Assassins Creed Snow

“It’s sure been a cold, cold winter and a lotta love is all burned out.”

Did you ever realize that most platformers follow the same kind of pattern for their levels? I mean, you have the classic forest level (normally the first level), then you have the Magma Zone level, the Water level, The Clouds level and today’s topic: the classic Ice Level.

super-mario-ice-level

The first Ice level that I ever played.

It’s like something that they teach in the first year of basic programming , like 1 = 0. It’s a rule that each platformer should have an Ice Level. But what elements would comprise these levels? Let’s take a look at some well known and lesser known examples.

Snow Boarding

Sonic Snowboarding

Gotta Skate Fast

I can count at least four games (Sonic 3, Yoshi’s island, Megaman 8 and Megaman X8) where you have to slide though a frozen mountain, an ice slide or just some badass ice vehicle. But you know what? These events are awesome and I love them. I don’t know if this is just a theme from the most classic platforming franchises such as Mario, Megaman or Sonic, but I hardly ever see these in games from other franchises.

Bad Visibility

silent hill

Well, if it wasn’t for these white squares it would hard to spot that girl.

This is something that you’ll see more in modern video games, especially in third person games or racing games, where the snow storm is so damn strong that you can’t see anything (not even your adoptive daughter); not to mention mist or hail storms.  This is where you have to be alert to anything that could happen, and trust me, in survival horror games this effect is absolutely chilling.

Avalanche Snowballs

super ghost

As you see in old cartoons, what begins as a small ball of snow becomes a giant snowball that destroys anything or anybody in its path, unless you are that giant snowball (Wario land 3).  Giant snowballs and avalanches are well-known as the “one hit you are dead” kind of trap in video games (like the lava floor in the volcanic levels, but we will talk about that sooner or later). But to be honest, not all the giant snowballs are bad. In some games, they can be used as platforms to reach higher sections, like in Yoshi’s Island.

Ice Stalactites

Adventure Island Ice

I just got freezer burn

If I had a coin for each ice stalactite that fell on me, I would have enough money to buy a PS4. Stalactites are one of the most well-known traps in video games. It’s that classic spike that falls from the roof to kill you.  I personally don’t know if there’s a secret wire or something that actives this spike, or if it’s just a coincidence that this thing falls as soon as you get close to it. The Ice Stalactites are more common than the ones made of rock. It also acts as a trap that makes you ask a big philosophical question: “Should I wait or run?” If you walk, you most certainly die. You can run very fast to avoid it, or you can slowly approach and stop as soon as the stalactite falls, but if you do, you would lose a lot a time. Avoiding an Ice Stalactite is a really big deal when you are playing in hardcore mode.

Frozen Floors

ice floor

When you’re drunk, every floor is like a frozen floor.

You know what I’m talking about. Platformer experts know the principal element of the ice levels: that damn floor is where you can’t walk without falling off the platform, not being able to hit jump before slipping off, or for running too fast and not having enough space to stop. This is where all the previous elements become even more annoying: the Ice stalactites pierce your body, the avalanches are hard to avoid, and jumping from one platform to another becomes a pain in the ass.

For me, these are the elements that characterize an Ice Level.  I could add the “thin” ice, but to be fair, a floor that disintegrates as soon as you touch it is something common in every kind of level, not just ice levels.

blighttown2

If you’ve played Dark Souls, and been to Blighttown, then you know all about disintegrating platforms.

enemies

Normally, the enemies in these games are usually animals that live in cold temperatures, such as penguins, walrus, bunnies etc. But the ones that stand out are the Snowman/Ice monster and the Yeti. I don’t care much about the rest of the enemies, but you need to have at least one of these in the level.

The Snowman (Or a golem made of ice) is an iconic element of Ice Levels, especially around Christmas.  Not having one is kind of shameful; at least having one in the background is fine.  It’s not necessary for them to be enemies, but they perfectly match the atmosphere.

Ghostbusters

But when they are enemies, they really can be creepy as hell, as we’ve seen in Ghostbusters for Sega Genesis

Yetis (Or bigfoots) on the other hand are more well-known as enemies, or at least monsters you have to shoot even if you don’t want to (Red Dead Redemption).  For me, these enemies are kind of fun to have (Like in Metal Slug 2 or 3), but they aren’t that good when compared to snowmen.

avalanche-yeti2

The Robo-Yeti from Megaman X8 also count.

The elements I have discussed in this article are the most common I have found in video games. Taken individually, they are not that problematic, but try to imagine a level with all of these elements included at the same time. That would be a nightmare, but an awesome nightmare.

ice-level

Slayer-Quest: A winter’s tale

  • Ice levels always spell doom for my progress. I was playing Ristar on Sega Genesis recently and the ice level ramps up the difficulty from the previous levels. My most frustrating ice level was in Ultima Underworld 2 where you step on the ice and you go forward without stopping. It’s dark, and you have no idea where you’re going.

    At least they tend to have soothing relaxing music!