Game: Ice Age: Continental Drift – Arctic Games
Developer: Behaviour Interactive
Available on: Wii, 3DS, DS and Kinect for Xbox 360 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
When the first Ice Age film was released by Blue Sky Studios ten years ago, little did we know that it would spawn such a long-running series of films, but here we are, three sequels later and they are still going, although probably not as strong as they once were. With a successful film franchise, comes the inevitable merchandising spin-offs, including loosely-related video games; Ice Age: Continental Drift – Arctic Games falls firmly under that category. It remains close enough to the franchise to attract the fans, but is almost wholly unrelated to the film itself. Sometimes distancing a licensed game from its influence works well – such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, which was an original take on the character – sometimes following a movie is just the wrong way to go. So how does Arctic Games fare?
STORY: As the game chooses not to follow the latest Ice Age movie directly, what we are left with is a bit of a piecemeal story that has been quickly cobbled together. We meet all of the main characters from the film, as well as their new Pirate adversaries who feature in the latest film. The two groups come together when they discover a large “treasure” – in fact a cache of food – and they decide that the only way to work out which group should take the spoils is by participating in a variety of Arctic Games; and so we enter a mini-game collection.
The story is loose at best, but it is carried by some short cutscenes, which involve all of the voice actors from the film series, portrayed in full CGI (albeit a fair bit lower quality than what you would see on the big screen). These are all in the same humour as the main film, but do little to push the story along, other than just act as a celebration scene, depending on which team won the last event. These actually become a little irritating, as many of the voices in the game are a bit grating.
GRAPHICS: For a game based on a CGI film, you would imagine that the character models and graphical structure for a video game would be more or less already set-up. However, when you look at the animation and the quality of the graphics, the visuals during the events in the game are just disappointing. The character models aren’t all that detailed and, strangely, a lot of the body shapes such as tails and limbs appear too angular, giving the game a slightly last-gen look. The movement of the prehistoric creatures isn’t much better either, with awkward looking animations and jerky transitions. One might have expected more from a film franchise that built itself on impressive visuals and lovable characters.
SOUND: The sound design obviously did have full access to the resources from the film series however, unlike the graphics team. This goes all the way from music that has been used in the movies, from the original composer, to all of the original voice cast that are in the latest instalment. Where the problem lies, however, is that sound clips are re-used and repeated far too often. For instance, when you are playing a particular activity, your team-mates (be it Pirates or Heroes) will cheer you on and offer you advice on what you should be doing if you make a mistake.
This is a good idea, and would certainly help younger players who may have not been paying attention when the on-screen instructions were displayed, but the problem is that these same expressions will repeat ad infinitum throughout the event. They keep on saying the same irritating jokes, even when you aren’t making any mistakes, or you are doing exactly what they are telling you to. This needed to be tested a little better, as it becomes frustrating when someone is telling you do to something and doesn’t realise or reward you when you are actually doing it correctly.
GAMEPLAY: As previously mentioned, the game is basically a loose collection of motion-controlled mini-games. Some of these are variations upon traditional winter games events, such as downhill skiing and curling, whereas there are a handful of strange events that are either designed to make use of the motion control or, like the plumbing game, are related to the film series.
The Ice Plumber is probably the best mini-game, just for that fact that it bears some relation to the film and make sense for the characters from the film. In this game, players control Scrat, the prehistoric squirrel from the film, as he tries to reach an acorn embedded into a glacier. As jets of water spray from the ice, players must move left and right and plug them using their hands and feet. This mirrors a sequence from one of the films exactly and, as such, is fun to see in the game. The controls make sense too, you move your hands and hold them over the holes to plug them; this is intuitive, as it should be.
It is just a shame that the other games involved aren’t as successful. The main problems are firstly that the courses you navigate through in the downhill courses are uninspired, the controls across all of the events aren’t always recognized by the Kinect controller, and even if you do exactly what the tutorial tells you (which only flashes up briefly during loading screens), the results aren’t always predictable as the Kinect controller sometimes does something entirely different from your input. Tighter controls would certainly make the game more tolerable, but the events are too mundane and repetitive to keep your interest levels high.
MULTIPLAYER: Surprisingly for a mini-game collection, there are actually very few options when it comes to multiplayer modes. You can simply play the story mode with a second player controlling the opposite team, or you can choose individual events to play head-to-head. The title only supports two players, and can only be played locally. These options are both fairly shallow and don’t add any excitement or variety to the game. They are all games where players take turns, so you don’t even get the fun that comes from two players playing simultaneously side by side. This is rather a missed opportunity, as side-by-side games are the main thrust for many other mini-game collections, making this one a bit tame and cutting down on the competitive element somewhat.
LONGEVITY: This game will become repetitive fast. Unfortunately there are only eleven different events in the story mode, and these are in actuality probably only really nine different events, with the last two being repeated or slightly changed the second time the player encounters them. The events which there are, are far too simple and similar to be interesting in the long-term. Players will be leaning left and right in the same motion for almost every event, and you will feel little impetus to come back and try them again, despite the score-keeping and the fact you can try to beat you personal best. This just isn’t a title that will keep drawing you in.
VERDICT: Even as a party game, which is intended to be played with friends, carrying out silly tasks head to head, the game is very shallow and the appeal will wear off fairly quickly. There isn’t enough variety in the events available and the game modes you can play through, on top of all of that, the Kinect movement tracking just isn’t up to scratch compared to other top motion-controlled titles.
The strength of the licensed characters and the movie license is diminished by the fact that the game is almost unrelated to the current film, which wouldn’t be a problem if the game was strong enough to stand on its own two feet, but as it is, the game doesn’t’ have a strong enough story or appeal to interest players. If you can’t even hook fans of the property a licensed game is based on, you are fighting a losing battle.