Frozen Cortex Review (PC)
I have a confession to make. Unlike everyone else on the planet, I wasn’t too fond of Frozen Synapse. The 2011 simultaneous turn-based strategy game was a big hit for Oxford’s Mode 7 games, and this site gave it a 9/10.
For me though, the painstaking way in which your every decision was previewed made the planning phase beyond the limits of my patience. By trying to guess your opponents moves, you ended up second guessing yourself and doubting your own mind. It played on my confidence so much by the time it came to the brutally short action phase, where both sides see their plans played out, I couldn’t watch.
Given the spiritual successor Frozen Cortex uses exactly the same mechanic, you’d expect my reaction to be the same. However, Cortex hooked me from the start and has cemented the game as one of my favourite indie games for a long, long time.
Seriously though, people who avoid sports games shouldn’t be put off by this, but the way they have used a fictional sport to provide narrative to the gameplay style, and even to improve on it, is inspired. American football is a turn based strategy game after all, when you think about it.
The graphical style is reminiscent of 90s cyberpunk game Speedball, the rules of the game are Bloodbowl-esque American football lite, but the turn-based strategy is as deep as a glacier, only with a ball and a clock to watch.
Your five-robot squad plays on a small pitch littered by warehouse-style boxes, and must use three passes forward to reach the end zone. Gone is the nervy cover-based shooting of Frozen Synapse, instead you are forced to leap into action to force a turnover or outwit the defence. It’s solid, simple gameplay, but you happily spend a long time planning your strategy for each play, because you know every turn exciting things will happen.
Three or four commentators provide quips and analysis throughout each short match, and because it is text-based you rarely get the dull repetition found in most conventional sports games. The writing is solid and sometimes witty, but it also serves to buy into the fiction your game is being watched, and your decisions matter.
When the chubby fellow and his perky robot sidkick start praising your “tactical mind” the raised stakes really start to pay off. Even in the short single player season, with an off-field corruption subplot thrown in, you’ll find yourself fist-pumping with glee when you outwit your smack-talking opponents.
Online, those stakes go through the roof. The planning phase is a nail-biting affair, and it’s a good thing the matches are only around 12 turns long, because if they were any longer this game would need a health warning.
Given the futuristic game apparently grew out of the fear of safety to human players, who were replaced by robots, you are left wanting a bit more in the way of robo-gore. Some of the tackles, for, example, could do with a head being ripped off for good measure. Maybe that’s just me.
5 frozen fans out of 5Frozen Cortex Review (PC),