By all rights, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown should be ugly, simplistic, and not fun for anybody over the age of six. Thankfully, game developer Eurocom understands that people of all ages deserve to have fun.By all rights, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown should be ugly, simplistic, and not fun for anybody over the age of six. Thankfully, game developer Eurocom understands that people of all ages deserve to have fun. If more developers treated movie and television licenses in this fashion, it wouldn’t be such a surprise when Monster House (GBA) turns out to be a great buy or Cars (PSP) wind up being a fun arcade racer. Sadly, games like Over the Hedge and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remain the norm. These games rely on the franchise name instead of good gameplay elements to move units. Then we all sell our copies back to EB where they sit on a shelf, collecting dust and never to be played again.
Ice Age 2 does a lot of things right. It has its share of faults, but all games do. First, the video game version of Ice Age 2 doesn’t just rehash the plot and situations of the film. As a matter of fact, the majority of the game is spent as Skrat, the adorable, ill-fated squirrel-rat hybrid. Skrat, whenever he is seen in the film, is chasing acorns. This folds into the platformer paradigm extremely well because every platformer hero needs something to collect. Ratchet has bolts, Mario has coins, and Skrat has nuts. The majority of the collecting is optional, but collecting 1,000 nuts in most levels yields a bonus video clip from one of the voice actors. The only nuts that absolutely must be collected are the walnuts scattered about each level that allow the player to progress by squeezing through a crack in the wall. Why do these cracks respond to walnuts? I don’t know (Editor: Because they’re walnuts, Justin. Get it? Wall nuts?), but it’s a decent excuse the explore the levels, and it’s believable that Skrat would be interested in large, glowing nuts.
So, what sets this version of Ice Age 2 apart from the others that were available months ago? The Wii controls. Skrat performs an attack when the player horizontally slashes the Wiimote. A special attack is performed when the Wiimote is slashed harder. As you’re likely guessing, this can be a little problematic if you’re prone to get excited while playing a game, but the more powerful attacks are never necessary to progress through the game. In an interesting twist, Ice Age 2 only really features one boss. Other milestone events are handled through a bonus stage. Sid slaloms down a water slide and plays beginner’s DDR in the air, Skrat must sneak by Diego to escape a cave unscathed, Diego hammers on possums in a Whack-A-Mole analog, and a creepy fish must be defeated by throwing pebbles at all the eyes surrounding the door out of his stomach. Wiimote aiming is precise and makes projectile weapons both handy and entertaining.
After all it does right, however, Ice Age 2 has a couple of flaws. First, it is too expensive. The game is fun, but it is also short. Very short. Ice Age 2 can be completed in around five to six hours, and that includes collecting enough nuts to unlock all of the bonus videos. When coupled with the game’s brevity, the price point of $50.00 is too much to pay for six hours of entertainment when the Xbox version can be had for $30.00. The motion-sensitive controls are neat, but I’m not sure that they’re worth an extra $20.00. One feature that would be welcome and would keep me coming back is the ability to replay the bonus segments. I neither need nor want to collect 1,000 acorns again (the completionist in me would require it even if the game does not — I mean, they’re just sitting there; waiting to be collected), but I’d take Sid down that waterslide again, and it would be a great segment to show off to other players.
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown is fun, and it makes good use of the Wii’s motion-sensitive controller. If you’re an Ice Age fan or a platformer fan that doesn’t mind a short game versus an engrossing epic, then it’s hard to go wrong, and it’s not often that movie licensed games look this polished or play this well.