Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC | Wii | DS
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs box art
System: Wii, DS, X360, PS3, PC, PS2 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Eurocom 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: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Activision brings Ice Age to Wii once again just in time to accompany the latest big-screen adventure. Sid, Manny, and Diego are all back, and they’ve brought along a few new friends as well. How do they fare in their latest console outing?

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs screenshot

Dawn of the Dinosaurs on Wii mostly follows the events of the movie, though luckily, the gameplay here is constructed with fun in mind, rather than merely handing kids a bunch of cookie-cutter sequences based on the film. There are moments in the game players can point to and say, “oh yeah, I remember this from the movie,” but for the most part, the developers have focused on giving fans a fun console companion.

The game’s broken up into missions/chapters, each prefaced by a short but very attractive introduction by the three main characters from the movie. It’s made to feel like prehistoric storytelling, cave paintings and all. These short intros offer a wonderful motif that fits the Ice Age story perfectly.

Your first mission puts you in control of Sid, teaching you the basics. Most of the mechanics carry over to other characters you’ll play as throughout the game, and though the controls are unorthodox in some respects, most of what’s here works fine. Movement is handled with the analog stick on the Nunchuk, you jump (and double jump) with the A button, attack with the Z button, and you can go into a sort of lock-strafe mode (Ratchet & Clank) by holding the C button, which will allow you to aim with the Wii Remote and fire projectiles at enemies.

Manny is about to become a papa, and the early levels of the game focus on having you gather things for his companion, Ellie (the mother to be), as well as preparing the surrounding area for the baby mammoth on the way. You’ll have to make your way about simple platforms, fending off spiders and moles, but you’ll also make use of the Wii Remote to scatter leaves, light fires, and move rocks. Though there are more interesting uses of the motion controls later on in the adventure, most of the gesturing early on feels completely extraneous. The gratuitous substitution of an up-and-down gesture for a button press to move rocks, for instance, is made more obvious by the complete omission of rumble feedback. Executing these commands simply isn’t very satisfying.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs screenshot

In spite of a few unnecessary additions, control of the various characters feels good. As you push further into the game, you’ll take control of Sid’s uncle Buck, and Buck’s whip will allow him to swing across chasms, as well as lasso various dinosaurs. Occasionally you’ll come across a pachycephalosaurus, and by lassoing onto him with a tossing gesture of the Wii Remote, you can bring him down and then hop on his back to take control of him. If you’re not familiar with this particular dinosaur, they have a hard plate on their head, which allows them to ram into things. You’ll use this mechanic to break through walls or defeat difficult enemies, and again, control here feels great.

In addition to controlling Sid and Buck, you’ll also occasionally play as Scrat for a bit of old-school, side-scrolling action. These levels are very fun additions to the package that offer a healthy challenge for budding gamers. There’s also an instance in the game where you’ll play as Diego in a sort of racing challenge, chasing your prey; other times, you’re the prey being chased by dinosaurs. The Diego level is a nice, short slice of gameplay, but other chase sequences can feel tacked on.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs screenshot

Lastly, there are portions of the game where Buck takes control of a pteradon, presenting you with various types of flying sequences. These little bits of gameplay are hit and miss. You’ll start off with a side-scrolling, shoot’em-up-style mission, á la Blastworks, which offers a fair amount of challenge without being frustrating. Other times, you’ll be flying on-rails from a behind-the-back perspective, making your way through caves; however, aiming your pea shooter is mapped to movement of the pteradon, which feels really clumsy. Eventually, you’ll make your way out into an open canyon where you’ll need to defeat a set number of enemies to progress, and though invisible walls will often fling you about wildly, there was something undeniably enchanting about this particular part of the game.

Screenshots / Images