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Arctic Tale Package Art
††Action, Adventure
††Atomic Planet
††Destination Software, Inc. (DSI)

Arctic Tale

Arctic Tale is a game broadly based on the movie of the same name. The National Geographic-sponsored film tracks the lives of both a bear and a walrus. The game does likewise, also adding a fox to the fold. So does this animal simulation have legs? In some cases, yes...depending on how often youíre willing to write down a ridiculously-long password.


Atomic Planet has done a decent enough job with the graphics engine in Arctic Tale, although the player isnít going to find much that would qualify as revolutionary. Animal sprites are somewhat small but passable, with bears, walruses, wolves and furry nondescript prey looking more or less like they should. The gameís backgrounds, replete with snow, are fairly repetitive, but that is forgivable given the setting.


The title screen makes a great impression, with an epic score inviting the player to forage into the frozen unknown. The rest of the soundtrack maintains the epic pace, with three distinct scores that correspond to each playable animal. Sound effects, meanwhile, are minimal but get the job done adequately enough.


Channeling the documentary on which it is based, the object of the game is to complete survival-themed minigames and to forage for food. These activities yield collectable paw prints of various colors which are, in turn, used to open up subsequent chapters. Arctic Tale offers several such chapters, each with its own minigames and collectables. Players can go back and forth between current and past chapters at will, so on paper there are several hours of gameplay to be had here. Throughout the course of the game, players can assume the role of a fox, a bear or a walrus. Each character has its own abilities: the fox, for example, is fast and can catch food, while the bear and walrus both have animal-specific minigames they can access. The different animals create a layer of depth to the game, although the walrus is annoyingly slow when moving around the game world and will usually be a playerís last choice unless absolutely necessary.

Arctic Tale is aimed at a younger audience. In that context, some of the design decisions are downright baffling. On one hand, the game offers unlimited continues, meaning that players can come back again and again to try out various quests. At the same time, some of those quests are so difficult -- often because of poor design or wonky controls -- that a player may not want to come back. Many of the minigames, for example, are quite easy to get killed in, leading to a lot of deaths that in turn lead to a lot of backtracking. Even seasoned adult gamers would have difficulty with many of the minigames, but a six or seven year-old would find them nigh impossible.

After such repeated deaths, stopping the game to calm down would be in order, but the gameís wretched saving system makes that impossible. The developer opted to bypass any sort of onboard memory for game saves, and in Arctic Tale the result is particularly debilitating. Arctic Tale uses a lengthy 22-character password system that is such a chore that few gamers will want to use it. This seems especially egregious on a handheld; where most games can simply be saved and closed up, a gamer wanting to save Arctic Tale will need to drag out a paper and pen and scrawl out a lengthy password, a process that could take several minutes. This is hardly ideal for portable gaming -- anyone who plays their portable on a bus or metro system will testify to this -- and it just begs for writing errors that will lead to unworkable passwords. Itís a terrible design decision that is hard to see as anything more than a cost-cutting decision, and it absolutely kills this game.




Given that the movie Arctic Tale has received heavily mixed reviews, Atomic Planet had its work cut out with respect to this game. In that respect, the game they created was a positive achievement, and one that young ones will find both entertaining and somewhat educational.

That doesnít mean the game gets off the hook for its flaws, which are so annoying that they completely overwhelm the gameís virtues. The gameplay grows stale quickly, with the minigames proving to be frustratingly difficult even for a veteran gamer. Those flaws would be mitigated somewhat if a gamer could play this game in short installments, but the outrageously long password system makes stopping and restarting too much of a chore. On a portable system, that is inexcusable.

This certainly had the potential to be a sleeper title on the last legs of GBA. Instead, it shows just enough flaws in key areas to come up short. Get it for the young ones at your own risk, but if you do, donít be surprised if they stop playing it after a few sessions.

final score 3.0/10

Staff Avatar Joshua Johnston
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"Round 1! Fight!"

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