App of the Day: Ice Rage

Game on!

Much as the yanks and canucks like to big up ice hockey as a team sport, the truth is its purest expression is one-on-one: fisticuffs, mano-a-mano, Wayne and Garth in the middle of the road. Well, maybe you're allowed a goalkeeper, but everyone knows they're not real people anyway.

Though Ice Rage has a fully-featured single-player mode, with both quick matches and a campaign where you can level up your chunky avatar's attributes, what it's all about is local multiplayer. Yourself and a luckless chum hold either end of the iPad, with on-screen controls at each end, and bash each other around in the pursuit of a slippery slidey puck.

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The characters will be familiar to anyone who's played a Mountain Sheep game before, with John Gore and his extended family putting the guns away for once.

The first reason it works beautifully is the simplicity of the controls, with one stick to skate and one button which, depending on whether you have the puck or not, shoots or tackles. Holding down the button with the puck sees an arrow begin to extend outwards from your character, the longer it gets the stronger the shot, and your aim can be tweaked with the movement stick.

It's the tiny adjustments the game is automatically making that gives it an intuitive feel, like the little dude slowing down as you charge up the shot - which not only makes aiming easier, but gives your opponent a tiny edge in movement the second or two before you pull the trigger.

And more often than not, it results in you getting flattened. The clue's in the title, because Ice Rage isn't really about sweeping moves and graceful pirouettes (though they're entirely possible) so much as it is smacking into each other recklessly. It doesn't even really feel like the score matters most of the time, a fact acknowledged by the two multiplayer modes splitting between a game decided on score and one decided on health bars.

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One slightly sour note is that many characters are IAPs, which is common in Mountain Sheep games but sits better in their more substantial offerings

Charging up tackles works in the same way as a shot, but with a cone extending outwards from the front of your player - if your opponent's in this field of doom when the button's released, they get unceremoniously flattened. The characters have slightly different strengths and, even though these are subtle enough to get lost in the chaos, I would always recommend choosing the bear, simply because when it hits somebody they tend to get absolutely scrubbed.

The bear, in fact, has led to a heated argument with a good friend about whether or not it is OP - to which the answer is yes, and I'm choosing it anyway. But that's the kind of thing Ice Rage is so good at bringing out, the sly joshing and jostling for the tiniest advantage, just so you can rub your buddy's face in it when, once more, the bear doth roar triumphant.

You can pick it up on iPhone, though unless you happen to have incredibly small fingers and a small head don't expect the same multiplayer joy. But on the paddle it's a bit like air hockey meets British Bulldog, and whenever a friend's round it always seems like there's time for a few quick rounds. Especially if you lose the first one. Much like that bear, Ice Rage isn't especially clever or subtle, but does one thing extremely well.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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