Reviewed by Herb Levy
ICE COOL (Brain Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 6 and up, 3o minutes; $39.99)
As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, in those pre-internet, pre-video game days, a popular game in the neighborhood was called Skelly. With Skelly, you took some chalk and designed a large playing area with numbered squares through which you shot a bottle cap (!) from numbered space to numbered space and then back again. It was incredibly simple and incredibly fun. When I saw this new game, I flashed back to Skelly as this one reminded of it – but at a big upgrade. The game? Ice Cool.
As designed by Brian Gomez, Ice Cool is a flight of fancy as the action takes place in a school for penguins!
Turns out the game box opens up, like those famous Russian nesting dolls, and becomes five rooms which are clipped together to form the school layout. Each player chooses a color and takes the penguin and three fish of that color along with the matching ID card. One player is the “Hall Monitor” (aka Catcher) with the others being the “Runners”. All Runners place one of their fish above each of three specified doorways. The Catcher places his penguin in the “Kitchen” (within the red lined starting area). And we’re off!
The Runners go first by “flicking” their penguin pieces to power them through the rooms of the layout. These penquin pieces are reminiscent of those toys known as “Weebles”. (The slogan for those toys was “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!” Well, these weighted penguin pieces wobble but they too do not fall down!) Their goal of the Runners is to avoid the Catcher AND try to collect all of their fish by going completely through the appropriate doorways where the fish are located. As an added bonus, you draw a card for each fish you claim. Cards are valued at 1, 2 or 3 and are saved until the end of the game. (Exception: if you have two 1 cards, you may reveal them and take another turn.) When all of the Runners have taken their turns, the Catcher gets to make his move.
The goal of the Catcher is to touch the Runners. If he is able to careen into one of them (or even if one of the Runners bumps into him), he takes away that Runner’s ID card. (The Runner still takes his turn and may still try to collect fish.) Play continues until the round ends when either one Runner has collected all his fish OR the Catcher has caught all of the Runners and collected their ID cards. With the round ended, the Catcher gets to draw 1 card for each ID card he has (including his own). If a Runner was NOT caught, then he, too, draws 1 card. Now, the Catcher role shifts to the next player, everyone collects their ID cards (if lost), fish are replaced in the doorways and we do it all over again. After everyone has had a chance to be the Catcher, scores are tallied.
Players add up all the cards they have collected. (Exposed 1 cards still count as 1 Victory Point each.) The player with the highest score wins! (Tie? Then the player with the most cards is the victor.)
Now let’s get real for a minute. Although, yes, we collect cards, yes, we score points, yes, high score wins, this is not really a game. It is an experience that survives on the fun of the “flick”. Watching those penguins collide and bounce and ricochet may not be hard core gaming but, you know what, it is fun. A little bit goofy, a little bit wacky, but a whole lot of fun. And a tip of the hat to the wonderful box/board construction which packs everything neatly into a single box with all parts numbered for easy assembly and breakdown and for the quality penguin pieces with bright colors pleasing to the touch and eye.
Ice Cool is the kind of skill and action game that kids can really get into and adults can actually have a good time playing too. Silly stuff for sure but any activity that can get kids and their folks together is a pretty solid achievement. And that makes Ice Cool kind of, well, cool!- – – Herb Levy
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