Black Ice is a wonderful freshman effort by lone independent developer, Garrett Cooper. The main appeal of the game is its abundance of weapon/item combinations which causes a fun inventory management mini-game and the charm created by the game’s humorous naming conventions. However, Black Ice is advertised as being “Tron meets Borderlands” and while much of the aesthetic feel and items deliver that claim; almost everything else in the game falls short of that advertisement.
In Black Ice, the player is tasked with hacking into a procedurally generated bio-digital world, akin to something at home in Tron, Reboot, or the coding side of The Matrix. The majority of the game revolves around this premise of “hacking” different buildings. During this portion of gameplay the player is put into a ring around whatever building they are attempting to hack and must fend off waves of enemies as the hacking timer reaches zero. If the player kills all the enemies in the wave, the hack is then successful, and the player gains experience points. Black Ice does a wonderful job of introducing the player to these mechanics by starting the game in an isolated level where there is one building and on-screen text prompts for how to play the game. It makes the game very newbie-friendly and gives the player zero chance to make a mistake. During this tutorial zone the player hacks their first building, fights waves of easy-to-defeat enemies, receives their first item drop, and levels up. The game then walks the player through using the ultra-fun, ultra-flexible inventory and level up systems which account for the majority of fun in the game.
Unfortunately, there is no real story to the game and the entirety of the rest of the game is as described in the paragraph above which makes the game extremely repetitive. Even though the game suffers from those two draw backs, there are cleverly hidden items and a flying S.H.A.R.K. that patrols the end-game building to add some extra interest for players that may not be enticed by the addicting item and level systems. At first glance, the repetitive gameplay may turn players off as the final building is rated at level 500, but we were able to successfully hack buildings triple our level due to crafty item loots and inventory configurations making the end-game much more feasible after 10 hours of play time; as opposed to months of work. Another counter-point to the repetitive gameplay is that while in essence the game never changes from that first tutorial level, the scaling and design of the combat is just about perfect. The game switches from intense combat in the hacking sessions to peaceful lulls where the player can heal, visit shops, and scout out their next target. Again, the S.H.A.R.K. is a looming threat during both combat and peaceful lulls giving extra flavor to the base mechanics.
Overall, Black Ice is a tremendous game that is worth at least you checking out the demo; especially if you have any affection towards Cyber Punk themes. For players not interested in knowing the behind-the-scenes development, Black Ice is probably not going to be worth the $10 price tag, but for those of you that have followed the coverage of this game on Indie Game Source; it is definitely worth $10 and hours of your time. Regardless of which category you fall under, Black Ice deserves your support on Steam Greenlight as Mr. Cooper is still patching and updating the game to make it better.