Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew



Blue Sky Studios surprised everyone some years ago with the release of Ice Age, indicating that yet another of the big studios was trying its hand at the full-length CGI feature. At the time it seemed a huge gamble, with Shrek winning over the family audience the previous year and the mighty PIXAR delivering hit after hit. Surely FOX's entry was one player too many? That seems nonsense now, of course and The Meltdown is one of around a dozen CGI features this year alone, all of which have some type of computer game license and most of which will appear on the DS or GBA. The original Ice Age, a formulaic platformer that could be completed in a matter of hours, was released on the GBA with disastrous results. This latest outing is also released on the GBA (which we'll review soon) but what have the developers managed to do with the DS version?


The game is split into many different levels over a variety of locations but the main objective of each is to collect just about everything you come across, as everything has its uses. Each level has something you must locate though and this can range from a couple of animals to something Scrat has misplaced and here lies the first problem with the game. These objectives must be met in order to progress to the next level and to make matters worse you are against the clock although the countdown is rising floodwater. You can stop the thaw, or at least slow it down, by collecting ice tokens scattered about a landscape laid out much like a maze and its only by co-operating with each character that you'll make it to your intended goal. Manny, for example, can destroy obstacles made of rock and ice whilst Sid is the only one who can climb ladders and is also rather handy with fire (remember 'Lord of the Flame'?).

The main game is split up by a variety of mini-games and while these are all based on tried and tested formulas they are still very enjoyable given this Ice Age twist. It also gives the whole package much needed replay value because once you do manage to complete this there's very little to bring you back. As you'd expect, everything is saved to a handy battery backup with a generous three slots for yourself and a couple of friends. There's also an often overlooked option to delete the games altogether and while developer clearly think they're doing us a favour by including an automatic save this delete option is just as important.


This couldn't be simpler really with each character controlled with the 'd-pad', one button controlling jump and the other the action, which changes depending on which character you are currently playing. The only real challenge you'll have here is deciding when to change characters which, rather than being automatic, can only be done when you find the corresponding footprint. Your other important ground marking is the swirl, which indicates the ability to jump, but while a blue one will allow any of the three characters to jump, the orange is only for Diago who's better at jumping anyway.


Not a bad attempt at a 3D engine although because the camera is fixed above the action it's sometimes difficult to see what's going on and easy to become disorientated. Elsewhere there's more than enough character art and references to the movie to keep fans happy. One strange addition is the use of the 'Blink' video system in order to display a kind of fully rendered level fly-through at the beginning of each stage. Strange, because even though it was visually impressive we couldn't find any way to actually view it again.


The music is pleasant enough and there are some voice samples but these are so garbled they sound more like the 'Nintendo speak' that populates some of the Mario games. You can get a feeling for what they are saying or shouting (on one of the many slides for example) but actual words are hard to decipher.

Dual screen

You start out initially thinking that this is yet another missed opportunity because apart from the menu the touch screen is completely ignored. The main game has the action on the bottom screen whilst a handy map is displayed on the top screen but there?s really nothing we haven't seen before. Fortunately a handful of mini-games are based solely around the touch screen. It's just a shame that more of the main game couldn't have followed suit.

Final comments

In the end Ice Age is a little at odds with its intended demographic. While on the surface the gameplay is incredibly simple, it's just too frustrating to actually complete a level in order to move on and it's this aspect of the game in particular which will have gamers throwing their DS at the wall. It is the type of game that forces you to play the same level repeatedly and even if you get to see the item you require, you just can't manage to reach it. Your reward for all this effort are the rather entertaining mini-games but how many you eventually unlock, and therefore get to play, is anyone?s guess. Overall a good attempt (and certainly better than the original) brought crashing down to earth by a flawed game design.

Pro: Decent Mini-Games, Nice 3D Engine.
Con: Frustrating Gameplay, Garbled Voices.
Final score: 4.9


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Boxart of Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (Nintendo DS)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Action
Developer: Fizz Factor Studios
Publisher: Vivendi Universal