Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Review
Written : Friday, July 31, 2009
By: Alan Pettit (GT: The Pants Party)
There is definitely something satisfying about animated films these days, no matter what age group you may land in. Sure, they are technically aimed at kids, but the writers know that when kids go to the movies, parents tend to tag along. You know, so the kids don't get stolen or lost! So Blue Sky knows that getting in enough humor that will entertain both audiences is key. Developer Eurocom (G-Force, Pirates of the Caribbean) translated that quite well, providing a rather entertaining platformer with Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
This doesn't seem fair....
Not having seen this third iteration of the Ice Age franchise at theaters, I can only assume the plot of the game follows the movie like most adaptations these days. Granted, travesties like Terminator: Salvation throw that formula for a loop, but this adventure at least felt like it could be put on film. There were unfortunately a few sections that felt a bit forced in order to hit the "more than four playable characters" quota; namely a small chase sequence with the sabre-tooth tiger and a short task of tree stump uprooting with the woolly mammoth that didn't really fit in with the rest of the game.
The main adventure is split into two sections. The "Ice Age" levels have you controlling John Leguizamo's sloth character Sid, tracking down shiny crystals at the behest of Ray Romano's woolly mammoth as gifts for his pregnant wife, played by Queen Latifah. Wow, way to diversify, Blue Sky! Your objectives in each level are laid out very plainly and don't actually require much figuring out as plenty of on-screen tips are there to guide you. The majority of these levels are basic platforming, though there is one pretty fun "shooting gallery" type level where you blast away dinos before they can make noise and wake up the baby dinosaurs you end up stealing.
The second half of the game takes place after Sid is captured by the momma T-Rex (remember those stolen babies?), switching control to Buck; Simon Pegg's weasel character. This half of the game focuses a bit more on side-scrolling, with two shoot-'em up flying levels and two levels where you control the pre-historic squirrel Scrat - though there is plenty of platforming action to be had here as well. Sadly the game starts to drag a bit at the end, with two final levels being much longer than the rest and can't offer anything new to keep you interested until the finale.
Disclaimer: Sloths do not actually fly.
While playing through each set of levels, you will collect berries by defeating enemies or breaking down ice blocks and bushes. These are used to purchase upgrades for your health or ammo capacities, new multiplayer levels, crystals and a few gag-type bonuses. The gags actually help quite a bit during the game, as you can giganto-size the berries and crystals, making them easier to collect, which really helps during some of the "chase" levels where you can't stop your momentum. The "fish-eye lens" ones just gave me a headache though, so feel free to ignore them.
The multiplayer section of the game is simply a collection of very childish mini-games. To start with there is a sumo-type game to knock each other out of the ring, then a Simon Says clone, and a few more. Nothing very inspiring here, but for 2-4 players, most of whom will likely be children, they can pass a few minutes here and there, especially if they're fans of the characters.
On top of all that, various parts of the game are featured a second time in a separate section called Challenge Mode. This mode tasks you with beating these sections as fast as possible - complete with leaderboards and achievements for each specific one. This is a bit tedious since they are direct copies of story mode sections, but trying to take the top spot on the leaderboard from your sister would surely keep a kid occupied for a while.
Eurocom did a fair job putting this together. The story tends to jump around a bit, and even with short segments before each level where Diego and Sid narrate as a bed-time story for the baby mammoth, you can easily get lost, especially if you hadn't seen the movie first. Luckily though, the graphics do a great job representing what Blue Sky put on screen, even if you're not sure why it's happening. The camera however is more than competent and sticks with the character ... only once can I remember getting lazy-eye and blocking the view.
Look out, Scrat!
The voice-acting sadly is hit and miss. Leguizamo, Romano and Latifah all reprise their roles and do a fantastic job, but sadly Dennis Leary and Simon Pegg were either unable to lend their voice or just didn't want to come on board, and subsequently, their voice dupes don't quite make the grade, especially in Leary's case.
The achievement list for Ice Age isn't half bad. You are rewarded well for simply completing the story, as well as collecting all the crystals possible throughout. The remainder of the list is made up of single achievements for beating each segment of the challenges. It shouldn't take experienced gamers more than five hours for everything, but it may keep the younger crowd busier slightly longer.
Overall this is one of the better movie adaptations I've played, especially for a children's game. It isn't on the level of Kung Fu Panda, but at the same time, it is leagues above Terminator: Salvation. Good graphics, decent voice-acting from the pros, albeit a bit too short. The story mode had humor and entertaining gameplay and there isn't much more to ask for, in my humble opinion.
Poor voice dupes for one main and one supporting character, but a great job from the rest of the cast - the overall experience is a mixed bag.
This clearly doesn't utilize all the power the 360 has to offer (as we've seen from the top tier shooters), but it does accurately represent the source material
Very easy controls to learn, plenty of on-screen tips and even a camera system that does more to help than hinder! A treat to play.
Good humor, fun levels and plenty of diversity keep you interested, though it is only four hours worth of gameplay. Any more though and it might have started to drag.
Not a great list, but it suits the feel of the game and the target audience. Some of the challenges may even take seasoned gamers a few attempts, though once you learn the levels it isn't much trouble.
A pleasing adaptation of a family-favorite franchise. All around good fun and despite the short length, there is plenty of extras to come back to. Not exactly a blockbuster title, but a nice addition to a child's catalogue for sure. The older crowd can at least appreciate it for a bit of fun and an easy gamerscore boost.