Reviewed: March 14, 2006
Released: March 14, 2006
Ask any kid or adult what their favorite part of Ice Age is and 99% of them will tell you itís the antics of that loveable, nut-obsessed Scrat. So when it comes time to make a game based on the new Ice Age sequel, what better direction to take than to make a game based almost entirely on that character?
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown shares the same title as the film it is based on and a small bit of the overall story, but thatís about all it shares, or at least what I can tell without having seen the film. Manny, Diego, and Sid are all back, but they play more of a supporting role in the game with a few brief playable sequences for each. Scrat is the hero of this adventure.
I generally cringe when it comes time to review a game based on a movie, but lately the movie-inspired games have been getting a lot better, especially games based on animated features. Ice Age 2 follows in this pattern of excellence with a game that was so entertaining I sat down at noon to start playing and didnít stop until I had finished it seven straight hours later. Itís that good!
Ice Age 2 follows the general plot of the movie that involves the melting of the glacier and the retreat of all the inhabitants to a giant piece of wood (Noahís Ark anyone?) so they donít all drown. The story is told, mainly my Manny as a series of still paintings designed to look like colorful cave drawings. When the story ends Scrat takes over.
What better character to have as our unlikely hero? Scrat is the perfect action-adventure-platform hero who can run, climb, jump, kick, spin, swing, and squeeze through narrow cracks. His renowned obsession with nuts gives him the perfect collectible, and you will retrieve thousands of these delicacies before the game is over.
The gameplay is as simple as the premise. You run around collecting countless nuts that are laid out in linear paths around the charming 3D levels. There are regular nuts and golden nuts and each level has a certain number of gold nuts you must find before you are allowed to squeeze through the exit crack.
Thankfully, nuts seem to be the main currency for everyone on the glacier, so when you encounter any of the dozens of enchanting characters in the game who need you to do something for them, your reward will always be a golden nut. Others are tucked away just waiting for you to find.
As a bonus, if you collect 1,000 nuts on each level you will earn a bonus movie that interviews one of the voice actors from the film and game. These are highly entertaining and worthy rewards, although itís pretty hard not to get 1,000 nuts.
Another clever element is Scratís ability to sniff out hidden treasures whether they are nuts or energy-giving fruit. Just watch the icon of Scrat in the corner and when he sticks his nose up push and hold the black ďsniffĒ button and look for any vapors coming from the foliage. Go to that bush and sniff again to retrieve your prize.
Scrat can also collect up to 25 rocks and throw them in a first-person view to hit pesky monkeys, spiders, or plants that will dislodge various rewards. He can also dig up items by standing over them and rapidly pressing the Y button. These can be some of the more intense moments when you are trying to dig up a nut and a giant spider is bearing down on you.
Ice Age 2 is simple to the extreme, and even though I was never truly challenged during my seven frosty hours (well there was one egg switching puzzle), I was always entertained. Plus, the game is designed for the 8-14 year old group, and they will find it challenging.
The level design is incredible starting you off in the typical glacier setting, but as things start to meltdown things start to warm up a bit. Levels range from impressive 3D affairs to smaller mini-game modes like a toboggan run with Sid who slides on his belly dodging icy blocks and performing graceful tricks (DDR style) during frequent jumps. There is also a ďwhack a moleĒ mini-game where Diego tries to swat at pesky rodents without hitting the random skunk.
Puzzles can get fairly complex and involved like trying to return various colored eggs to the proper nest, or finding hot peppers to make some spicy chili. There are also some logic puzzles that require color and counting, and those get mixed in with physical challenges.
One of my favorites involves tricking a rhino to ram into a tree dislodging some fruit that I then feed to Fructose Intolerant Bear. Feed him enough and you can make him fart on command including the direction and intensity. You use those farts to propel you to nests high in the cliff to retrieve gold nuts.
Another favorite level starts with an arcade segment where you must jump from floating ice chunk to the next collecting 20 gold nuts. The ice is breaking off from a melting waterfall and floating into rocks so you have to keep away from the rocks while leaping from chunk to chunk, all the while avoiding a giant fish. Of course in the end you still get eaten by the fish, which turns into one of the more interesting (and disgusting) level designs in the game.
Visually, Ice Age 2 is marvelous with only a few exceptions. Oddly enough, those exceptions are with the primary cast. Manny, Diego, and Sid all look and animated wonderfully, but there is a very noticeable and quite distracting seam down their belly (or trunk for Manny) for the texture map. Donít ask me why because there are other supporting characters just as big and complex and you donít see it on them.
Aside from that one minor distraction, the rest of the game is flawless with huge open-ended levels, charming plant and animal designs, and plenty of humorous visuals that will delight kids and adults. Youíll explore icy caves with dinosaur bones and frozen fish fossils (say that 5 times fast), bubbling mud pits with playful hippos, and even a creepy sloth community where Sid has set himself up as some sort of god-like figure.
The animation is excellent and hysterical at times. Just watching poor Scrat tug or jump up and down trying to dislodge a nut then watching the resulting disaster when he does is just as much fun in the game as it is watching it in all those movie trailers. Technically, the game delivers a solid framerate and supports HDTV in both progressive and widescreen for a gaming experience that will rival your DVD of the first movie.
Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary, lend their voices to their respective characters, Manny, Sid and Diego and there are a few other surprises I will let you discover for yourself in the unlockables menu. All of these performances play out really well for a game, although you can hear a few slips that would never make it into a feature film.
The soundtrack is excellent and I expect borrows heavily, if not entirely from the movie. The tunes change up regularly with each level and even ramp up with the action elements.
Sound effects are all pretty much ripped right from the movie as well (Iím assuming). It all sounds just like the first movie, which I watched the other day in anticipation of the sequel. Of course the main effect is the pathetic whines and grunts of Scrat, which is totally offset by his heroic moments when he turns to the camera and winks with a big toothy grin.
As I stated in the opening, I finished this game in just over 7 hours. Of course that is an adult who has been playing these games for 20+ years. Iíd certainly expect kids to get 12+ hours of total enjoyment from this title and the included movie ticket will help ease the sting of the $40 price tag if you are trying to justify the expense.
The only thing I really regret is that the mini-games within the game are not available from the main menu. They did this in Madagascar and I still find myself playing that miniature golf game. Iíd love to do some Penguin Bowling, Whack-a-mole, or even some more belly sliding with Sid outside of the main adventure.
This is normally where I tell you that Ice Age 2: The Meltdown is pretty good considering itís a movie-licensed game, but actually, this is a fun platform adventure regardless of the movie spin. Scrat is one of the most endearing characters in animated films and itís high time he got to showcase his talents in his own adventure.
And this is also one of the few movie games where they donít actually spoil the movie. By creating an entire side-story you get hints of the movie plot, but Scrat is pretty much doing his own thing, which may or may not inadvertently affect the fate of our movie heroes.
If you loved the first Ice Age and plan to see the sequel then this game is a must-play adventure. Rent it for the experience or buy it for the movie ticket. Either wayÖplay Ice Age 2 Ė itís COOL!