can somewhat help balance out the score when one player is much more skilled, or lucky, than the others, but it can also mean that player absolutely devastates the other players' scores. For me, winning is a far second behind the fun to be had while playing, but if you care about the score, keep this in mind.
A note on “chrome”: Ice Cool has great components. The penguins are well-balanced and cute, and the way that they spin and roll really gives players the chance to pull off some tricky shots. The nesting boxes are also really cool, and the art is fun and thematic. It's a bit of a bummer that the board can't be set up in different configurations, but, considering the weight of the game, it's not really more than a minor complaint, and the configuration is really well-designed as is.
The bottom line:
Ice Cool is my new favorite dexterity game. If you have kids, like I do, then purchasing the game is a no-brainer. It is a great choice for family game night, and sets up and plays rapidly enough that you could easily use it as a filler during more serious game nights, especially as a way to get people up out of their chairs in order to stretch their legs between longer, heavier games. It's fun, it's light, and it's impossible to play without having a smile on your face.
Get this game if:
You love dexterity games.
You love to play games with your kids.
You want a fun filler that will get people out of their chairs between longer games.
Avoid this game if:
You prefer Euro games.
You hate dexterity games.
The copy of Ice Cool used for this review was provided by Brain Games.
Ice Cool is a fun dexterity game that appeals to all ages. The gameplay is simple, yet the pieces are constructed to allow for brilliant trick shots, and spectacular failures. If you like dexterity games it is definitely worth your time.