IceBreaker is based on a game called Jezzball, originally written by
and distributed as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack for Windows.
This was a quite popular game, as we can see from sites like David and Tia
Rich's Jezzball Club House. However,
Microsoft no longer produces this package, and you no longer can obtain
the original Jezzball legally. You may find it out there from grey-area
abandonware sites, but I encourage you to download IceBreaker
instead. It's totally completely legally free, and it makes me happy to see
people benefiting from my work.
In addition to the simple one-you-can-get/one-you-can-not distinction,
there's some other subtle and not so subtle differences.
- Open Source: IceBreaker is entirely original code licensed under the
GNU GPL. This means
that not only can you download and play the game for free, you can
also help make it better -- and you benefit from the efforts of other
people making it better. If I ever stop distributing IceBreaker, that
doesn't mean the game will die, because someone else could take it up.
The only catch is that you can't take IceBreaker and make it into a
closed product, which is only fair considering the time and effort
I've put into it.
- Cross Platform: Jezzball is a 16-bit program which runs only on
Microsoft Windows. IceBreaker runs on MS Windows too, but it also runs
on Linux, BeOS, and more. (We're working on a Mac OS X version.) And
since you have the source code, you're welcome to try to get it to run
anywhere else as well.
- It's Prettier: Let's face it: Jezzball was addictive, but its
charms weren't exactly apparent on the surface. IceBreaker, on the other
hand, has cute penguins. And, as the late night infomercials remind us,
that's not all! IceBreaker now has themes support, so you can have your
favorite color scheme, sounds, and bouncing tiny icon of your choice.
(Didja see the screenshots?)
- Fullscreen Mode: don't play in a tiny little window. Get those
distractions out of the way and set the game to take up the whole
screen. (Or at least most of it -- there'll be a little bit of black
- Slightly Bigger Board: Oooh, how exciting. Jezzball plays on a
28x20 grid, and the representation is such that you draw lines down
the borders of the grid-blocks. The playing area is much wider than it
is tall -- individual squares on the grid are, um, not squares. In
IceBreaker, the grid is 32x20, and you draw lines aligned with the
blocks themselves. The latter is because I think it looks
nicer; the size change is because I made the blocks square -- again
for the appearance -- but still wanted the same overall apparent shape.
The practical result of all of this is that you have to clear 80% of the
board, not 75% as in Jezzball. This is simply because there's more space
to begin with.
- Pixel-based movement: In the original game, the "Jezz atoms" jumped
from the center of one grid space to the next. In IceBreaker, the
penguins (or whatever, depending on the selected theme) move
pixel-by-pixel. This has several effects -- first, it looks much
smoother. Second, it means it's impossible to trap a penguin in a 1x1
area, and almost -- but not quite -- impossible to trap it in 1x2.
Third, the penguins can bunch up into "flocks" a bunch moving close
together. This happens because there's simply more places to be.
The second thing makes the game harder; the third makes it a bit easier
in some cases and harder in others. I figure it all works out.
- Different Scoring: The scoring is quite different. There's
points for eliminating squares, but nothing special for completing a
line. We're trying to capture penguins here; no rewards for doing the
job inefficiently. Like Jezzball, there's a two-tiered bonus for
eliminating squares above the required amount -- it's best to make
your last line chop off a huge amount of space. Unlike Jezzball, the
numbers aren't ridiculously huge, and you'll feel like there's a
direct connection between exactly how well you did and the exact score
you got. There's also a small bonus for having extra lives at the end
of the level -- Jezzball didn't care about that.
- Different Timer:
Instead of having a large number that spins down until you lose, IceBreaker
simply decreases your score by one every second, back to where you were
at the beginning of the level. This discourages dawdling, but keeps the
higher levels from becoming a complete race aganist the clock (and keeps
the timer from seeming completely silly on the first bunch of levels).
- Can't Change Difficulty Mid-game: Because that was a lame cheat.
- Direct Hits: In Jezzball, the ends of your lines (or "walls") were
armor protected. Not so in IceBreaker. But I'm not entirely heartless;
as an exchange, if you click directly on a penguin, you'll just hear a
cute little "ouch" sound and your life will be spared.
- No Hot/Cold Sides: There's a kind of odd thing in Jezzball where
the balls are "spinning" (quotes are necessary because the animation isn't
exactly convincing) and one side is dangerous and the other not. This isn't
really that exciting and adds an extra complication without much benefit.
It might help in tight situations, but in IceBreaker, you're just going to
have to use your reflexes, no matter which way the penguins might be facing.
Including looking directly at you.
