When reviewing games that are meant for kids, you have to sometimes ask yourself, “do the guys who made this even have kids, or know what one looks like or what they enjoy?” I say this, because it’s games like Ice Age 2: The Meltdown that make me think the answer is a resounding “no.” Here’s a game that could’ve been a whole lot more, even if it had to be hurried to get out the door when the movie did, but can’t maintain interest for more than 15 minutes. Now, I could gripe about it being a slapped together movie tie-in, but let’s just look at the game itself, what little there is of one.
First off, what’s with collecting acorns? We just suffered through hours and hours of it in the Chicken Little movie game, and here we go again! At least in Chicken Little, the acorns were cleverly placed, forcing players to solve some platforming and navigational puzzles to collect them all. In Ice Age 2, they’re right there in front of you, lined up in a way to direct you through the level in the most linear fashion possible. The levels are so small, this hand-holding really isn’t necessary, so the acorn paths just make you feel insulted. There’s so many acorns and fruit to collect, even the youngest of children will tire of it quickly, hoping at some point they’ll meet some enemies or challenges. Sure enough, along come the bad guys.
Now here’s an idea for a combat system that we’ve never seen before – you can either double jump and deliver a smash to the bad guy (good luck aiming that) or you can whip your character’s (Scrat, the pre-historic squirrel) tail into the baddies. The enemy AI follows obvious patterns, and can’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn, so really you don’t even need to get into fights. After winning a fight, the bad guy (which can be pigs, polar bears, bears, prehistoric beavers, etc.) falls down stunned. They’ll wake up after a short bit, but you’ll have zipped past them, collecting acorns long before then. But wait – there’s more. By smashing rock piles with your tail, you can collect pebbles, which function as a ranged weapon. First stinging, then stunning the enemy just as a normal attack would.
Through most of the game, you’re stuck playing as the freaky pre-historic squirrel scratch, who’s got a decent bit of charm, but not enough to warrant being forced to hear his inane squeaking for the several hours it’ll take to finish the game. At times, you’ll switch out to other characters to play mini-games that’ll test the patience of kids and adults alike. One of the first of these, a sort of toboggan game where Sid the sloth slides down a series of ice tubes, collecting acorns and fruit while racing through slalom gates. Along the way, Sid’s got to perform various aerials to build up points. The problem with this mini-game is that it’s pure torture – adults will be reduced to fits of controller throwing, while most children will simply give up and walk away as the game drops one more ice-block in Sid’s way with almost no way around it. Since Sid has to score 7,000 points to win the mini-game, and each impact with a block causes you to lose 150 points, you need the patience of Job to enjoy this game. The mini-games often start out easy, but by the end, are just pure torture.
Ice Age 2 is a good looking game. While it may not be movie-grade animation, it’s still pretty pleasing on the eyes and all characters in the game are spot on matches for their movie counterparts. Environments look OK, though they can seem a little out of whack, like when you’re in an ice level and keep finding random flowers popping up. Sure, they’re there to act as health boosters, but c’mon, one random dandelion every acre is just silly looking. Much like the visuals, the audio matches up with the movie, which features the top-tier vocal talents of Ray Romano, John Lequizamo and Dennis Leary.
This is one of those games that feels painful to play, and when I tested it with a kid around, he was just as bored. It’s not that it’s a broken game (heck, it actually played smoothly), it’s just lacking any sense of fun. You can only collect so many acorns, cross so many ice bridges and beat down so many warthogs before wanting to toss the disk out the window.
- Gameplay: 6
- Tiresome collecting combined with basic combat
- Graphics: 8
- Spot-on character models, fairly good environments
- Sound: 8
- Minimal music, character voices are perfectly done
- Replay: 2
- Hardly interesting enough to play once, much less again
- Overall: 5
- A huge yawn, even for the kids it is supposedly aimed at