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Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Vivendi


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PS2 Review - 'Ice Age 2: The Meltdown'

by Katarani on April 1, 2006 @ 1:51 a.m. PST

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown is based on 20th Century Fox’s upcoming family film. Scrat will dig, swim, sniff, spin and roll as Scrat in his never-ending quest to collect acorns. In the process, he serves as the unwitting hero in the quest to save the land from a giant flood.

Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games
Developer: Eurocom
Release Date: March 14, 2006

As far as respect goes, movie games aren't exactly the top of the hill. As I've stated many times before, games licensed from movies are occasionally playable, but much more regularly flounder in sheer horrificness. That said, it always helps to instill a sense of dread to find that on your doorstep waits a game that came out before the movie – a sequel, mind you – even premiered in theaters, a game with a manual bearing fewer pages than a bus pamphlet.

That game, the game presented for your perusal today, is Ice Age 2: The Meltdown.

For anyone who hasn't had kids in their household for the past five years, the original Ice Age followed the travels of Sid, a sloth; Manny, a mammoth; and Diego, a, er, something-that-doesn't-start-with-the-letter-d as they came across a child of early-evolution humans and took it back home. In the sequel, though, things are a bit more ... natural. Blame holes in the ozone layer, global warming, or too many fart jokes, but the fact of the matter is that the ice age for which the movie takes its name is ending, and all that ice, which is pretty much everywhere, is melting at a nice, speedy clip. That, obviously, is why the movie is subtitled The Meltdown. Hey, nobody ever said kids' movies had to have compelling titles.

The game only very passingly reflects this, though. In what some may consider a bold move and what others may consider an obvious one, Ice Age 2 the game follows the story of not the movie's protagonists, but instead that of Scrat, the freakish little opossum-like creature who has inadvertently found himself being the "mascot" of sorts for the movies, who is responsible for many a throwaway gag. What this means is that the game can go all over the freaking place while only very briefly touching on the actual plot.

In Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, this made it feel like the game was "the heroes that were too crappy to be the real heroes." In Ice Age 2, it works significantly better. Perhaps it's due to being a game for the 8-10 demographic, but instead of always just missing the action by an inch, you find yourself making your own action, and screw what the protagonists are doing. After all, it's your game, not theirs.

As far as the game itself, it's standard platform fare. To be honest, the game immediately brings to mind Spyro the Dragon, albeit a significant notch easier. See, Scrat likes nuts. No, get your minds out of the gutter; I'm talking about acorns here. The entirety of his movie appearances involve him chasing down a painfully elusive acorn, and the game is much the same. In order to differentiate Scrat's most precious of acorns from the rest, someone helpfully painted the entire nut bright, shiny gold, it seems. This golden acorn is your resident McGuffin, your unobtainable prize to keep striving for. Along the way, you'll collect less impressive acorns ranging from brown ones worth a single acorn to green ones worth five, to mysteriously spiky chestnuts worth more. Collect enough acorns in one world, and you unlock a hidden feature, usually a small bit of behind-the-scenes video.

To collect his acorns, Scrat has the typical assortment of moves ranging from the traditional reality-bending and physically-impossible double jump (a staple of every platformer ever) to crazed flailing which just happens to be much like someone inadvertently pulling off Mad Kung-fu Skillz (sic). More notably, being a wild opossum-thing, he can sniff out hidden treasures and dig nuts out of the ground, as needed. Aside from following his nose (Toucan Sam's lawyers are on their way over right now) and being a basic platform hero, Scrat also has a set of context-sensitive abilities; one early sequence, for instance, requires him to play dead to avoid being spotted. Being a game for younger players, difficulty is nearly nonexistent, and violence is watered down. You never defeat enemies, just knock them out for a while, and instead of health, every hit makes Scrat lose flower petals. Run out of petals or fall off a cliff, and you get placed back a set distance earlier, no questions asked. Lives and continues are nonexistent in the game, "death" being little more than a slight annoyance.

As a whole, controls are fairly solid, which goes to show that this game had some modicum of effort put into it, already placing it higher than most licensed games. The graphics are on par with the movies, smooth while still looking vaguely artificial. Sounds are fairly forgettable, but it's especially notable that all the voice actors from the movie itself lent their roles to the game – a rarity in the gaming world, as usually designers have to hunt down sound-alikes or, at times, folks who just looked desperate enough to do the voice acting. Truly impressive, though, is that much of the flavor and humor of the movies themselves has found its way into the game, from the pathetic little twitchiness of Scrat's animations to the sequence which has you getting farted into a cliff. No, I'm not making that up. Yes, it's immature, but it really wouldn't work any other way.

Ice Age 2 isn't going to win Game of the Year, but really, it's not trying to. What it does do, though, it succeeds at: delivering a playable, enjoyable, at times downright fun game, spreading brand recognition of the movie, and all at once giving your little nephew something to play while he's visiting your house for the weekend.

Score: 8.4/10

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