Those wacky penguins are at it again. When they’re not disrupting study hall they’re slacking off during exams. Why can’t they just sit still? Now they’ve resorted to stealing food from the cafeteria. Enough is enough! It’s time to release the Hall Monitor. They may have ruined ICECOOL, but under my watch I’ll make sure nothing happens to ICECOOL2.
How it Plays
A couple of years ago, Brain Games released a novel little dexterity game called ICECOOL. It utilized cute little weeble wobble penguins and a nesting boxes to create a clever little flicking game. Unfortunately, the experience was undercut by a scoring system that relied on the luck of the draw rather than the skill of the shot. Enter ICECOOL2. While the name is less than inspired it’s also the most accurate way to describe it. This is ICECOOL with a few tweaks. Everything about ICECOOL2 is nearly identical to the original.
If you want a detailed explanation of how ICECOOL2 plays check out our review of the original as it’s largely unchanged. Here it is in a nutshell. Players will flick their penguin around the board collecting fish which grant victory points. All the while, one player is the hall monitor trying to tag the other players to gain victory points. Everyone will have a chance to be the hall monitor and whoever has the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
Everything I liked about the original is still here. The weighty penguin pieces that careen and ricochet every which way. The sense of urgency that comes with the all vs. one setup. The sense of accomplishment that comes with getting better at flicking your penguins. The nesting boxes to make up the play field. It’s all there. In fact, it’s very nearly the same game. If it weren’t for the fact that the penguins come in different (and better) colors, it would be very easy to mistake it for the same game. I’m pretty sure even the layout of the board is the same. So ICECOOL2 needs a good reason for you to buy this instead of or in addition to the original. Thankfully, it delivers.
Where the original fell short was in its scoring. Your reward for skillful aim and careful setup (or, in my case, random happenstance) was to draw a card for victory points. The disparity of drawing a 1 point card and a 3 point card undercut the satisfaction of landing a good strike. It may seem like a silly complaint for such a silly game, but even silly games can think about game design seriously. You should be celebrating and cheering when you nab a fish and not lamenting the fact that the random card deck is working against you. The easy remedy to the situation is to make all fish worth equal points and in fact the tournament rules included in ICECOOL2 do just that. However, the new standard rules do something even better.
You can still turn in two 1 point victory point cards for an extra turn, but now each 1 point victory card has one of three tasks: jump your penguin over a wall, flick your penguin through two doors, or bounce your penguin off a wall and through a door. At the beginning of your turn you can reveal one of your cards and declare that you are attempting to complete the task. If you are successful, you get to draw another victory point card. I have no idea if this balances things out in terms of scoring, but what I do know is that if puts the focus back onto the highlight of the game: flicking penguins.
My problem with the old scoring wasn’t that it was unfair (it was), but that instead of feeling excited for nailing a good shot was dampened by the drawing of a 1 point card. Now, 1 point cards are opportunities for wild and often hilarious shots. The tasks are hard. Well, they’re hard for a penguin flicking scrub like myself. They stretch your abilities to the limits and encourage players to try things they would be too conservative to try otherwise. The laughs that erupt when someone flicks a penguin clear off the table instead of over a wall mask any sense of imbalanced scoring. Bank shots are something I would never have even thought to try before, so when faced with the challenge, you can imagine it didn’t go well. And that’s okay, because it’s funny, it’s challenging, and it’s impressive if you pull it off.
With this simple change, ICECOOL goes from a clever idea wrapped in a ho-hum game to an impressive all around package. If you’re at all interested in flicking games, it’s an easy recommendation. It does make me wish, however, that the first game included the new scoring rules. I suppose you could find a way to squeeze them in if you’re handy with a marker. The publisher might have recognized that it would be a hard sell to owners of the original so there are a few extras included for the ICECOOL faithful.
Due to the new penguin colors, you can combine both sets of ICECOOL to play with up to 8 players. I never had the opportunity to play with a full complement, but even at 5 and 6 players, the downtime between player turns began to be noticeable. Luckily, ICECOOL makes for a decent spectator game as well, but it’s a nominal value add at best. What’s more appreciated is the ability to combined both sets for various different layouts. The Manual includes diagrams for 5 different layouts including 2 that incorporate a funny room sliding gimmick. This adds some much appreciated variance to your ICECOOL sessions and makes up for the fact that the layout in ICECOOL is basically the same as the original. There is also a race mode included, but I didn’t find it as compelling as the main game. It loses the cat and mouse aspect and has to compete with the likes of something like Pitchcar. It’s added bonus, but not the main reason to flick penguins.
ICECOOL2 is an improvement on the original in every way. It retains all the wackiness of flicking penguins and the satisfaction of improving your skills. It puts the focus where it should be: flicking penguins! For owners of the original it’s a tougher sell, but the relatively low price and small footprint due to the nesting boxes makes it an easier pill to swallow.
Review copy provided by Brain Games.