The next movie in the popular Ice Age franchise is coming in July (it’s called Ice Age: Continental Drift, and if you have a kid, you’ve probably had the movie’s name branded on your brain by now), but 20th Century Fox has already started its marketing blitz. Ice Age Village is just one interactive tool that’s being used to get kids re-interested in the antics of Sid the sloth, Manny the mammoth, and Scrat the unholy rat-squirrel hybrid. But to be fair to Fox and Gameloft, Ice Age Village is more than a mere commercial. It’s a pretty solid city building/animal management game, too.
The world of Ice Age Village is populated by animals that have been made homeless thanks to the quakes and other upheavals accompanying the break-up of Pangaea (Pangaea actually began its significant break-up during the Jurassic age, but since the real Ice Age probably never had sloths and sabre-toothed cats going on adventures together, we’ll just let this one slide). Sid starts up his new village– your village, really– by housing one lonely sloth. Of course, things get carried away in no time, and before long, your little patch of ice will be home to birds, piranhas, mammoths, beavers, a whole menagerie of prehistoric beasties. You’re also responsible for building structures to entertain your new friends, including ice-water slides, bathing pools, and even a movie theatre that plays a clip from Ice Age: Continental Drift.
It’s a cozy village.
Ice Age Village is primarily about building good homes for your animal refugees, though there are a couple of additional elements that are generally reserved for zoo-type games. You have to feed your animals, for instance, if you want their habitats to keep on generating money and experience. And once you have two animals in the same habitat, they can make a baby (which invariably hatches from an egg, bird or not). Ideally, you want every animal to have a complete family.
Ice Age Village is a busy game. You gain your first few levels in record time, and the cast of Ice Age is always on hand to mention tasks that need to be completed. It’s a nice change from city-building games that let you build a few paltry buildings, then force you to wait and/or spend your tiny store of premium currency. Needless to say, Ice Age Village has a large store of animals and structures for you to buy via microtransactions, but it’s also generous about letting you buy lots of neat beasts with the common in-game currency.
Don’t get mouthy with me.
Building your village takes time and patience, though, as the touchscreen controls in Ice Age Village are a bit mushy, at least on the iPod Touch/iPhone. You have limited space to work with (you can buy extensions, but they’re expensive), which forces you to crowd things together– which, in turn, can make it very difficult to select items. Too often, you attempt to target one animal’s habitat, only to pick up its neighbor. It would help if the game’s zoom in function went in a bit closer.
Ice Age Village does a few small things differently from a typical city-building game, but otherwise, it’s a standard, solid experience: it’s very easy to play, and kids who love the franchise will have a blast making their own villages and visiting their friends’ towns. Even genre veterans will have a good time for a while, though they’d probably sooner get squashed by Manny than admit to it.