Ice Age Online is a fun free-to-play platformer, but the community’s all but extinct.
It doesn’t take long to realize that something about Ice Age Online looks a little familiar. Only moments after creating an account and logging in, you’ll use your head to bash hard objects to reveal small stashes of rewards and hurl projectile at incoming baddies. After that, you’ll leap across pits, stomp on turtles, and complete each stage by running past a green flag. There are a few new tricks in store and a noticeable absence of verdant plumbing pipes, but I could probably end this review right now by calling Ice Age Online a reskin of Super Mario Bros. and you’d know exactly what to expect.
Still, the differences warrant attention. You play as Sid, one of the livelier sloths I’ve ever come across, and you collect acorns (as opposed to, say, coins) across several regions with different Ice Age themes. The resulting visual variety is welcome, but it sometimes makes the gameplay more complicated than necessary.
Consider the first level, where Sid gathers acorns against a backdrop of snowy peaks and evergreen forests. It’s a nice touch that helps connect the game with the movies, but it makes you realize why we never saw such lovely backgrounds in the early Mario games. On more than one occasion, my poor Sid died from spikes or even creatures that I simply didn’t see among the heap of earth tones splashed across the page. The issue gets better in future levels, such as a frantic run against the stark, white backdrops of a glacier, so it’s a pity that Ice Age Online starts out with such complications.
The good news is that plenty of challenges lie in wait past the tutorial, and you’ll need to master the keyboard controls if you want to see Sid through to the end. (That in itself is something of a problem – I’ve always found the platforming genre better suited to good, old fashioned gamepads.) Indeed, the ease of the tutorial soon yields to the challenges of flying enemies, gaps that seem impossible to leap across, and even ledges that crumble as you scurry across them. The basic idea is to grab as many acorns and other assorted objects and power-ups as you can, and avoiding taking hits that force you to drop everything you’ve earned in the level so far. Take another hit without enough acorns, and you’ll die and start back over at the beginning of the level.
The point of all this is not to save some princess sloth, but rather to recover missing animals such as saber tooth cats and wooly mammoths and provide them with shelter. Feed the animals you’ve rescued, and you’ll also get some helpful rewards for your next adventures in acorn gathering. The concept is handled well, and it provides a way of showing off your progress to friends you invite to play with you through the game itself by linking your Facebook account, but I frequently found myself forgetting about it in my preference for the actual platforming gameplay.
“ Ice Age Online is free to play, so it should come as no surprise that it limits that gameplay with an energy mechanic that requires time or money to recharge. Here you’ll find one of the more creative uses of the concept in the form of a squirrel who only allows you a portion of acorns at a time, although if you really love developer BigPoint’s take on the animated franchise, you can remove most of the restrictions by paying anywhere from $5.00 to $20.00.
That may be something of a tall order, though, since the community’s hardly thriving at this point, and the recent release of Ice Age: Continental Drift apparently hasn’t helped much. Perhaps releasing the game directly on Facebook might have boosted its popularity, but right now it seems clear that players aren’t attracted to the license enough to spend their time playing Super Sloth Bros. That’s a bit of a shame, because it really is fun little example of a beloved genre that rarely makes a notable appearance on the world’s largest social network.