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Sun 1 Oct 2006 04:00 AM

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Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

An itch that needs \'Scrat\'ching PRICE $32 CONTACT +9714 299 7980 WEB www.sierra.com Controller Keyboard and mouse, gamepad requirements Pentium 4 1.4GHz or equivalent CPU, 256Mbytes of RAM, 64Mbytes of video memory, 1.4Gbytes of hard disk space, Windows OS Best Bit Sid the sloth’s slide down a huge, icy mountain in one of the mini games - not only do you need to dodge obstacles, but you’ll also run into several ramps, which launch you straight into the air where you can perform acrobatics before you hit the ground. Thrilling. Verdict Ice Age 2: The Meltdown manages to successfully combine some of the movie’s best elements with original, fun game play and graphics (plus a good dose of humour). 4/5

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown is a spin-off from the box-office hit movie of the same name. The game’s plot loosely follows that of the movie: a melting glacier threatens the valley that is home to Manny the mammoth, Diego the sabre-toothed tiger and Sid the sloth, and they must find a safe haven before the impending flash flood wipes them out.

The unusual trio does feature in the game; in scenes from the movie, cut scenes and mini-games, but your primary role is to play Scrat - the twitchy acorn-obsessed squirrel whose middle name is trouble.

Scrat’s main aim in the game is to sniff out and collect as many acorns as possible. Although he never manages to accomplish this in either of the Ice Age movies, in the game there are literally hundreds of them scattered around on ledges, in caves and even buried underground, and not just plain brown acorns either. Green ones are more valuable, but scarce, and the golden acorn is the most elusive of them all. Chestnuts and walnuts are also up for grabs.

Scrat’s acorn total serves to unlock bonus material, which includes celebrity interviews, however to advance to the next level Scrat must collect a predetermined number of walnuts on any current level. Some of these are in plain sight, but the hidden walnuts must first be sniffed out before they reveal themselves.

Scrat can be controlled well and he also has a number of amusing moves at his disposal (he can hop, run, jump, kick, swim, and hurl objects at enemies). He can even swipe his bushy tail to shatter blocks of ice. For example, in one challenge, Scrat must ‘play dead’ when attempting to sneak past Diego, who will occasionally glance over his shoulder to see if anyone is following him. This move only becomes available in this situation and works well, both because it’s intuitively performed and because it’s hilarious to watch.

Being a game for younger players, there is no gore present and most challenges are fairly simple to complete. In one of the mini games, you must solve a ‘Scrambled eggs’ puzzle; transporting eggs to their correct nest whilst avoiding territorial mother birds, enemies and other obstacles. Although the game is fun, there are a few points at which you might get frustrated. It’s no fun having to retrace your steps over and over again because you keep falling off that same tricky log or miscalculating a crucial jump. The only other drawback is the lack of a multiplayer option, which could cause a tug-of-war between impatient siblings.

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