I saw the upcoming iOS game Icycle: On Thin Ice back at GDC, and I think it was the best game (out of maybe fifty or more) that I saw that week. Reece Millidge is an animator and game developer based in Britain, and I first came across his work while playing the Flash version of an abstract putting game he made called Wonderputt. Millidge has a wild sense of design and pacing, and both of those skills make Icycle: On Thin Ice one of my most anticipated iOS games of the year in 2013. Just recently, Millidge kindly responded to a few questions from TUAW, talking both about his history on iOS so far, and what to expect in his upcoming release.
Wonderputt arrived on the App Store last year, and Millidge says it was quite successful. He'd "heard from publishers that mini golf games on mobile were not popular like they were on the browser. So from that kind of feedback I never expected it to go far." But it reached #1 paid app on the UK charts, and has since not only matched the Flash version in financial success, but has seen over 100,000 paid downloads.
That kind of success has obviously encouraged Millidge to release another iOS app, and Icycle: On Thin Ice is a game based on another Flash title he did, simply called Icycle. But On Thin Ice is not only designed for a touchscreen, but it has lots of new content as well. "Icycle, the Flash version, and Icycle: On Thin Ice are two completely different games," Millidge tells us. The title will have a new story, new levels, and new power-ups to play with, with lots of new abilities for the game's hero (a naked man on a bicycle named Dennis). "The only thing that has remained from Icycle, really," says Milidge, "is Dennis himself."
On Thin Ice will also be made into a Flash version of the game, but Millidge says the iOS version will have "extra content, levels, and in-app updates."
Icycle's basic story sends Dennis exploring through a post-apocalyptic ice age, and while the original game simply played around with various icy landscapes, On Thin Ice has a much wider scope. The game begins with a fantastically animated James Bond-esque title sequence, and early on, Dennis is clunked over the head and has to make his way through an abstract art-inspired dreamland, exploring paintings like Magritte's Son of Man and other works. Millidge says his influences come from all over the place. "I've mainly taken inspiration from illustrators who work in vector art, but also from some of the masters in minimalist print and poster work such as Charley Harper," he says. "Russian propaganda and Art Deco travel posters are also a favourite." He says English cartoons like Monty Python and Yellow Submarine are a big influence as well.
The bicycle mechanic was inspired by an old BBC Micro game, according to Millidge, called Dare Devil Dennis, and there are some other fun references in Icycle that refer to that old retro title. But the idea of making the guy on the bike naked while wandering through a freezing landscape is all just about "maximising empathy," Millidge says. "That and a cruel sense of humour, of course."
I was so impressed with the short time I had with Icycle: On Thin Ice at GDC, and I can't wait to see the finished game. Chillingo is publishing, and Icycle: On Thin Ice should be out and available on the App Store soon.