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Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

Wait. It's fun? But... it's a licensed game! Tons of new videos included.

March 10, 2006 - While not every licensed game that hits shelves really gets the time and effort it should, gamers are every once in a while given a chance to truly enjoy a franchise that has gone from the big screen (or television) to our home consoles. Ice Age: Meltdown arrived on our doorstep today, and while we can honestly say we didn't expect much, it managed to impress us quite a bit. The brief amount of time we've had with the game has been enjoyable, so rather than throw up some quick videos and call it a day, we figured we owed the game and readers a quick round of impressions, too.

Ice Age 2 is developed by Eurocom, the guys responsible for bringing numerous other titles to consoles, including Batman Begins, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, James Bond 007: NightFire, and the under-appreciated Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy. The majority of the gameplay is delivered as a 3D platformer, working with the basic (and not so basic) elements that go along with the genre. Players can run around in 3D space, double jump, attack, butt stomp, throw items, and perform special moves. Aside from the basics, A to jump and B to attack, the team incorporated a ton of extra abilities for the characters.

The game opens with Scrat the "squirrel-rat," but from there branches off to use other main characters from the movie. Scrat alone has enough moves to warrant an entire game, as he can pull off two different special attacks, throw rocks (in regular or first-person mode), sniff out secrets, climb walls, dig up buried items, as well as interact with tons of in-level props. In fact, much of the game's entertainment comes from the interactive environment. Characters swim through the water, shoot across the level, swing from branches, and use other characters from the movie to solve puzzles. Not too shabby.

Another impressive aspect of Ice Age 2 comes with the addition of in-game mini-missions. While they don't seem to be available from the starting menus, the game's storyline will often have players competing in a variety of different tasks. In just the first few hours of play, we have found a penguin bowling competition, played a form of red-light green-light, raced down a frozen hill (a la Mario 64), and even threw rocks at monkeys. That's right... threw rocks at monkeys. Listening to them freak out after being pelted is worth the price of admission alone. These extra occurrences really help to keep the game fresh, and rather than feeling like a lot of the "all-in-one" designs we've come across over the years, this one seems quite polished so far.

One of the primary reasons why the game is enjoyable is because Eurocom has successfully translated the mood and color from the Ice Age movies to game form. Characters come to life with humorous animation. For instance, when Scrat hops along ice, he'll lose his footing and slide, where he'll struggle to regain some grip. The critter's trademark grunts and cries of anguish are commonplace material as he explores the levels. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the actors from the films have also voiced the game characters.

In a scene right out of a Banjo-Kazooie game, Scrat finds himself trapped inside the belly of a giant sea creature. He explores the monster's insides, clinging to wall guts, sliding across tendons, running by hearts, and swimming through toxic stomach acids. Eventually, he squirms through the creature's, uh, backside to escape. It's actually kind of gross, but at the same time decidedly well done.

Along with the solid gameplay in both the main game and the mini-events, Ice Age has surprised us with a strong production value. The visuals in the game are quite impressive up to this point, and look even better in the progressive scan mode (GCN and Xbox versions). In fact, Eurocom has also included a widescreen option and surround sound audio, so players who are looking for a true theatre experience are in for a treat. While playing the main mode, characters collect acorns, which are used to unlock bonus features. From the looks of it, virtually every major actor from the movie has cut a video interview for the game, and these movies are unlockable every 45 or so minutes of gameplay. Not a bad little bonus for a licensed console game.

While we can confidently say that we like what we see thus far, there's far more play time to be had. Look for the review next week once we finish poking and prodding at every aspect of the game, which as of this point seems to be a strong little package. We've included a few gameplay movies for your viewing pleasure and will have a review up shortly
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