The majority of the time (a nice loose phrase that doesn’t require any reasonable evidence to back it), games based upon a movie or television franchise suck balls. They’re phucking awful—usually due to time constraints, or having the sort of developers on board who think that Space Math is passable. These games get released every year, routinely, to coincide with the latest children’s movies.
The Coraline game had so much promise. It could have been a brilliant RPG. No, all we got was minigames. We own a Wii, sure, but how many more games consisting of nothing but miniature games do we need? Take a step back and look at yourself! If you’re churning out games that are just minigames, then do us all a favor and stop breathing!
Shovelware comes in droves, force-feeding us manure until we’re choking on it. And some of us obviously like being made quite the bitch, because these games still sell. They still sell because idiot parents buy them for their insufferable kids. Ship your brat out to war—then he won’t have a Nintendo Wii, and you’ll be able to rent his room out.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs does primarily reside in the “SHOVELWARE” category, although there is something I respect it for. I respect it for doing something disrespectful, as it borrows a heap of ideas from other existing games and genres (much how The Simpsons Road Rage borrowed elements from Crazy Taxi).
I’ve seen one Ice Age movie, perhaps two of them, although I don’t remember the second one at all (gives you an idea of just how entertaining they are). A third Ice Age movie is something I needed as much as having my fingers chopped off. The only redeeming feature of the Ice Age franchise is that the great comedian Dennis Leary provides the voice of Diego, who is also a pretty badass character. He was nominated for a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for “Favourite Voice from an Animated Movie” for his role as Diego.
Because I’m a fan of Dennis Leary’s expletive-filled stand-up, and always open to playing more videogames, I decided to give Dawn of the Dinosaurs a go—and you know what? It’s pretty damn competent.
Dawn of the Dinosaurs tells various mini-stories that I presume are based around the story of the film. I haven’t seen the third movie, because I don’t watch movies anymore. I did watch Coraline, now that’s a good movie. Shame it didn’t have a decent game.
I can tell quite easily that the storyline portrayed in Dawn of the Dinosaurs is only loosely based on the movie, though, because the tasks you have to perform throughout this game are so fucking menial that if the film were built on them, it would be the most dreadful-est movie ever concieved. To improve this game, Space Michael might as well turn up, and once he’s done sucking down those greaseball burgers, he initiates V.A.T.S. and kills Solid Snake with Solar Beam. It’s super effective!
The first couple of levels are frustratingly slow. I understand that Sid the Sloth is, indeed, a sloth, BUT he only has two speeds: CRAWL and STOP! His movements are so sluggish that when compared to any other playable character, he is darned uncomfortable (except Manny, but he’s got a five-minute role, instead of an hour-long one).
Sid does fight really well. But this comes as a weakness, because he doesn’t get to do enough of it. Sort of like the opposite to Sonic Unleashed, where the combat is dreadful AND there’s too much of it.
Once the first block of levels (which makes up about a third of the game) is done, the gameplay really picks up. I’m not surprised that the demo chose to include one of the levels from this part of the game. A character I don’t recognise is flung at me, which means he must be the new hero. I already made the assumption that I would be playing as him for pretty much the rest of the whole game.
Buck, the marsupial with an Australian accent (crikey!), is much faster. Much more agile. Imagine the difference in agility between a Snorlax and an Electrode—that’s the leap from Sid to Buck. His moves are also quite good, but hold on, they remind me of something. Wait! They remind me of many things…
This is when you come to realise that Ice Age 3 really is the Mask*DeMasque of the gaming scene. It takes the combined platforming prowess of Crash Bandicoot, Sonic Adventure and Kao the Kangaroo, throws in a dash of Devil May Cry, and then tosses in the weapon-based combat from Ratchet and Clank .
There are sections of Buck’s levels that transform into Kula World, with clever and precise vine movements. Then, out of the blue, Ninja Gaide-style wall running and wall jumping sections are thrown in for good measure, as well as other features from Sonic Adventure , such as jumping between flat surfaces suspended in the air.
I’d like to say it’s influenced by Pac-Man, too, although it isn’t. It totally could be, though. It’s the Incarnate of videogaming.
And then, picking from Sonic Adventure 2 to finish off this mish-mash of borrowed features, Buck slides down vines in the same way Sonic grinds on rails.
Admittedly, none of these sections play as comfortably as the aforementioned sources of inspiration, and they’re also scripted to high hell. The slightest mistake in jumping distance will kill you off very quickly. Frustrating, but not to the level where you want to lob the controller across the room, though.
There are also retro-themed levels, such as an R-Type level, and then the subsequent Star Fox 64–style level. How do we really know this level was influenced by Star Fox 64? We’re told to DO A BARREL ROLL. Then, after a recycled boss, the level transforms into one very similar to the flight levels from the original Spyro the Dragon.
If you’re a big fan of games with their heart in the right place, then you’ll like Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
Of course, the curse of franchise cash-ins is ever present. Broken collision and bad scripting hinders the fun, but only ever so slightly. Levels such as the Mickey Mania–inspired running scenes impress as much as they upset. The one Diego level is ever so short, even though he is a character that a lot could be accomplished with.
Other characters only appear for short sections. Scrat, who we see in the movies chasing after a lone acorn, features for three levels paced across the game’s chronology. These play like Donkey Kong Country, complete with floating barrels (now giant plants). They make a nice break from the sluggish Sid levels, and the great (but over-saturated use of) Buck levels.
A generally enjoyable and family-friendly experience, filled with one-liners and embarassingly bad humour, makes Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs a decent platformer. A megaton of work has gone into keeping it themed and styled after the movies, but some of that time could have been better spent making the menus look better, or clearing up some of Buck’s gameplay issues.
It’s decent, and for a movie tie-in, that says something. But just how decent boils down to your love for charming games, and for blatant idea theft.
It’s a weekender at most, so if you’re interested, it makes a lot more sense to rent it than to buy it.
And before I forget, Marble Madness has been ripped off, too.