I have the privilege of being both a gamer, journalist and a dad. Most of the time this can be a difficult combination to balance, however sometimes, when the correct game pops through the door, it’s a blessing. Take Activision’s latest title Ice Age: Continental Drift – Arctic Games as an example. Now usually this isn’t the sort of game that I myself would get excited about, however the kids on the other hand had beaming smiles at the thought of playing – but did these smiles last?
The benefit to me is that when games based at kids fall through the door, I can review them from their perspective, rather than my own, which it has to be said makes a huge difference to my overall opinion on the game, especially in this case.
From a gamer’s point of view, Ice Age Arctic Games is pretty bad. The controls are unclear, the graphics are blocky and the general presentation is very sloppy (read terrible). Adding to this is the low quality FMV presented during the story-mode (I use that term loosely) and of course, the less than stellar plot. This I must add again IS from a gamers point of view, i.e someone who is looking at these flaws and pondering as to what Activision was thinking when it let this game past its QA process. The kids on the other hand love it.
Give a three-year-old and a six-year-old the controller, explain the controls better than the game itself does and they’ll happily play for hours, jumping around in front of the TV as characters such as Manny and Diego represent themselves on the screen. My children had plenty of fun playing this game, they figured out how to play and even got better than I ever managed. Yes it’s not perfect (far from it), but sometimes you have to overlook the flaws, look beyond them and ask, “are the kids having fun?” and if the answer is yes, then how can you argue about blocky graphics and half-baked story lines?
To give a brief overview of the game, it includes both a story mode and a freeplay mode, in which you can play all ten mini-games. The story is awful, in fact I think even the kids weren’t impressed given that they seemed to stick to the free play mode. I’m not even sure what the story is all about, apparently a secret treasure has fallen into the hands of the Ice Age gang so the Herd (good guys) and the Pirates (bad guys), decided to compete in the first ever Arctic Games to determine who can land their paws on the prize. That’s it really and it’s really worth not bothering with when there is a perfectly good Freeplay mode which avoids the mess that is the story.
Games within the Free Play mode include Ski-ing, Shell Slide (curling basically), Bob Smashing and more, with most asking you to defeat the stupid AI opponent (or a human opponnent via Tournament Mode), collect acorns and gain as high a score as possible. The better your score, the more chance you’ll have of getting the bronze, silver or gold medal, which gives the game some sort of reward, although there is little feel of achievement other than this.
I did play quite a few of the games myself and found them unchallenging and unrewarding, however every time the kids played they just seemed to have so much fun, which kind of makes me wish I had such simple tastes. Maybe I’m just no fun anymore, or far too picky.
I’ve mentioned the controls quite a bit so far, mainly because they are not explained well enough. Something which did surprise me however is that motion controls are present. You can tilt-to-steer on the PlayStation controller, allowing you to control the direction in which your character goes, it works and the kids seemed to be singing away while using it, so who am I to argue that it feels better with this option switched off?
So there we have it, the story is a mess; the presentation is awful and my three-year-old could have written a better story. Why is it then that the kids love this game? They genuinely enjoy playing it. Maybe it’s the easy pick up and play nature which is good for short bursts of play or maybe it’s the Ice Age characters themselves (they are big fans of the movies). I’m not sure, but if you have kids who love Ice Age then maybe they’ll love this one too.
Rating: Average Review Policy (version tested: PS3)
You can order Ice Age: Continental Drift from ShopTo here.