A title we previewed after Gamescom, Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure is ready to storm the holiday charts with its family friendly approach to classic 3D platforming. The game is out now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch courtesy of Outright Games. Our review is based on the PS4 version.
Anyone familiar with Outright Games knows they specialize in family friendly titles aimed at a younger audience. We’ve previously looked at Crayola Scoot and they’ve also published a game based on the Paw Patrol franchise which was essentially a take on 2D platformers for 4 to 7 year olds. Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure is geared towards a slightly older audience, targeting 6 to 12 year olds.
As the title suggests, the game features Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel with an unhealthy obsession for acorns. He became a bit of a star on his own as well, with roles in animated shorts, 4D rides in theme parks and now the lead role in a new video game. The introduction to the game sees Scrat chasing an acorn (what else?), falling down into a temple and being set on a quest to collect legendary crystal nuts. Yes, it’s certainly not the most inspired plot and there’s barely any narrative to speak of in the entire game, but Scrat’s a non-speaking character anyway.
The temple is central on the game map, with four main branches/paths all leading to a crystal nut that you need to find. As an adult, completing a branch with a bit of exploring will take about 90 minutes, for a total game time of about 6 to 7 hours. There is plenty to discover and collect after you complete a level (a branch has about five, and they’re all pretty big), since I rarely finished one without missing one or more of its collectables.
Part of that is due to the game’s design, which starts you out with the most basic of controls – a jump and an attack button. It’s not until you find the first crystal nut that you are rewarded with a double jump, which in turn gives you access to places and collectibles that you previously couldn’t quite reach. The game was designed well in this sense, since the second world (or map branch) offers a different kind of gameplay on account of the double jump being available then.
Every now and then you run into fairly easy puzzles (usually involving hitting two or three buttons in the right order or finding a missing object) or a boss fight, breaking up the otherwise fairly formulaic platforming action. The action never gets stale though, since new abilities are gradually introduced and the level design if often based around the newfound skills.
Scrat’s Nutty Adventure is extremely forgiving when it comes to respawn points, but that doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk, especially for younger kids. Some of the platforming requires precise timing, which can be frustrating for less experienced gamers – especially when you’re only using single jumps earlier in the game.
Younger gamers are going to love the visual design for the game though. Scrat is well animated (and a few glitches we saw were fixed in a day 1 patch, it looks like) and the game world is beautiful – like a cartoon world come to life. There is plenty of color, and a lot of attention to detail in the background as well – which has animals just going about their business as well, rather than just being stale wallpapers. The simplified controls should also help kids enjoy the game, since I rarely found myself needing the ‘sneak’ controls and mostly just stuck to jumping and mashing the attack button in combat.
There are a few missed opportunities in the game though, and they relate to the younger audience members as well. When the temple ‘speaks’ to you, all its lines are delivered in text format only. Considering how little text there is in the game (again, Scrat is silent and just has his little shrieks and grunts), this would have been a lot better with a voiceover – especially for younger kids who can’t properly read yet.
Another kid-friendly platformer, Skylanders, does this very well – and that game also showcases another area where Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure could have been better than the fun platformer it already is. Tutorials are poorly implemented in the game, with on-screen prompts (again, with text) telling you what the buttons do rather than having a short little tutorial to teach kids what to do in which situation. If you’re playing with a very young player, I’d suggest sticking around for the first 15 minutes to help master the ropes, since the game doesn’t do a great job at it.
There’s also a lack of handholding in other areas, like when you come across little doors that don’t open and seem to suggest you need a crystal nut first. This isn’t explained though, and could be confusing to kids and even adults who come across this for the first time. Because the platforming action itself flows so well, it’s a shame you get taken out of that flow for a bit.
These are fairly minor gripes though, about a game which has very solid platforming wrapped inside a beautiful 3D cartoon world. They’re valid issues though, and keep this latest Ice Age game from being truly excellent and instead making it ‘merely’ a good family-friendly choice for the upcoming festive season. With a little help it’s straightforward enough for young children, while older gamers have plenty of optional objectives, collectibles and trophies to chase.