|System: DS, X360, PS3, PC, Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: A2M||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 30, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
The third Ice Age animated movie has hit the big screen, and the Nintendo DS once again gets a companion game for fans to take with them anywhere. Enlisting A2M to develop this handheld adventure, Activision presents players with a game thats part platformer and part mini-game compilation, but is it any fun?
You play as a weasel named Buck, uncle to one of the movies main characters, Sid. The story is told by way of short cutscene snippets before each level, but its a pretty bare-bones presentation on the whole.
The main focus of the game is leading Buck through a small collection of action levels, and he can perform many of the typical moves found in your average platformer. Buck can jump, dodge roll, ground pound, swing, wall jump, and perform a basic scratching attack. For the most part, the action works, but the gameplay can also be quite frustrating at times due to a lack of polish.
The levels are mostly comprised of side-scrolling adventure, though the camera will occasionally switch to a top-down view when moving into more open areas. The levels are surprisingly creative at times, allowing you to often choose from multiple paths in order to progress. There are also various collectibles strewn about, such as crystals, acorns, and heart pieces. Crystals are the games form of currency, and you can spend them on unlocking mini-games and cheats. Collecting a set amount of acorns unlocks additional mini-games, and for every five heart pieces you obtain, Bucks health increases.
Simply making your way through each of the games levels can be pretty entertaining, as they have a cool look and feel to them. However, many of the actual mechanics dont work as smoothly as they perhaps should. Youll come across enemies that can roll up into a ball and then roll into you to cause damage. In order to defeat these enemies, youll have to ground pound them, but poor collision detection often causes you to take damage while youre in the air above them. Wall jumping also wasnt as enjoyable as wed hoped it would be, and rather than simply hitting the jump button when connecting with a wall in order to propel your way upward, youll have to continuously mash the button if you want to have your commands successfully read.
Probably our biggest complaint with the action, however, has to do with the swing mechanic. The game takes cues from series such as Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider, and incorporates quite a few areas where youre climbing along patches of vines or swinging along outcroppings. Unfortunately, when you swing and let go in order to latch onto the next swing or jump to the next platform, youre usually propelled straight upward, causing you to either fall to your death or have to latch back onto the same swing. Theres no clear sweet spot for landing your swings just right, and it will cause plenty of frustration throughout this very short adventure.
As fleeting as the experience is, the game has a surprising number of boss battles, and though the lack of polish stymies each of the encounters, there are some really solid ideas tossed into the mix here. There are several types of nuts youll come across throughout the game, which youll mostly make use of in order to navigate various platforming elements. Nuts are a neat addition to the game that also play into boss battles quite well. One of the early encounters, for instance, requires you to first climb atop several palm trees, ground pound the boss nose after each of his attacks, followed by tossing one of the nuts into his mouth in order to lop off one of the hearts from his health gauge. Most of the bosses in the game require you to use a mix of nuts, evasion, the environment, as well as various types of attacks. Its just too bad that poor collision detection and a few other missteps in level design rear their ugly heads here as well.
Rounding out the adventure is a sling-shot mini-game youll be forced to play through repeatedly. The game is gift wrapped a little differently each time it pops up, but its essentially the same thing, regardless. The idea is youll have to protect three baby dinosaurs that are sleeping. In order to do this, youll slide your stylus over your character in order to sling rocks at enemies located on the top screen. Accuracy can often be a problem, and the level of challenge ramps up significantly each time you play the game. If one of the enemies reaches the bottom of the screen or makes some loud noise, the baby dinos will lose a sleep marker, in which case you can, supposedly, tap and hold your stylus over them while talking into the DS microphone in order to lull them back to sleep. Unfortunately, this almost never works, and the mic rarely picks up your voice or blowing.