Everybody hates broccoli. Especially when it’s trying to murder you.
Yes, that’s the basic premise of Ice Cream Surfer, the latest shoot-em-up to arrive on the Xbox marketplace. A piece of broccoli – who’s dressed as Hitler by the way – is sick of everybody eating junk food, and so has raised an army in order to force everyone to get their five-a-day. Of course, we can’t have kids eating healthily, so it’s up to the Ice Cream Surfer and his gang of buddies to vanquish the vegetables and save the day.
It’s a completely barmy set-up, but one the game fully embraces. The art style is slightly rough around the edges, but it fits the theme, and genre of game, perfectly. Each planet in the ice-cream universe is themed after a different type of food, and you’ll be fighting a wide range of foody foes, including killer carrots, aggressive onions and angry apples.
Our band of heroes is a bizarre mix of weird and wonderful characters too. Going up against Hitler-Broccoli is: a ninja and a young woman, both on ice-lollies, a Yeti riding a giant foot, a budget Superman encased in an ice cream sandwich, and the ice cream surfer himself on his flying Cornetto. Okay then…
Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn’t quite live up to the strange brilliance of the concept. In fact, for a SHMUP, Ice Cream Surfer gets quite a bit wrong.
The game runs on a one-hit system where your character will lose a life and all their upgrades if they’re hit. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s to be expected in a game like this. The problem lies with the projectiles that you’ll need to dodge; they’re horribly small and tend to blend into the background. And there’s nothing more annoying than losing all your progress to a bullet that is practically invisible.
And even when you can see them coming, the controls are completely unreliable so there’s no guarantee you’ll avoid them anyway. Inputs often produce wildly different results, seemingly at random. I lost count of the amount of times my character would still move in a direction even after I’d stopped pressing the corresponding button. The controls aren’t even fully broken because they work perfectly half the time too, which makes this issue more aggravating than it already is.
Ice Cream Surfer is also an extremely short game, with it only taking just over half an hour to fully finish it. For a game costing £6.69, that’s simply not enough content to justify the price. The concept art and comics available for you to view after finishing the game don’t particularly do much to address this either, even if they are certainly nice to have.
In fairness to the game, each character does feel significantly different to play. Each one comes with their own set of moves, upgrades and a unique special attack which becomes available after gathering enough gems. There’s also plenty of concept art to unlock by beating the game with each character on multiple difficulties. So there is certainly an argument that this game does have an element of replayability.
Unfortunately, it’s only true to a certain extent because just two of the characters – Poundland Superman and the Ice Cream Surfer – feel viable in any way. The others suffer from a range of handicaps that only become more frustrating the further into the game you get. With the Yeti and Ninja, their attacks are too short-range to be effective. Meanwhile, the young girl has a standard attack that is wildly inaccurate. At times, using these characters felt like an absolute chore, and I’d recommend avoiding them entirely unless you have a couch co-op partner to play with.
So with Ice Cream Surfer, we have a case of great concept, poor execution. Taking on Hitler-Broccoli whilst riding a flying ice cream is a plot that is both barmy and strangely intriguing. And it deserves to be backed up by much better gameplay than what is currently on offer. Its issues with the controls and the characters, as well as a general lack of content, quickly sour things and throw almost any element of replayability out of the window. At £6.69, I’d recommend giving this one a miss, no matter how good Hitler-Broccoli and Poundshop Superman sound.
Ice Cream Surfer provides some ice-cold gaming on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One