Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC | Wii | DS
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs box art
System: DS, X360, PS3, PC, Wii, PS2 Review Rating Legend
Dev: A2M 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Activision 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: June 30, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Crushed Ice
by Tony Capri

The third Ice Age animated movie has hit the big screen, and the Nintendo DS once again gets a companion game for fans to take with them anywhere. Enlisting A2M to develop this handheld adventure, Activision presents players with a game that’s part platformer and part mini-game compilation, but is it any fun?

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs screenshot

You play as a weasel named Buck, uncle to one of the movie’s main characters, Sid. The story is told by way of short cutscene snippets before each level, but it’s a pretty bare-bones presentation on the whole.

The main focus of the game is leading Buck through a small collection of action levels, and he can perform many of the typical moves found in your average platformer. Buck can jump, dodge roll, ground pound, swing, wall jump, and perform a basic scratching attack. For the most part, the action works, but the gameplay can also be quite frustrating at times due to a lack of polish.

The levels are mostly comprised of side-scrolling adventure, though the camera will occasionally switch to a top-down view when moving into more open areas. The levels are surprisingly creative at times, allowing you to often choose from multiple paths in order to progress. There are also various collectibles strewn about, such as crystals, acorns, and heart pieces. Crystals are the game’s form of currency, and you can spend them on unlocking mini-games and cheats. Collecting a set amount of acorns unlocks additional mini-games, and for every five heart pieces you obtain, Buck’s health increases.

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Simply making your way through each of the game’s levels can be pretty entertaining, as they have a cool look and feel to them. However, many of the actual mechanics don’t work as smoothly as they perhaps should. You’ll come across enemies that can roll up into a ball and then roll into you to cause damage. In order to defeat these enemies, you’ll have to ground pound them, but poor collision detection often causes you to take damage while you’re in the air above them. Wall jumping also wasn’t as enjoyable as we’d hoped it would be, and rather than simply hitting the jump button when connecting with a wall in order to propel your way upward, you’ll have to continuously mash the button if you want to have your commands successfully read.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs screenshot

Probably our biggest complaint with the action, however, has to do with the swing mechanic. The game takes cues from series such as Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider, and incorporates quite a few areas where you’re climbing along patches of vines or swinging along outcroppings. Unfortunately, when you swing and let go in order to latch onto the next swing or jump to the next platform, you’re usually propelled straight upward, causing you to either fall to your death or have to latch back onto the same swing. There’s no clear sweet spot for landing your swings just right, and it will cause plenty of frustration throughout this very short adventure.

As fleeting as the experience is, the game has a surprising number of boss battles, and though the lack of polish stymies each of the encounters, there are some really solid ideas tossed into the mix here. There are several types of nuts you’ll come across throughout the game, which you’ll mostly make use of in order to navigate various platforming elements. Nuts are a neat addition to the game that also play into boss battles quite well. One of the early encounters, for instance, requires you to first climb atop several palm trees, ground pound the boss’ nose after each of his attacks, followed by tossing one of the nuts into his mouth in order to lop off one of the hearts from his health gauge. Most of the bosses in the game require you to use a mix of nuts, evasion, the environment, as well as various types of attacks. It’s just too bad that poor collision detection and a few other missteps in level design rear their ugly heads here as well.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs screenshot

Rounding out the adventure is a sling-shot mini-game you’ll be forced to play through repeatedly. The game is gift wrapped a little differently each time it pops up, but it’s essentially the same thing, regardless. The idea is you’ll have to protect three baby dinosaurs that are sleeping. In order to do this, you’ll slide your stylus over your character in order to sling rocks at enemies located on the top screen. Accuracy can often be a problem, and the level of challenge ramps up significantly each time you play the game. If one of the enemies reaches the bottom of the screen or makes some loud noise, the baby dinos will lose a sleep marker, in which case you can, supposedly, tap and hold your stylus over them while talking into the DS’ microphone in order to lull them back to sleep. Unfortunately, this almost never works, and the mic rarely picks up your voice or blowing.

Screenshots / Images