- No Annoying New Game Dialog: When a game is over, click to start
a new one. If you want to stop, just quit. You can do it any time. Any
time you feel like it.
- No Clever Demo Mode: This is one thing that I hope to add
eventually. The demo game auto-player in Jezzball is quite good, and
IceBreaker has no such thing.
There's several other games out there that take their inspiration from
Jezzball. Of course, I'm a bit biased here, but I figured I'd give a bit of
comparison. My aim isn't to review the games -- or to disparage the
competition -- but just to comment on the technicalities. I've gotten a few
"your game is just like this other game I know about" messages; actually,
it's probably not exactly the same -- as the list above hints,
there's a lot of little things which can make different implementations be,
- Bola Loca: a Java/web-based implementation. Pretty nice, although
constrained by the medium. Particularly, the cursor doesn't change, so
you're stuck with looking down to the bottom-left corner to see which
direction the next line will go. Basic gameplay is very Jezzball-like,
with a few quirks, like the "crazy ball" (hence the name Bola
Loca...). Keeps a high-score list online -- something an Open Source
implementation can't do very well. The app seems to have some
difficulty in Mozilla on Linux -- or perhaps it's a network latency
issue (although I do have DSL).
- Gameknot J*zzball: very clever with the name there, guys.
Another Java/web-based version. Actually looks more like
Jezzball than Bola Loca does, but I think the appearance is deceiving
-- the balls are red and white and appear to spin, but the different
sides don't seem to act differently. And the lines have the appearance
of being protected on the end, but they're actually not. Gameplay
feels a bit "soft". Oh, and actually crashed my wife's Win98 machine
once. Native code is really where it's at for games.
- KJezz / KJezzball / KBounce: this is an implementation that
comes with KDE, and frankly it's not all that exciting. Not a bad demo
of what can be put together quickly with KDE and the QT toolkit.
GPL'd -- that's a plus.
- Barrack: A popular Mac OS shareware game from Ambrosia
Software. Almost certainly initially based on Jezzball, but very
different in implementation. I don't have a Mac, so I haven't played
it much, but my initial impression was that it's overloaded with
attempts at injecting the game with arcade thrills and totally misses
out on the Zen experience of the original. Clicking only draws one
line, although starting in the middle -- seems like a small
difference, but advanced players will recognize the problem. And
there's lots of crazy stuff going on all the time with special types
of balls and bonus things you have to hit and some sort of shark.
That's not to say that you might not like it -- it's just a quite
- TI Calculator Jezzball: I know this exists, and is actually
called "Jezzball 2.0" despite having no connection to the original
game. I don't have a fancy Texas Instruments calculator, so I can't
really comment very deeply.
- CrazyBall: a Jezzball clone for PalmOS. Claims, in fact, to be
an "authentic clone". Gets pretty good reviews; haven't tried it out
myself yet. (I'm a bit skeptical about the gameplay without a two
Anyway, if one of these is your favorite, hey, I'm not going to stop you.
If you really like a feature one of them has, let me know. My aim is to make
IceBreaker the best game of its type out there.
Isaac Newton said
something famous about standing on the shoulders of giants. And of
course there's the even older saying about there being nothing new under the
sun. As far as I know, the bouncing balls in Jezzball originated there, but
some of the game concepts are even older -- traceable at least to the arcade
It has the same "clear 75% of the level" concept, but the line drawing is
entirely different (more free-form, and you start from the edges and draw
the line yourself) and instead of avoiding balls (or atoms or penguins), you
must avoid both the "Qix" (a mass of lines twirling around the play area)
and "Sparx", which chase you around the edges. Some of Barrack's arcade-like-feel might be traced back to this
game, but in general Barrack feels more like Jezzball than Qix, so I'm not
sure how strong the connection is.
All of the good names are
Although I didn't notice when I chose the name, there is in fact an older
game called Icebreaker (with a lowercase 'b', for whatever that's worth).
This one was for the ill-fated 3DO Multiplayer, and although it was ported
to MS Windows and Mac OS (by a company called Magnet Interactive Studios)
the full game is no longer available -- Magnet no longer even does computer
games. There's a demo, but it is very out of date you may have some trouble
getting it installed on a modern operating system. (See what happens when
your games aren't open source?) Anyway, that game has no relation to this
one. See Andrew
Looney's Icebreaker page if you're interested.
But that's not all -- looks like there's an even older Ice
Breaker (with a space in the name, this time) made by a company
called Topo Soft for a platform I'd never even heard of -- the Amstrad CPC.
I imagine that there's also some cryptography
software out their with a similar name; I don't think there's a very
large risk of confusion in that case. I've tried to make IceBreaker as
uncryptic as possible, in fact.