With this extended bout of wintry weather we’ve been experiencing, you could be forgiven for thinking we are in the throes of another Ice Age… and in a sense, we are.
Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs has enjoyed a successful run at the cinemas, so we were keen to see whether the game of the movie was just as entertaining. Yes, they are back, but what is all this dinosaur business? Did we not have a human baby in the first movie? So how do the dinosaurs now fit in? We won't spoil it, so go and see the movie - we highly recommend it.
The same goes for the game. Unlike many game-to-movie ties this one hits its target audience right between the eyes with an acorn. The graphics and and game play are pitched just right for the younger audience.
The basics of the game consist of different missions that take the player through the storyline of the movie. Each are a game in themselves. Some are simple platform and item collection missions, others are shooting games, while one in particular has Sid trying to roll a bunch of eggs across impossible ice bridges and tracks while playing chicken with penguins. There is a great variety to keep the game different and interesting.
Sid (the lovable-but-thick sloth) is the first of the movie characters you get to play, and this initial phase of the game teaches the control basics. These are straight forward with the Wii's Nunchuck used for movement. The only parts of the game where they become a bit difficult is in some of the shooting mini games. The accuracy and tracking can be a bit frustrating.
These initial phase of the game is a bit ho-hum, but you get to learn how to balance using the remote, and of course there is the angry rabid beavers to deal with. It is well done, but low on the children's fun scale. Only once past the initial levels does the game lift itself from being just another movie game to something that has the player wanting to come back and play again and again.
Playing as Diago the saber-tooth tiger, you'll get to try and chase down a gazelle. This is largely a racing pursuit mission with prehistoric yaks and warthogs thrown in for good measure. It's quite a challenging level, with ice patches and rivers to navigate. The more of these missions you complete the more crystals you collect, and these can be exchanged for power-ups.
It is when you get to the jungle that you get to play one of the new characters; Buck the street-wise and one-eyed weasel. Bounding from rock to rock and vine to vine whilst shooting dinosaurs with a spore launchers (a kind of biological rocket launcher) he is the Rambo of his era. A favourite of the movie, and equally so in the game. He scoots and shoots his way across various jungle levels, where in the true spirit of the children's game, failure is a benign restart at the last check point.
An Ice Age game would not be complete without Scrat and his endless quest for an acorn. You also get to play Scratte, his love interest. This old score set of platform missions has Scrat bounding and jumping from exotic plant, to rock to tree while collecting fruit and getting a little help from the acorn along the way for good measure.
Also included is a great side-scrolling aerial mission involving flying on the back of a pterodactyl that is reminiscent of the old style coin-op space shooters. Unfortunately, although making a brief appearance as player characters, the mammoths don't really feature. We are guessing lumbering behemoths don't make for good platform shooter games.
Binding all these games is the underlying story from the movie. It's told by Sid by way of cave painting and peppered with some excellent movie sequences. It works well, although if you had not seen the movie first it can be a bit confusing.
The graphics are great, and the ice areas are logically quite sparse, however the level design with ultra slippery ice is managed particularly well. Visuals really start to shine in the jungle areas, and by pushing the limits of the console they deliver quite a satisfactory experience. Voice-overs from the movie actors and some good solid audio allow players to immerse themselves into the movie experience.
Overall this game delivers to its target audience. Its initial slow start is soon forgotten, and it will have them amused for hours. A must get for children and fans of the movie.
If you'd like to try before you buy, we have a PC demo hosted at GP Downloads (513MB).