More A County Than A Continent
You’ll rarely see a reviewer jump for joy when a movie tie-in game gets put on his or her assignment list, unless it’s something like The Amazing Spider-Man. I knew beforehand that Ice Age: Continental Drift – Arctic Games was a series of minigames instead of a poorly constructed adventure, and tried to build up hope that these “games” at least had a little flare to them. Out of the ten total (that’s right, only ten), just a few are mildly enjoyable, but as a whole, the game is completely forgettable, with less than an hour’s worth of content. It’s certainly not worth the price tag, even for stalwart fans of the series.
So there needs to be a catalyst to get these games going, correct? Well, luckily the fourth movie in the Ice Age series has the Herd pitted against some prehistoric pirates of various primate species. Our accident-prone sloth Sid stumbles into a giant acorn, filled to the brim with fresh tropical fruits. How the fruits were compiled into this enormous nut and how they manage to stay fresh in the harsh environment is a complete mystery, but hey, it’s a cartoon, right? We can suspend our disbelief. As chance would have it, the pirate Crew arrives about the same time as the Herd, with a bit of a scuffle ensuing over who gets the goods. It is decided by both sides that the only way to resolve the issue is by completing a series of off-the-wall winter games of skill, with the victor of the decathlon claiming the spoils.
The barebones menu screen has three different options: Story Mode, Tournament, and Free Play, but they all turn out to be pretty much the same gameplay experience in the end. With story, you get to see cinematics presenting the prologue, and small bragging scenes in between each event for the side that emerged victorious, as well as a finale to conclude the ceremonies. It’s a single-player experience throughout each of the ten events. However, you’re not given the opposing team’s score until the end of each match, so you’re never sure until after the fact whether or not you’ve won the round.
Tournament is a two-player affair, with one player on the Herd and the other on the Crew. The action is always hotseat, so there are no split-screen battles where you can deter your opponent—it’s basically you against the clock, and then the other person grabs the controller. You get five points for winning and two points for losing, the final tally determining the winner after the ten events. There’s no customization of which games you want, it’s always ten, and it’s always the same order. Also, each character is specific to the event, so it’s not as if you can choose Manny over Diego, with differing stats.
Free Play let’s you practice individual events, either alone or with one other player, trying to best your score and earn either a bronze, silver, or gold medal. Honestly, you’ll complete all the games in less than an hour, and unless you’re completely useless at video games, you’ll probably score at least a silver on your first try.
That’s because the events are very linear and very easy to control, likely to cater to the younger kids who make up the target audience of this game. I played the Wii version, which has you holding the controller sideways for nine of the ten games, using little more than the control pad and one button.
For example, one of the most boring games of the bunch is called Glacier Hopping, which is a straight-line race against the clock that has you keep your finger on the right control pad button while jumping to collect acorns, each one taking one second off the final time. In Coconut Slingshot, you launch the fruit at targets floating by on glaciers, but you only need worry about direction, as the game compensates for distance automatically depending on which target you’re aiming at. There are a couple of bobsled-style events called Slip Slide and Bob-Smashing, where you race to the bottom (while collecting acorns, of course), but you’ll never veer off course, thus getting a high score requires the simplest of controls.
There are three noteworthy entries in the whole batch of minigames here.
Drift is a take on ski jumping, having you follow the onscreen commands to land point-bearing tricks. The gameplay doesn’t so much get the thumbs up as the visuals do, with soaring through the air showing incredible distance and depth to the steadily approaching landing.
Scrat Cannon stars the hilarious saber-toothed squirrel Scrat, easily the most memorable character of the series, being launched from a cannon. He flaps his arms and dive bombs onto trampoline targets of various point values, working toward the highest score before plummeting into the frigid water.
Finally, Shell Slide is the one most dear to me because it’s a play on one of my favorite winter sports—curling—and is the only event where the two teams are competing at the same time. Trying to slide your “rocks” to the target is fun, but the controls hinder the gameplay. You cannot adjust the camera to view the opposite end, nor get any indication of your trajectory when making an angled shot. Also, the colors of both teams’ turtle shells are so similar that it’s hard to know which one you’re aiming at to launch out of the way.
Aside from the decent cinematics, the gameplay visuals are subpar, almost like something you’d find on a system from two generations ago. Everything has rigid animations, and the while the characters look authentic, they don’t exactly look good. Still, they at least give a shred of color to the otherwise bleak background. I realize the game takes place in an era dominated with snow and ice, but there still needs to be something from the developers that shows an effort; maybe good water effects would have done the trick, or believable physics.
The audio doesn’t fare much better. The tunes are very Olympic in nature, with plenty of horns and drums, which might have been impactful had the volume not been set so low that nothing resonates like it should. And you can’t control it manually either. The fact that very few actors from the movie have lent their voice only solidifies that this game was designed from the get-go with a small budget.
Minigame collections have their own issues to deal with, rarely seen as having enough substance to promote a fully priced retail product. Add a movie tie-in tag to the formula and you’re sure to alienate almost the entire gaming community. If you are in love with the series, looking for any extra pieces to add to your collection, then I will not stop you from picking up Ice Age: Continental Drift – Arctic Games. For anyone else, I doubt you need convincing to leave this one on the store shelves.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.6 Graphics
The cinematics are relatively nice, but the rest of the game is very Nintendo 64-ish—a little too outdated. 2.2 Control
Designed for younger hands, they are very simple, but the gameplay could have benefitted enormously with a little more depth. 2.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Nice orchestrations made poor by volume control and often being lost in the background. Decent voice acting from the actors who showed up. 1.5 Play Value
Ten minigames for thirty+ dollars, with only room for one more local player? It’s less than an hour’s worth of not-so-fun fun. 2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best