STAFF REVIEW of Ice Age Scrat's Nutty Adventure (Xbox One)

Thursday, December 5, 2019.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Ice Age Scrat's Nutty Adventure Box art If you’ve seen any of the Ice Age movies, then you’ll know who Scrat is. Hell, this is probably true of anyone who’s watched one’s trailer. He’s the almost instantly recognizable saber-toothed squirrel, who acts as comic relief throughout the movies, due to his own greed and stupidity. At least that’s what I’ve gathered, as I fall into what seems to be a minority of people who have never watched more than a couple minutes of any of the animated Ice Age films. I’d honestly planned to watch the first one, back when it came out, but just never got around to it.

Although there’s no new movie on the near horizon, Scrat has surprisingly returned in video game form. He’s done so in Just Add Water’s Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure, which was released onto Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and Switch. I had the chance to go hands-on with the Xbox One version of the game and, now that I’ve finished its somewhat short campaign, I’m here to share my thoughts.

By now we’ve all heard of the ‘licensed game curse.’ By that I mean the mixture of greed, limited budgets and rushed development time that has historically been responsible for more duds than winners when it has come to games based on movies, TV shows or superheroes. I’ll admit that, when I took this review on, I expected it to be another casualty based on having not heard it was in development, the non-existence of a new movie and not knowing much about the developer. Now that I’ve finished it, I must also admit that I was kind of, sort of, wrong. Now, don’t get me wrong: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure is not a children’s masterpiece. It is, however, quite a bit better than your average kids game, and deserves some credit for that.

Things begin again, as they often seem to, with Scrat losing his precious acorn. This time, it falls into a Scratazaon temple. Upon entering this strange location, with its odd writing and even stranger statues, our squirrely hero learns that he’s part of an otherworldly race. A race that requires him to collect four crystal acorns so that he can transcend Earth and join them. That’s pretty much it for plot, and it all results in a rather sexually suggestive ending (featuring a latex clad female love interest) that probably shouldn’t close out a game meant for kids.

If me spoiling that bothered you, I apologize. I’m usually fully against spoilers, but sometimes they’re required for warnings. I know that I would appreciate such a warning if I was the parent of a young kid who was interested in this game. However, please don’t take what I said and picture something out of an R-rated movie or an M-rated video game. All she does is pique his male interest with her curves and the tight fitting latex suit that covers them. After that, things fade to black.

From start to finish, Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure presents as the type of 3D platformer that we saw often on the PlayStation 2 and other systems during that particular console generation. It’s not the most modern game, nor does it try to be in any way, shape or form. The developers seemed to want to create something that hearkened back to the early 2000s and paid homage to classic 3D platformers on the N64 and original PlayStation, and that’s what they ended up doing. It’s also targeted at kids, meaning that the gameplay isn’t punishing, nor is it ever too challenging. In fact, it’s almost too easy, but that’s coming from someone who’s been gaming for close to thirty years. Kids may not feel the same way.

There exists a 3D open world, which uses an open forest clearing as its home base. From that clearing of sorts, four different paths branch out in different directions and lead to varied locations. The first, and most easily accessible, takes Scrat to a forest filled with colourful beetles, flying bugs and a crapload of large stumps. The second, which becomes available after the player learns how to double jump, then takes him to a frozen lake full of icebergs, piranhas and crabs. Following that, the player moves on to frozen caves, before finishing the campaign in a lost, but not well hidden, tropical jungle, complete with dinosaurs and even lava. Along the way, they’ll not only learn how to double jump, but will also gain other new abilities, such as a telekinesis. What it boils down to, though, is being able to move special boxes (in order to create platforms) and being able to pull platforms out of rock walls.

The above is designed in a way that also hearkens back to Super Metroid, Castlevania and other such titles. While Scrat’s Nutty Adventure is a 3D platformer, it promotes backtracking and hides some of its collectibles behind barriers that require later visits. For instance, you’ll start seeing telekinesis boxes in the opening levels of the game, but will not be able to move them until you’ve almost finished it. Let it be said, too, that there are quite a few collectibles to hunt for here, some of which are decently hidden. Each level, of which there are maybe sixteen, features a hidden statue as well as hidden shard(s).

