Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Review
By Chris Commodore |
Yeah, believe it or not there's a third Ice Age movie in theaters, and that means that there's yet another film-inspired videogame for you to sit down with. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs lets you play as your favorite fuzzy critters from the movie and provides you with a tale that complements the movie -- generally, you're playing the parts of the film that weren't shown in theaters.
Is it a Game of the Year contender? No, but Ice Age shouldn't be written off as movie cash-in, either.
Time to make the dinosaurs extinct… again.
Classifying the gameplay can be a bit difficult. In the beginning, it's pretty much a straight platformer with you taking Sid the Sloth through the paces -- baby-proofing the wooly mammoth nursery, battling hedgehog-looking dudes, and collecting fruit to be used as currency. However, the deeper you get, the more there is to do. Later levels have you playing in a shooting gallery where you blast passing dinos with your plant shooter, flying pterodactyls in massive dogfights as Buck, and plowing through side-scrolling levels as Scrat.
This variety is appreciated and a nice change of pace, but in the end it won't do much for the older players among us because the game's pretty frickin' easy. You have a health meter in the upper-left corner that'll deplete when you get hit or whatever, but there are plenty of strawberries to pick up to refill that meter as well as the ability to purchase upgrades. From there, it's just hitting bad guys, learning where to roll your egg so you don't die, and so on.
The fact that there isn't any challenge to the game makes the title a bit ho-hum, and that feeling isn't helped by the fact that the story is all over the place. If you haven't seen the latest movie, you're not going to fully understand what's going on here. Each level opens with the camera set on some cave drawings depicting the events of the film while Sid and Diego tell the story to the baby wooly mammoths. Usually they do a super-summary of the movie part and then pitch it to whatever videogame event was supposed to be happening at the same time. If you've seen the flick, that's great; if not, you might be lost because no one's ever really introduced that well and sometimes it's hard to see how your videogame event fits in with the bigger picture; Diego's pretty much a forgotten story thread, but that might be for the best because his voice-a-like is so bad.
Another stumbling block for this title is repetition. Having to roll an egg down a snowy mountain via Sid's logrolling-like skills is fun enough, but having to do it three different times back to back to back is a bit much. Individual levels limp on like this as well -- I have to shoot down 25 pterodactyls, 10 eyeballs, and fly through 10 smoke rings? How many times to I have to shoot this rock above the final boss? Let me finish the game already!
Fire makes it better.Of course, most of these concerns won't be an issue for this game's target audience (see: short attention span-packing kids). Chances are, the wee ones will be so excited to have control of Manny and the gang that they'll ignore the fact that the characters are prone to float over surfaces, some of the voice-a-likes are pretty bad (although John Leguizamo, Ray Romano, and Queen Latifah are here), and that fighting a medium-sized dinosaur boils down to circling and shooting ad nauseam. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if some kids were a bit put off by the default keyboard and mouse controls at first. Rather than tell you to hit a certain button in the tutorial, Ice Age uses symbols such as a fist for attack or an exclamation for interact. That's fine, but there's no easy to see key for what the symbols mean. When I first started playing, I though the game had frozen because it was showing the exclamation mark and telling me to do "that" to talk to a character. When I hit the exclamation mark on the keyboard, nothing happened. Eventually, I stumbled into it by hitting random keys. The instruction manual tells you what buttons do what, but who want to read? Why not just show me the correct keys? Luckily, the game supports the Xbox 360 controller and that tutorial tells you the actual buttons to press.
Even if the game's disjointedness gets you down, you can take the gameplay elsewhere. There are a number of challenges for you to tackle, which are races to see how fast you can get through a level with just one life to live. On top of that, there's actually a healthy sampling of multiplayer modes for you and your kiddie friends to try out. These eight modes -- Sloth Barge (knock your ball-rolling opponent off the platform), Dino Stomp (have colored the most tiles by the end of a game), etc. -- each have a bunch of different variations and are available for between two and four players but you'll need the appropriate number of controllers to play. Again, a game of Sloth Says isn't the most difficult thing in the world, but if your child is all about Ice Age, this is definitely a good way for him or her to kill some time with their friends. Plus, it keeps them from doing drugs and dropping out of elementary school… probably.