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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Score: 79%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Eurocom
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ Party/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:
Well, that didn't take long! While I was lamenting over how awful Transformers was on PSP and how movie games will never be any good, along comes Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs to prove me wrong. It is nice to see a movie game, specifically a kid's game, know what it wants to do and is very transparent about it. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs won't set a new standard on how to approach licensed properties, but it offers enough entertainment to not make it a bust.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs benefits from the film since both are very stylish and simplistic. All of the characters: Sid, Deigo, and Manny, all sport high-res models and I never encountered a moment where I felt anything looked bad. Kids will instantly recognize their favorites from the big screen and will probably have a good time playing as each one throughout this prehistoric adventure.

All of the characters have pretty solid voice acting, but the sound-alikes for a few characters are really obvious. Thankfully, it doesn't ruin any of the enjoyment. The world has nice background music and jaunty themes guaranteed to put a smile (or at least a smirk) on your face. I know some of the actors didn't want to be bothered with a videogame, but hearing John Leguizamo as Sid and then hearing a bad knockoff of Dennis Leary as Diego is a little strange. I don't have a particular affinity for the franchise, but for those that do, this might damper things a bit.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs doesn't try to hide what it is or pretend to be anything else other than an enjoyable game for the younger generation. Instead of creating a new experience for the license, the developers have decided to just copy existing franchises and mash them together to great effect. Pulling from gaming greats like Mario, God of War, Prince of Persia, and even Crimson Skies, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is at least looking for inspiration in the right places.

From what I can assume, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is pulling straight from the movie's story. Wooly mammoth, Manny, is now expecting a child with his love, Ellie, and he has some hesitation about being a new dad. Manny wants to protect his soon to be mammoth baby (cub?) the best he can, so he enlists the help of his furry friends.

The entire crew starts off the game by preparing for the newborn and finding shelter. Sid has to help Ellie ease her stress by finding crystals and jewels to give to her as gifts. Honestly, any part of the game playing as Sid I found incredibly boring. That is really my only complaint because Sid is such a big part of the first half, but it leaves a bad first impression.

The overall structure is set up to be streamlined and each level is different from the last. You will eventually play as five different characters throughout the entire experience and travel from frigid tundras to lush underground cave-jungles. The squirrel-thing, Scrat, has 2D levels in order to reach his beloved acorn, the nimble Diego has a racing level where he has to catch up to a meal, but the new character, Buck, is the most enjoyable.

Buck's levels are much more combat-oriented than any of the others and there is a basic combat system complete with different weapons, combos, and even boss fights. If just these portions had been released, I would probably have liked the overall experience a bit more because it might be simple, but playing as the feral mongoose with a bounty-hunter bravado is more satisfying than I expected.

I think the smartest thing about Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is that it doesn't drag out too long. I played the entire game in one sitting and it took about four hours to beat. I like the idea of having a game about a movie being just a bit longer than the movie because it never insists that you have to appreciate extraneous backstory, it just revels in playing around in the world the movie created. If you think that three to five hours is too short, there are plenty of mini-games to distract you and other collectibles that extend the play time even more. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs takes a buffet style approach to game design. It presents you with many options and never makes one less palatable than another. It keeps the challenges to a manageable minimum and is better off for it.

Game Mechanics:
Since the levels are so drastic in variety, explaining the control scheme would take at least two pages, so I think the game's manual can explain it better than I. One of the best compliments I can give Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is that throughout all of the variety, the overall experience stays consistent all the way through. All of the controls are tight and responsive and forgiving enough to help the younger ones through tougher moments.

I think Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs should be praised for its ability to adapt good game mechanics from other games into an enjoyable game for kids. The pacing is quick and the level of polish is outstanding. A small complaint that I can level at Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is how tough some of the mini-games can be, at times. I know they wanted them to be tougher to keep you playing, but I know I performed a perfect run on at least one mini-game and I still didn't get the high score and for a multiplayer experience for kids, I think that might be a turn-off.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is one of those rare instances where the whole is better than the sum of its parts. There is plenty going on, but nothing is done amazingly well. But the combination of all these elements comes together to prove that any movie game can be fun when given the right amount of attention. If you have kids and are looking for a great game to play with them, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a great choice.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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