Ice Age Village Hands-On Preview

Say you’ve got a popular animated franchise on your hands, like Peanuts, Smurfs, or The Simpsons. If you’re going to make these beloved characters into a profitable mobile game, you could take a risk by creating an action-packed brawler, or a tricky puzzle collection. Or you can go for the safe, now-predictable route of creating a freemium city-building sim, like the upcoming Ice Age Village from Gameloft.

You can probably predict the key features of Ice Age Village, based on similar games that have come before it. You’ll be able to create a village based on the animal society of the Ice Age movies (and not-so-coincidentally, the fourth movie comes out this summer). Like in another freemium game, Dream Zoo, you’ll be able to increase the population of your village by earning eggs and offspring for your villagers.

Gameplay consists of a mix of tapping and waiting. You’ll be able to use a combination of plentiful coins and rare, IAP-ready acorns to build habitats, roads, and decorations. If you have friends playing the game, you’ll be able to visit their villages as well. You’ll also be able to play a handful of minigames like Ninja Scrat, where you have to swipe at piranhas.

Ice Age Village looks sharp, with well-rendered characters and environments, but from what we played at GDC last month, the gameplay is disappointingly predictable. As long as these licensed freemium games keep making money through free initial downloads and persistent pay-gates, we can probably expect to see a lot more games like Ice Age Village.

Gameloft recently boasted that they have surpassed over 80 million freemium downloads, but we still hope their upcoming big series and licensed games will be actual, premium games. If you thought the fan backlash from Dungeon Hunter 3 was severe, what would happen if NOVA 3 had you building moon bases using your credit card? From our early hands-on, Ice Age Village seems completely routine for casual fans of the movie and similar freemium sims, but our expectations for Gameloft have always been higher. Ice Age Village will hit the App Store later this month.

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