Facts about... the ice world

Being composed of their namesake and having c-c-cold days year-round are the most notable features of ice levels, but most share several lesser known traits too. Many of these subtler characteristics are sometimes overlooked by any less than the most astute game players, so we’ve got a few here to share with you.

Water is actually denser in its liquid form than frozen form. That means that it expands when frozen. The ice sculpture of Bowser (pictured, above) wouldn’t be as imposing if it weren’t so frozen. It also means that ice levels are usually 8-9% larger than their room-temperature cousins. That’s totally not a made-up fact.

Like snowflakes, each ice world is different from the others. Here we’ve taken concept art from Lost Planet, Gears of War 2 and Mass Effect and lined them up to emphasize their differences. We forget which is which, exactly, but as you can clearly see, they each have different levels of snowfall, and that one on the bottom has buildings that are white.

White buildings are unusual in a level made of snow, but not unheard of – like we said, they’re all different. However, the default color for absolutely everything is on an icy planet is blue. This is caused by light reflecting off of frozen surfaces. Ice absorbs more red frequencies of light than blue, so the blue color is caused by an absence of red, rather than an abundance of blue.

Sometimes we can encounter ice of other colors, such as brown, gray, green or yellow (avoid the yellow). Coloration is caused by impurities, such as sediment being trapped in an ice cube, algae in your iceberg or air bubbles trapped in the glass of drinking water you decided to freeze for no reason in particular. That’s why the snow on the ground in the Castle Crasher image is slightly green, and is in no way related to the video settings on the monitor the screen was taken from.

Here’s what good old fashioned ice blocks from Super Mario Bros. 3 used to look like on the NES. In the almost 20 years since the game was released in the US, globally rising levels of pollution make it impossible for games to recreate such purity. But more than just pure snow is in danger of falling out of existence.

The majestic polar bears, commonly referred to as the taxis of the ice world, are in danger of becoming extinct due to global warming and predatory blue whales. Pictured above from real life, The Golden Compass and Cabela’s Alaskan Adventures, but they appear in many other games with snow on the ground. Most of which also allow you to shoot them.

The polar bear isn’t the only imaginary creature equipped to survive on the inhospitable icy tundra, it’s just the only one that can be killed with bullets. Yetis are the lords of the ice world and they appear in countless titles, such as in Alien Hominid, Duck Tales, King’s Quest V and Age of Conan – not that you really cared. Since we all know what a Yeti is, they appear relatively unchanged in every iteration and type of game out there.

Now you know everything there is to know about the ice world in whatever game you’re playing. If you’re not there yet, don’t fret. There’s usually an abrupt and unexplained change around world three. Be careful, it’s slippery. If you need to stop quickly, try looking up. Finally, don’t touch the water. Water will kill you, stay on the ice.

Jun 17, 2009

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