Ice Age for the iPhone—How Cool Is That?

Geek Culture


Scrat finds an acorn.

If you have kids of a certain age, you’ve probably seen at least one (if not all three) of the Ice Age movies, and are familiar with Scrat, the prehistoric squirrel-thing on his single-minded quest for his acorn. It’s a silly side-plot in all the movies, expanded with a she-Scrat love interest in the most recent incarnation. Well, Ice Age for the iPhone gives Scrat his own adventure, scrambling through a side-scroller in search of acorns. And just like the movies, there are anachronisms (who built all these ladders?) that’ll bother the paleontologists.

Scrat can cling to roots on the ceiling.Scrat can cling to roots on the ceiling.

Scrat can cling to roots on the ceiling.

Scrat runs around, pushes and pulls blocks, and clings to the ceiling; he can crack ice by stomping on it and float around in tar-pit bubbles. In each level there are some acorns scattered throughout to collect, but they’re optional and add to your achievements; mostly you’re just trying to puzzle your way through. The controls are fairly simple: tap where you want Scrat to go, and he’ll take the quickest route there; some other actions can be performed by tapping on blocks or on Scrat himself.

Unfortunately, while it is a nicely done puzzle game, in my opinion the Ice Age theme doesn’t really fit. On-screen, Scrat was a frantic, hyperactive fuzzball who never sat still for more than half a second. In the game, he feels sluggish in comparison, moving at a glacial pace. Aside from occasional cameos from Manny, Sid, and Diego (mostly in the background), you don’t really get a sense that this game has anything to do with the movies. I’m also not sure who the target audience is: my six-year-old fiddled with it for a while because she recognized Scrat, but the puzzles quickly became too challenging for her. I would have pictured a game involving Scrat to be a fast-paced action game, not this thoughtful head-spinner.

Push and pull blocks to fill in dangerous pits.Push and pull blocks to fill in dangerous pits.

Push and pull blocks to fill in dangerous pits.

A few nitpicky items that bothered me about the game. First, the number of acorns left to find on a level only appears when you get an acorn: you’ll get a little icon in the corner that says something like “3/10” but then it fades out after a while; sometimes you’ll get to the end of a level and then realize—too late—that you’ve missed one or two acorns. Also, the checkpoint system, which prevents you from having to start a level over from the beginning when you die, has a few glitches. For one, even though it starts you at the checkpoint position, any blocks you may have moved or enemies you may have eliminated are reset as if you haven’t played the level at all. Occasionally this causes unsolvable problems, as when you had to eliminate an enemy before you reached the current checkpoint, and there’s no way to backtrack to a safe area.

Other than that, the main thing I’d change is—as I said before—the speed at which Scrat moves. It’s especially unbearable when he’s floating along in a tar-pit bubble and all you can do is sit and wait for him to reach his destination. Come on, folks, Scrat is supposed to be fast!

Scrat explores the Cold Cave.Scrat explores the Cold Cave.

Scrat explores the Cold Cave.

Overall, I’ve actually enjoyed the game more than I expected to: I like the challenge of finding all the acorns, which are not always easy to get to, and the game does have plenty of levels to keep you occupied for a while. (I’m about halfway through the Cold Cave world, and there are apparently four worlds with six to nine levels each—so I suppose it could be “hours of enjoyment” as claimed.) However, it’s one that I’d reserve for older kids and adults because it really is a puzzle game, not a platformer.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaursiconicon is $2.99 from the App Store. There’s also a Deluxe version for the iPadiconicon for $4.99, but I haven’t played that one myself.

Wired: Puzzle platformer with well-designed levels and excellent graphics.

Tired: It looks like Scrat but moves like Sid; your little kids will want to play it because it’s Ice Age, but then get disappointed because it’s too hard for them.

Disclosure: I received a free download code for review purposes.

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