Wow, there’s just no stopping Ice Age, is there? Just like The Pleistocene, 20th Century Fox’s (or Disney’s now, we guess) animated juggernaut has been relentless since the release of the first movie back in 2002, with a total of five cinematic releases, a host of short films and TV shows, and a plethora of console and online games. Despite harsh critical reception towards the latest movie, it still made a mammoth (ha!) amount of money, and so the wheels keep turning. Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure is the latest game in the franchise, starring everyone’s favourite sabre-toothed squirrel in a quest to find the four legendary Crystal Nuts – hey, quiet in the back!
We’ll just come right out and say it: this isn’t a good game. It’s an incredibly mundane platformer that’s completely devoid of any originality or challenge. What’s more, the performance of the game on Switch is really rough in comparison to other platforms, with a shocking frame rate and bland visuals. But what’s so frustrating is that there’s heaps of potential here for it to be a great game – there's some excellent level design on display, for example – but it’s clear the developers just settled for ‘good enough’ for the most part.
Once again, the lovable Scrat is on a needlessly dangerous quest to recover his precious acorn after dropping it into the mystical Scratazon Temple. The temple mistakes the acorn as an offering, and activates the four Crystal Nuts. And so, to retrieve his acorn, Scrat heads out to four distinct locations to find the Crystal Nuts and return them to the temple. The plot is about as deep as you’d expect from a licensed title, but we have to admit that bringing Scrat back as the main protagonist was probably the best decision the developers could have made; he’s everyone’s favourite character for a reason. On the flip side, the distinct lack of any other characters makes this a very lonely game – and not in a good way, like Metroid. There’s no one to talk to throughout the experience, and the plot never deviates from the ‘go here, retrieve this, and come back’ task that’s been handed to you.
Controlling Scrat is very similar to how he played in 2006’s Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (which gives you an idea of how unambitious this title is) – he can jump, roll around, throw objects, and unleash a few nifty kung-fu moves against his enemies. As you defeat the region bosses and gather the Crystal Nuts, new abilities such as a double jump will be granted to you, with subsequent regions altering their layout accordingly to allow adequate use of these abilities. Naturally, Scrat doesn’t talk, and is limited to manic fits of giggling and screams of fear as he traverses the land (and the squeal of relief he emits when collecting a health pickup is, er… troubling).
The levels themselves are the highlight of the game. They’re really quite well designed, giving a sense of an open-world whilst remaining entirely linear. You’ll start off in a fairly idyllic countryside setting before moving onto snow-capped mountains and lakes full of lava. What you actually do in the levels is an entirely different story. You’ll hop around collecting purple crystals (which unlock concept art in the main menu – though the game doesn’t actually tell you this) and the occasional tablet or statue piece, defeating bugs and crabs along the way before moving onto the next area. That’s about it. Oh, and there are locked doorways dotted around here and there requiring you to collect two keys (shaped like nuts, obviously) lying nearby. It’s so repetitive, so by-the-numbers, that despite the game’s short run time (you’ll be done in about 3 or 4 hours), you’ll feel like you’ve seen everything there is to see after the very first region.
Where the game really falls down is in its performance on Switch. It’s awful. Whilst not the best-looking platformer on any console, it’s clear that some downgrades were made in bringing it over to the Switch. Lighting effects are poor, textures are bland and muddy, and rock formations look like lumps of Play-Doh. Despite all this, the game still struggles to run adequately enough, with the frame rate chugging along at unacceptably low levels. Additionally, bugs will cause unnecessary deaths at various points in the game; we found ourselves clipping through platforms and getting stuck in walls whilst wall jumping.
Instead of being a brand new platformer, Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure feels like a remaster of a game from the early 2000s, and not a very good one either. On the positive side, the level design is pretty good, with areas connecting to one another in a way that feels large-scale, but remains comfortably linear. Otherwise, Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure completely lacks challenge, is extremely repetitive and runs on the Switch about as well as Manny the Mammoth runs after gorging on a bunch of peaches. In short, it's exactly what you’d expect from a licensed game of this type.