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Ice Age (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Ice Age (Game Boy Advance) review

"Perhaps not since E.V.O. has there been another game that lets you play as an elephant. (Or to be specific, since Ice Age takes place in the prehistoric era, a mammoth.) Ice Age is based on the computer-animated movie of the same name, in which a mammoth, sloth and sabre-tooth tiger make a long journey to return a lost human baby to its family. "

Perhaps not since E.V.O. has there been another game that lets you play as an elephant. (Or to be specific, since Ice Age takes place in the prehistoric era, a mammoth.) Ice Age is based on the computer-animated movie of the same name, in which a mammoth, sloth and sabre-tooth tiger make a long journey to return a lost human baby to its family.

Like so many other licenses, Ice Age “the game” is a much watered-down representation of the film: the most obvious example being that the sabre-tooth tiger isn’t even a playable character, and the sloth only pops up every few stages. Most of the game is played as the mammoth, who walks around carrying the child on his back.

The mammoth does has some cool moves, including a trunk-attack, head-butt and the ability to hurl acorns at enemies. But the problem is that he handles like…well…a mammoth. He is big and slow, not very agile, and not a very good jumper; which, in a side-scrolling platformer, isn’t the most fun. The developers tried to offset this by interspersing the mammoth levels with a few other levels that feature the sloth instead. I always thought that sloths were really slow and lazy animals, but this sloth is fast and hyper and attacks with a neat spinning move.

I must say that I did play through the entire game and finish it, but by about the third level I wasn’t having fun anymore. The first level was very promising: all of the mammoth’s moves are introduced one by one in a little tutorial. These moves are pretty fun to do, at least at the beginning before he starts needing to jump a lot. The goal of each of the ten levels is to gather as many acorns as possible and make it to the end without dying. The mammoth dies if he falls down a hole or gets touched by an enemy, although building up a store of acorns shields him from hits until all the acorns disappear (much like the rings in Sonic games). There’s also a skunk with a green aura of stench around him, and walking into it will cause the mammoth to jump up in disgust and actually hover for a few seconds, briefly enabling “flight” capabilities.

It’s quite an entertaining start, but unfortunately the game never takes it anywhere. The levels are all repetitive variations of “walk right, jump, shoot acorns at a boss” and the few sloth levels aren’t enough to break up the monotony, since they too are quite monotonous. Once the initial novelty of playing a skinny, spinning rat-like creature has worn off, you begin to realize that the levels are still just “walk right, jump, and destroy a few enemies.” I’ve already mentioned the control issues, but another little thing I noticed was that the invincibility time your character gets after taking a hit does not last as long as I felt it should have been, meaning that it’s possible to take repeated cheapshots from the same enemy or spikey patch without being able to get away. Of course, getting the ponderous mammoth to move anywhere quickly is basically impossible anyway.

Though the levels were repetitive, their graphics did the game a little bit of justice. Everything was quite well done except for the child, who looked positively Atari-like. Be thankful that the game took place in the Ice Age, with lots of WHITE snow that is easy to see on a tiny and poorly-lit screen. There are also a couple of nice cutscenes that look as though they could have been from the movie. Those of us who take our Game Boy Advances out onto buses and things will likely find Ice Age’s password system rather annoying. But at least a password system is better than nothing, which, I’m sorry to say, is all that certain other Game Boy Advance titles give us. (Ahem. EARTHWORM JIM.)

So the bottom line for Ice Age is that it’s yet another movie licensed game with unfulfilled potential. The game is laughably easy, and with only ten levels it can easily be finished in a few hours. Young children, however, will likely enjoy the game because of its bright, cartoony graphics and lack of serious challenge.

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Community review by alecto (February 18, 2003)

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