Ice Nine (Game Boy Advance) - Review by Andrew



BAM! Entertainment continues its rather strange policy of releasing movie tie-ins with this latest First Person Shooter, Ice Nine. If you're wondering when the movie is to be released, the answer is, last year. Ice Nine was previously known as The Recruit, a movie starring Colin Farrell and Al Pacino but though the title has changed the game?s plot has not. Why this happened is anyone?s guess but the fact that the final cut of the movie was a little more adult orientated than your average GBA tie-in probably had something to do with it. Now that we've got that out of the way? Ice Nine is the first FPS to hit the market for some time despite the fact that a few years ago it seemed to be almost saturated by games of this genre. There's tough competition too, with an almost perfect conversion of Doom and BAM's own Ballistic which is still arguably the best and most complex available. Press releases some time ago however suggested that the 3D engine was something a little special so have developers Torus done anything with it?


First Person Shooters are as common on the GBA now as platformers so although the main objective still involves shooting things, many developers have attempted to add a little bit of variety to the levels. Ice Nine has 18 levels and while Torus Games have succeeded in changing the objectives from level to level they've also repeated many of their initial ideas. The game starts out, like the movie, at a training facility known as the farm. Alarm bells start ringing here when you notice that there are several levels set in each location making the game less exciting from the start. The 'real' missions are a bit more interesting; one involves you tagging agents before stopping a mole, which would be very satisfying until you find exactly the same level layout used later in the game only this time you simply shoot everyone who moves. There are also the usual tasks involving defusing and setting explosives but the whole game framework appears rushed with little thought for the gamers enjoyment.

Putting the main game aside for a while Ice Nine does contain some very useful extras. The map is a nice touch with its ability to zoom in and scroll about giving you a full overview of your area. This isn't completely available to begin with as you have to actually visit a location before it's 'penned' in. It's still an essential tool though especially when you're attempting to 'tag' the various agents. Another addition to the game is the multiplayer option, which has become essential with all FPSs. This is pretty much as you'd expect although unlike other more complex titles you only really get to indulge in the classic death match. There's also the added problem that as well as more people to actually play with, you'll also require more copies of the game. Finally there's the all important save feature which is generally seen as the one game feature that determines just how portable you GBA is. This is probably one of the game?s strongest points with not only a 'save to cart' option but also an incredibly user-friendly interface to get there in the first place.


Like Ballistic, Ice Nine allows the cross hair to move up and down although only if you?re stationary and staying still for too long is not recommended. Moving around is not all plain sailing either so while you can jump, which is occasionally useful, you?ll find that rather than climbing ladders you are more or less levitated alongside them. This makes it a little difficult to get down to ground level again without jumping which will dent your health. However moving from one weapon to another is completely effortless and you are given a little more freedom with the sniper rifle and. Most disappointing though is the actual accuracy of the various weapons, so while you sometimes fail to hit an enemy despite having them in your sniper rifle sights, in other battles you can find yourself mowing down two or three henchmen without ever actually aiming at them.


Anyone who's seen the screens over the last few years will have been expecting a good looking FPS and the good news is that it's lived up to its initial promise. Levels are filled with varied and detailed textures though as with most 3D titles on the GBA the majority are man-made and very angular in construction. The various figures are less impressive appearing very pixilated especially against the smooth backgrounds. Probably one of the strangest decisions the developers made though involves the lack of cut screens meaning that outside of a short briefing section there's little to hold the levels together. Clearly this avoids the problem that plagued the first Ecks vs. Sever outing with its reams of text but the result is a shallow and somewhat fragmented game which does little to encourage you to care about the characters or what's going on.


This is probably one of the better aspects of the game?s construction and the theme music is every inch the big screen spy movie. It doesn't play through the levels though leaving them dependent on sound effects. Fortunately these are pretty good and generate an impressive degree of tension with anything from targets popping up in the early levels to running around in the water filled sewers later on. There's no speech though and while this wasn't really expected the bar has been raised significantly after Mobius' recent Max Payne which contained an incredible 30 minutes of spoken dialogue.

Final comments

Even with the reasonably impressive graphics engine Ice Nine is a poor FPS and nowhere near as challenging or enjoyable as it could or should be. The main problem appears to be that the developers just got bored and rather than designing new maps or interesting level scenarios they simply repeated those that already existed. If that wasn't bad enough, it's also just too easy. Ignoring the multiplayer option (which requires additional copies of the game anyway) the whole thing can be completed in less than a day. Clearly because of the name change this is no longer a tie-in but while The Recruit was surprisingly good this is undeniably bad. If you do enjoy FPSs there are plenty of other titles out there including the wonderful Ecks vs. Sever 2: Ballistic so forking out for this game would be a huge mistake.

Pro: Impressive Graphics
Con: Poor Gameplay
Final score: 3.5


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Boxart of Ice Nine (Game Boy Advance)
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Genre: FPS
Developer: Torus Games
Publisher: BAM! Entertainment