Activision Software Publishing has always presented a portfolio that was anything but single-minded. Its expensive core titles have been supported by those developed for a wider audience, which in turn have seen support from children’s titles. It’s a straightforward yet forward thinking market strategy that sees the likes of Prototype 2 launching alongside Men in Black III, and subsequently followed by Ice Age 4: Continental Drift. However, the publisher isn’t blind to audience perception, and is keen to take advantage of the new technologies at their disposal.
The key point here is that, while Ice Age 4: Continental Drift is represented by a videogame tie-in on most formats, here on Xbox 360 Activision has delivered a unique titles designed specifically to take control of the Kinect full-body motion-control device, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift: Arctic Games. An assortment of mini-games presented in a story lead package, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift: Arctic Games is hardly an original presentation, but it certainly appears more welcoming than your average mini-game compilation.
Sadly, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift: Arctic Games is in actual fact yet more evidence of just how deceptive appearances can be: never judge a videogame by its box art. The bulk of Ice Age 4: Continental Drift: Arctic Games could be compared to any winter sports videogame available for Kinect: Slip Slide Race and Mountain Drifter are essentially a virtual skiing mini-game, while Style Jump is a ski jump and stunt event. The Shell Slide event is bowls on ice (not quite the same as Curling) and the Scrat Cannon mini-game is comparable to hang-gliding, though in a Super Monkey Ball ‘Monkey Flight’ kind of way. Coconut Slongshot is a little different, playing similarly to the recently released Wreckateer, though on a much smaller scale, while the bonus mini-game, Prehistoric Plumber, is perhaps the least enjoyable of all those included. Presenting a basic version of the leaks mini-game featured in Kinect Adventures, the player has to force Scrat to move across the screen in order to plug the leaks without any instruction on how to do so. Placing you hand over a virtual hole is one thing, commanding a prehistoric squirrel to move before doing so is an altogether different matter.
The Story gameplay mode offers the player the opportunity to play through the two sides of the tale – the friendly herd and the pirate crew – though there really is little difference between the two. The Free Play mode features preset targets for the player to beat in each mini-game and the tournament mode allows two players to compete head-to-head. It’s a simple assortment of gameplay modes that covers all the bases, and with the strongest mini-games on offer is a welcome compliment. However, those weaker experiences, such as the poorly implemented Glacier Hopping, will remain untouched here just as they’ll be lamented in the Story mode.
The visual quality of Ice Age 4: Continental Drift: Arctic Games is mostly decent, though certain cutscenes seem to simply forget to load fur textures. The backdrops are mostly uninspired arctic or tropical locations (sometimes a combination of the two) while the character animation is of a more redeemable presentation. The sound quality would arguably be the best part of Ice Age 4: Continental Drift: Arctic Games were it not for the constant repetition of many lines of dialogue during events.
Ice Age 4: Continental Drift: Arctic Games is obviously aimed at children, but therein lays its biggest problem: the design built around Kinect gestures with poor detection is only likely to frustrate younger players. While half the videogame will be enjoyable for all the family, the other half is practically unplayable, and as such Ice Age 4: Continental Drift: Arctic Games can’t realistically be recommended for children regardless of their appreciation for the franchise that birthed it. Ultimately, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift: Arctic Games is a mixed bag of enjoyable mini-game design and utterly maddening input requirements, just as is the case for far too many Kinect videogame releases.