Building on the massive success of Ice Age Village, Gameloft's follow-up title Ice Age Adventures takes Sid, Manny, Diego and friends to greener pastures.
It's a game that combines elements of city building, match-three puzzles, and endless running, packaged beautifully within a world based around a huge family movie license. Will it be a hit? You bet your furry butt it will be.
A mammoth adventure
Ice Age Village has been a huge success in app stores, and Ice Age Adventures builds on this formula, with the town-building part still at the center of the gameplay. You star as the hapless hero Sid, who must venture off to various islands to rescue herds of different animals. You then bring the animals back home, build houses for them, feed them, upgrade, renovate, decorate, etc.
In order to free animals you'll generally need to complete a challenge, based around a mini game, namely a Candy Crush-style match-three game where you need to drop a set number of hearts; or a fun endless sledging game. These games make for a welcome slice of variety and help to inject an element of skill into a game that would otherwise consist of just tapping and waiting.
In order to achieve a 100 percent completion rate of each island, you'll need to not-only free all the animals trapped on it, but also collect all the items and bonuses on it. You'll also get to unlock all the heroes from the movie, such as Manny and Diego, who will then follow you as you explore, helping you clear obstacles that Sid couldn't on his own.
The game features social integration via Game Center or Facebook. You can compare scores with your Facebook friends, check on their progress, send and receive gifts, and more.
In-app purchases explained
Gameplay elements aside, there's no escaping the fact that Ice Age Adventures has been built to make big money for the developer. The game features at least four types of game currency, which can be 'won' by playing, watching ads, and, of course, paying real cash.
There's a friendly warning to parents when you first launch Ice Age Adventures that they might want to disable in-app purchasing through iOS - or at least not give out their iTunes password if they are worried about their kids gong crazy. This is good advice, because the temptation to buy coins out of sheer frustration at having to wait could be overwhelming.
Some types of game currency (berries and shells, for example) can be won by harvesting them from dwellings, collecting them on island scouting missions, or playing the mini games. But sooner or later (about 45 minutes of play, in my case), if you want to avoid long waits when constructing or opening new parts of islands, you'll need to dip into your acorns reserve, which is the hardest currency to acquire without paying for.
The game isn't difficult to get into, and while the amount of collectibles, challenges and objectives can be daunting at first, the interactive tutorials and clear labeling of the interface
Ice Age Adventures makes great use of the movie license, and in this sense it's a marked improvement on Ice Age Village. If you're a fan of Ice Age you're in for a real treat. There are plenty of funny cut scenes and in-game interaction between your favorite characters, with authentic graphics and lots of speech.
Be warned, if you find Sid irritating as a character then you'll hate this game. His off-the-wall personality dominates Ice Age Adventures. His quips litter the game, which if you're a fan of his you'll love, but if not it'll annoy the heck out of you. To protect his feelings I won't say which side of the Sid fence I sit on.
Evolving the genre
Just like natural history, the evolution of a mobile game format can be a slow process, and this is illustrated by Ice Age Adventures. Although it brings little originality in terms of gameplay concepts it's significantly different to Ice Age Village to enthrall fans to make the switch, despite its aggressive monetization mechanic.
It's clear that Gameloft's association with the Ice Age franchise is in no danger of extintion. In fact, this game is packed with all the ingredients needed to make it a game players stick with, especially younger ones.