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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Score: 81%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Eurocom
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ Platformer

Graphics & Sound:
Compared to other CGI movies, Ice Age has always had a more stylized look, a trait that works in favor of the PS2. Although the system isn't able to match the look of the movie quite as well as the PS3, it gets really close. Since the movies aren't trying to present "reality," the game can get away with flat textures and angular characters and still manage to look similar to the movies.

All of the movie's characters are present and while some use voice stand-ins instead of the actors from the movie, their movements and dialogue are right in-line with the movie. This comes across in their "rest" movements as well as attacks and other in-game movements. For instance, Sid's attacks are slow and clumsy and, after an extended round of his spin attack, he'll become dizzy. There are also smaller details like falling snow, water ripples, reflections and footprints in deep snow. Smaller details like these go a long way.

Only a few of the actors reprise their characters for the game. The "real" voices are spot on and even some of the stand-ins sound okay. The only noticeable absence is Denis Leary. The voice actor sounds too much like he's trying to do an impression of Leary rather than Diego.

Music is upbeat and there's a lot of variety. Some levels feature 2 -3 different tunes based on what is happening in the level. Even more impressive is how easily they flow into one another.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs follows the same basic plot of the movie. Manny and Ellie are expecting their first child and the herd has different feelings on the matter. Manny is excited, but doesn't think he'll make a good father, while Sid and Diego struggle with their own problems. After failing to catch a gazelle, Diego decides to leave the herd, feeling he is losing his predatory instincts. Meanwhile, Sid becomes jealous of the baby, so he "adopts" three dinosaur eggs.

Throughout the game, you'll take on the roles of all the main characters, each with their own particular play mechanics. You'll spend most of your time switching between Sid and Buck, so it's a good thing their levels are the more enjoyable of the bunch. Both share the same underlying mechanics and though they don't deviate too far from the norm, the amount of exploration and general layouts of each level help it stand out - a pretty noteworthy feat considering the number of top quality platformers that call the PS2 home.

Although both share similar DNA, there's a noticeable difference between Sid and Buck's levels. Whereas Sid's areas play out like typical platformers, Buck's levels come off as a love letter to a couple of big Sony franchise. Imagine Ratchet & Clank's platforming combined with God of War's action and you've got it. I would pay to play a game based solely around Buck.

Sid also gets a chance to break out of the platform mold with a series of "ball rolling" levels similar to Marble Blast. If it isn't clear enough already, Ice Age draws on a lot of influences and does a great job combining them into one package.

As expected, there are lots of collectable items scattered throughout levels. Fruit serves as in-game currency and allows you to purchase upgrades and multiplayer options. Most of the upgrades, like giant cherries and gems, are purely cosmetic while others grant more health or ammo. One of the more interesting cosmetic upgrades is the fisheye camera. Oddly enough, it's a slightly better camera than the default one. Make it one of your first purchases.

Multiplayer supports up to four players and are based around the various play types that make up Story Mode. Although the number of play types found in Story Mode is impressive, the multiplayer variations aren't incredibly fun.

As a whole, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs isn't incredibly hard, but challenging enough for younger players. Checkpoints are common, so there isn't a lot of backtracking. There are a few tricky jumps, though the only incredibly hard ones are usually a result of a poor camera angle. Yes, even with the ability to adjust the camera, you'll still come up short on some jumps.

The only areas I found tricky were Manny and Scrat's. The collision detection on Manny's attacks don't jive with what is displayed on screen. Hits look like they're making contact, but deal no damage. This is particularly aggravating since Manny is usually the biggest creature on screen. There's no way a beaver, prehistoric or otherwise, should take out a mammoth - even if he's voiced by Ray Romano. Scrat's levels, on the other hand, are outright insane. I still can't get over how difficult they are, particularly for a game aimed at kids. Parents may need to dust off their NES skills or face screaming kids.

Game Mechanics:
Eurocom deserves special kudos for Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs's tutorial level. Most times, tutorial levels in kid-focused games come off as a bit condescending. Things are over-explained and there isn't much room for play. On top of that, they run entirely too long so by the time the level ends, you're bored. Ice Age's guides players through the basics, but also keeps the idea of fun in mind. There's room to play around with newly acquired skills while sharpening old ones. There are a few too many stops for story scenes, but if a few seconds of exposition are Ice Age's biggest problem... well, that isn't much.

The tutorial serves as a great backdrop for the rest of the game. Even with 5 -6 different game styles, Eurocom has managed to keep everything more-or-less in-line. Controls are, for the most part, incredibly tight. Again, the only issues are Manny's attacks and the Scrat levels. He's slippery, fast and the levels require really tricky jumps.

Even by non-licensed standards, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is an incredibly fun game. The theme will appeal more towards younger players, but older gamers who like variety and platforming games will enjoy it as well.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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