Due to what’s said above, those who have interest in unlocking all of the game’s achievements will have to do so through approximately two playthroughs. The good news, though, is that this thing is quite short. It shouldn’t take you longer than four hours to complete.

The gameplay is pretty much what you’d expect, outside of the special powers. You’ll walk, run and jump through varying locations, all while trying to avoid falling into hazards like water and lava, or simply falling into an abyss. What’s nice, though, is that falling into water or lava doesn’t result in an immediate death. Instead, Scrat will hop a couple of times before succumbing, leaving you an opportunity to get to a nearby platform. Most platforms are pretty massive too, meaning that they won’t be too difficult for kids to jump onto. That said, it can sometimes be hard to properly judge the distance of a jump, which can lead to death and frustration. The controls also aren’t absolutely perfect, meaning that the double jump may fail you once in a blue moon, or something like that.

Every stage comes bearing enemies, and most aren’t too annoying. Hell, the average foe (coloured beetles, flying insects, pinching crab and piranhas) can be bypassed completely without a second thought. There are some rather grating ones, though, such as these weird lizard and meerkat hybrids that love to throw rocks. Them, as well as sleeping wolves that hunt when awakened, and similar dino birds that kill with one bite. I assume that the wolves do as well, but can’t say for sure because I didn’t let one touch me.

Most of the time, though, getting hit doesn’t mean a whole lot. Scrat has a health bar, which can be increased by collecting enough shards. We got the notification that we’d reached the heart limit after picking up 5000 of them, and it only took about half the game. Shards are constantly found in boxes, and life replenishing hearts are also pretty common. They’re found in breakable pots, though, not boxes.

Of course, there’s also a bit of combat to be found here. It’s quite simple, though, and exists as a mix of basic kicks, rock throwing and a more powerful aerial slam. When the player presses 'X', Scrat will unleash a kick, and pressing it a few times in a row will do a very basic combo, which will end with a sweep of his tail. This is good for killing basic enemies, who often flip over onto their backs when damaged. Rock throwing is handled through another basic mechanic, that being a locked on aiming system that can be a bit cumbersome to aim with. Lastly, the slam (which I didn’t know existed until hours in) is what you’d expect. You jump in the air, press 'B' and then slam to the ground. It’s useful for hurting groups of enemies, and also comes in handy if you need to break some thin ice.

Basic is a word that can also be used to describe the game’s three boss battles, but that’s not too much of a detriment given that this thing is targeting kids as opposed to us adults. The first battle is against a couple of rhinos who love to rush at and slam into you, the second is against an annoying dinosaur fish and the third is against a massive flying dinosaur who’s surprisingly easy to beat. Defeating all three won’t require too much skill, given that their patterns are simple enough to follow, and that they aren’t able to take too much damage before ‘dying'.

When it comes to presentation, this is a bit of a mixed bag, but that’s to be expected. It’s pretty easy to tell that the developers weren’t given a massive budget, or an incredible amount of time to work with, but they did a solid job with what they were afforded. While some of the textures look pretty flat (especially the ice, the frozen walls and the ground in the lava jungle), other aspects of the game are nice and colourful. The beetles, for instance, have a nice amount of detail to them and really pop. To be honest, they look better than Scrat does, as his fur isn’t the most eye pleasing texture ever designed.

The sound is fine, serviceable and fitting. It won’t wow you, do tricks or try anything special, but it works and is hard to complain about. The sound effects are fitting, the music is more tolerable than it is in most of these games and there’s a bit of comedy to be found. That said, I did experience a section where the music cut out entirely after I died. This was during one of the ‘world’ concluding minigames, wherein Scrat had to slide out of the way of falling ice. Others tasked him with doing things like water skiing and skydiving.

As I said above, I didn’t expect much from Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure before I started it. Now that I’ve finished it, though, I’m quick to admit that I was wrong. While this game won’t set the world on fire, and isn’t the latest Batman: Arkham Asylum, Toy Story 3, Cars 2 or Marvel’s Spider-Man, it’s pretty solid and enjoyable. Kids should enjoy this simple platformer and may even find fun in going back and finding all of its collectibles. Don’t expect something that will have tons of replay value, though.

**This review is based on the Xbox One X version of the game, which we were provided with.**

Overall: 6.1 / 10
Gameplay: 6.2 / 10
Visuals: 6.1 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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