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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Eurocom
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Family/ Action/ Platformer

Graphics & Sound:

Don't you find that the perception you take away is so dependent on the expectations you bring in with you? Perhaps it's because we found the graphics in the Xbox 360 version of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs only a bit better than in the Wii version, but we weren't greatly impressed by what we saw on the Xbox 360. The graphics are okay, but the gameplay is the better half, and we're fine with that. What we did find that we liked were many interesting environments to explore, all colorful and highly interactive. Collecting points through knocking around objects in each level makes for fun destruction that leads to some good treasure hunting. You'll find secrets hidden away or tucked into each level, so the exploration often pays off. Whether running headlong toward the screen as Sid, riding vines and dinos' necks as Buck, or hurtling through crowded gulches in chase of prey as Diego, you do feel you're inhabiting the cool world we saw depicted in the film. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs follows events of the film almost exactly, so you can expect to see all the characters and most of the locations.

When you need a break from the gameplay, you'll want to check out some of the extra features, available for purchase with points gathered during all that destruction we mentioned. Movies, concept art, and models of characters from the game can all be accessed from the main menu, adding to replay value for players that want to earn it all. There is even an extra that lets you replay dialogue, and hear the great voices used in the film and included in the game, from the likes of Ray Romano (as Manny), Queen Latifah (as Ellie), and John Leguizamo (as Sid).


Saw the film? You've seen the game already, but you'll have a chance to go deeper into this weird prehistoric world. Fun is the key word, much as the film was slapstick and light. You'll play as almost every one of the main characters, with major segments that focus on Sid and Buck. Sid does a lot of easy platforming, plus some problem-solving. Searching out objects, clearing paths by jumping and defeating enemies, and a fun Monkey Ball style of play in one level... this is tutorial time, for the most part. Sid is fun because his gameplay introduces the basic mold for controls that all the other characters use. Special levels with Diego and Manny serve mostly to build in continuity with the story from the film, rather than to be a regular fixture of gameplay. You'll enjoy the variety. Buck enters the scene with more challenging platforming and some more involved use of projectiles. Shooting mud, throwing fruit, and flinging his whip around, Buck is a hoot to play. He brings you into more battles and especially boss fights than before, setting the stage for more challenging gameplay that rounds out Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

There are eight mini-games that form the Multiplayer segment of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, all pulled from material like the flying Pterodactyl, that was featured in a major scene from the film. Other mini-games are consistent with any casual, fun activity like matching or copying or capturing territory while battling with friends. We like the trend for cooperative multiplayer, but Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs doesn't give us any play in this arena. You'll also have to unlock the mini-games that are ultimately available, rather than have them for play from the beginning. This sounds like it would make for an annoying wait, but the mini-games are relatively cheap compared to the amount of points you can amass during the game, if you're even half trying. We'd also like to have seen the option to play against others on Live, compared to the strictly local multiplayer options. You'd think these consoles weren't even connected to the Internet sometimes, considering the limited implementation of online multiplayer. Perhaps study groups show that there aren't enough fat pipes out there, but leaving out a more robust multiplayer options feels like a mistake, considering how quickly the Single Player game is finished.


Finishing Single Player with all special items will take a while, considering how many items are set in difficult-to-reach areas. You'll also have to face off against enemies that will drain your energy and send you back to the last checkpoint if you aren't careful. Managing to make it through is rarely a function of strategy or puzzle-solving, compared to how far you'll get purely on button-mashing. Enemies just don't present a great challenge, but thinking of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs as appealing mainly to a tween or younger audience helps to set the proper bar. For younger gamers, things are pegged about right in terms of both the enemy A.I. and the platforming. Because of the 3D camera, some platforming sections end up being worse than the worst enemy, constantly sending you back to the last checkpoint. The checkpoints are nice to have, but they're set too far apart in places for our taste. A majority of the time, these checkpoints are intelligently placed, and players that aren't concerned about racking up lots of points or finding rare items may never feel one iota of frustration. For the treasure hunters out there, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs can definitely create some stress-induced twitching and swearing in certain areas, and you know you wouldn't have it any other way.

Game Mechanics:

Everything is mapped to the controller smartly, with responsive controls that only become frustrating in some areas due to bad camera. The sections where Sid rolls around on a giant snowball are especially tricky, but not always due to slippery controls. The snow and ice conspire to make these some of the more challenging levels, but only if you are going for speed. Kids that want to savor the experience will have no trouble navigating these areas slowly, and unlocking some specials that change the size of items can make the treasure hunting less painful. Nobody likes having to rotate the camera and move it up and down, but that just comes with the territory in a game like this. At least one or two levels mix up the action and put a static camera in front or behind you, or at your side in the case of the cool, throwback side-scrolling Platformer levels featuring that crazy, nut-hunting squirrel. Once the controls are introduced, you'll find plenty of areas where you'll need to employ special skills. These are not communicated very well in the manual, but are explained during the game and thrown in for you to view at critical moments.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs makes for good fun on the Xbox 360, but doesn't wow us in the graphics department. The film was beautiful, and much of those cool settings made their way into the game. Playing as your favorite characters from the film is a blast, even if the extended platforming can get tedious. Platformer fans will eat up the chance to earn some good achievements and relive the film on their Xbox 360, and novice players will have plenty of cues and help. Young players will especially like the cut scenes, expanding on content from the film without making just a drab imitation. Licensed games are earning their keep as an important tie-in, when the developers get it right. These folks are doing something right, and anyone that enjoyed the Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs film will have good fun on this Xbox 360 version.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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