Ice Age: Dawn of the DinosaursESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
184 KB Save Game
In-Game Dolby Digital
Just like a factory assembly line, Activision pumps out yet another movie based game just in time for its big screen debut. Next up, Twentieth Century Fox’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. I was fortunate, or unfortunate depending on how you look at it, to review the Xbox 360 version of the game. Having played many Activision movie based games over the past couple of years I have learned to keep my expectations realistic and take the game for what it is worth. Don’t get me wrong, games like Monsters vs. Aliens, Madagascar 2, and the Bee Movie had some good gaming moments and pleasant looking visuals; yet at the end of the day they had a tendency to come across as rushed and unfinished. Dawn of the Dinosaurs for the Xbox 360 tends to present in much the same fashion. It is a pretty game and Ice Age fans will be pleased, but hardcore gamers will most certainly want to pass this one up.
As far as the graphics are concerned, Dawn of the Dinosaurs presents as a bit of a ‘mixed bag’. On one hand the developers did a fabulous job with games characters. Scrat, Sid, Manny, Diego, and the rest of the crew are all wonderfully presented. They look exactly as they do on the big screen and are easily recognizable. The facial expressions and character movements are all very good and life like, well as life like as these fantasy characters can be. From cut-scene to in-game play the transition is very smooth and not much is lost in the switch. On the other hand the game’s environments lack detail and come across as very last generation looking. Granted many of the levels are bright and the colours pop out of the screen at times, but for the most part objects appear blocky and the game’s landscapes are nowhere on par with the movie. The game also suffers from some brutal clipping issues at times. For example, Sid’s feet are cut off at the knees as he travels across the various landscapes. Also, there are some framerate issues when things get a little too chaotic and fast, but for the most part these issues are few and far between. Bottomline, you cannot go into this game expecting the detail you would see in the movie. In fact, Dawn of the Dinosaurs may very well disappoint those mature gamers who have played through some visually superior games such as Gears of War 2, Halo 3, or Call of Duty: World at War; however the young ones will enjoy it as it is certainly on par with Activision’s line-up of animated movie based games that are already on store shelves.
As far as the sound is concerned, Dawn of the Dinosaurs is decent but it is not the best we have seen in recent months. On the positive side of things, some of the character voices are very good.
The press materials included with the review copy notes that the game features the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah and Josh Peck as members of an unlikely herd of prehistoric pals on a rescue mission across the tundra and beyond as they meet new friends and discover a mysterious world teeming with lush vegetation and fierce dinosaurs. A notable absence was Dennis Leary, who plays Diego. I can tell you that Diego definitely didn’t sound like the Diego from the movies, but the rest of the cast sounded pretty good. Manny steals the show as he had me in stitches at times and the rest of the cast also does a good job. It should also be mentioned it was nice to see that the dialogue was not out of sync with the characters mouth movements.
As far as the soundtrack is concerned, Dawn of the Dinosaurs is solid but somewhat forgettable. Essentially, it is your typical dynamic paced action movie based soundtrack which features tunes we have all heard before. The games sound effects on the other hand are very strong. Sounds such as punches connecting, a giant rolling snowball, dinosaur stampede chases, and other in game sound effects are all very effective as they manage to bring this animated like movie to life.
Dawn of the Dinosaurs generally follows the movies storyline, but it also expands upon and takes it in all sorts of different directions. Scrat is still trying to nab the ever-elusive nut; Manny and Ellie await the birth of their mini-mammoth; Sid the sloth gets into trouble when he creates his own makeshift family by hijacking some dinosaur eggs; and Diego the saber-toothed tiger wonders if he’s growing too “soft” hanging with his pals. Together, along with those two crazy possums Crash and Eddie, they all embark on a journey in a lost world filled with mysterious plants, fierce dinosaurs and icy tundra’s. For those new to the Ice Age drama you may be lost as the game does not really give you much in the way of background information of how all the characters came together, yet seeing as this game is clearly aimed at the 12 and under crowd the story does not matter much.
As far as the single player experience is concerned you get a great deal of variety in Dawn of the Dinosaurs which is one of the redeeming qualities of the game. Whether it’s a side scrolling platforming experience with Scrat, or a straight forward objective based mission with Sid, the developers did a nice job mixing up the gameplay in the single player mode. You will play over 15 levels which will take you anywhere between 6-10 hours to complete depending on gaming experience and how much you want to explore. As you progress in the game there are six playable characters (Manny, Sid, Diego, Scrat, Scratte and Buck) where you will be doing everything from running away from dangerous dinosaurs to chasing an acorn. The only drawback, you do not get to choose which character to use at the beginning of each level.
The controls are pretty straightforward for all six characters and it doesn't take long to get used to the control scheme. All of them have some unique controls, but the basic controls are similar for all. There is an in-game tutorial which helps you become acquainted with how to move about and use your special abilities for each character too. Despite the amount of varied gaming styles (2D side scrolling, 3D objective based, and family friendly shooter) there is a nice flow and it really did not take as long as I anticipated to become accustomed to them.
Something that I did note was that the game does suffer from some occasional camera issues at times which made it difficult for my 6-year old daughter to navigate. Nevertheless, mature gamers will quickly be able to adjust when the issues surface, but younger gamers will have difficulty gauging depth and distance at times.
In terms of replay value, there are a bunch of collectibles and hidden crystals in the game. You can bash a plant, punch a mushroom, whack an enemy, or smash giant ice cubes, which in turn will produce variations of fresh fruit. The fruit is then used as currency at the Trade Shack to purchase health upgrades, concept art from the movie, multiplayer games, etc. It is a simple yet addictive little element to the game which gives it some much needed replay value. The good news is the replay value does not end there.
Dawn of the Dinosaurs features a slick multiplayer mode which includes eight multiplayer mini-games. You can play with two to four players and once again there is some decent variety. ‘Sloth Barge’ has you knocking players off an ice barge while collecting items. ‘Sloth Throw’ has you throwing mud or snow balls at the other player to score the most points. ‘Sloth Says’ is essentially a game of Simon says where you duplicate Sid’s every move. In any event, you get the point and I have to admit I enjoyed playing some of the games with my daughter. The multiplayer mode is perfectly suited for parents and kids to join together and have some good family fun.
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