We should get this out of the way now. If youâ€™re over 10 years old this game probably wonâ€™t be for you. If, however, you giggle at the antics of Sid the Sloth and the nut obsessed squirrel Scrat, or if you loved scrambling around the beaches of Madagascar doing hippo slams and giraffe helicopters, or if you loved Kung Fu Pandering or Monster vs. Alien-ing, then youâ€™ll be buying this game and happily playing it through to the end.
Thatâ€™s because by now you should know if you like games like Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. If you do like them there is really no reason why you wouldnâ€™t like this.
You start as the slightly vacant, but good natured sloth Sid. Voiced by John Leguizamo, the game version of Sid has enough personality and goofy charm to hook you into the story. Pretty early on though, Sid is dragged away by a suitably irate, drooling dinosaur and itâ€™s up to the rest of the Ice Age cast, including good-natured mammoths Ellie and Manny, to get their friend back.
From there on in it's a pretty engaging hunt around the familiar Ice Age settings, as well as some more temperate jungle locations, looking for gems and berries, fighting birds and flowers, climbing platforms and whipping tree stumps until the give up their treasures.
The gameplay is a typical variation on the theme seen in innumerate animated crossovers. Sid, Scrat, or any one of the six playable characters, scamper around good looking, but fairly standard snowscapes collecting stuff. Punching enemies or splatting them with mud will make them burst into berries that can be redeemed at stores for upgrades and bonuses. Gems can also be found and traded in for rewards such as multiplayer games and movies. Level goals consist of everything from protecting eggs, to clearing enemies to simply passing a few checkpoints.
Once youâ€™ve got the knack of some of the simpler tasks, Dawn of the Dinosaurs does supply some challenges. For instance, you can try your hand at balancing on top of a snowball. Rolling and sliding atop snow covered platforms becomes slightly more difficult when the problems of ice, momentum and snowball balancing are combined.
Helpfully, bird fighting is also added to the mix, although beating them is simply a matter of getting out of their way. Time it right and they will slip past you and off the edge of the platform to fall to their deaths on some icy crevice hundreds of metres below. Or being a kidâ€™s game, theyâ€™ll probably just land headfirst in some snowdrift to a comical â€˜thwopâ€™ sound effect and some cartoon stars.
Another comical addition is Buck. Buckâ€™s a one eyed weasel. Heâ€™s got confidence and some pretty good moves with his whip and gun. He can climb with the best of them and when he starts racing along vines heâ€™s a pretty good homage to Sonic the Hedgehog. In place of homage, if you were being less generous, you might say heâ€™s exactly like Sonic. That said, Buck not only speeds up the action, he livens up the gameplay that often gets repetitive pretty quickly. However, repetitive or not, we have to remember the gameâ€™s target audience. And for the littlies, the difficulty is just right. It's a mud slinging, snowball riding, dinosaur hunting romp that will easily keep them occupied for the weekend.
Kids, turn away now.
Unfortunately, for those of us slightly older, Dawn of the Dinosaurs has very little appeal. It's the kind of game gamers enjoy disliking. Itâ€™s pure marketing, made to sit beside the little plastic toys they give away with burgers and the one sheets and cardboard stand ups sent to every movie theatre in the world. As long as thereâ€™s product awareness gained from the box covers in the games section of the video store, those that paid to put it there will be happy. For them the contents of the box means very little.
But Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs will make a lot of people happy. It will be fodder for the haters who enjoy ripping things that donâ€™t measure up to their high standards, but equally it will bring hours of fun to those that love the movie and eagerly rent the game. For them there are plenty of levels to complete and achievements to own, and who doesnâ€™t want to see a fight between a Mammoth and a T-Rex.
Iâ€™ll think Iâ€™ll just go finish the game.