Game Review: Ice Climber
Ice Climber

Ice Climber Title Screen

  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Released: October 1985
  • Game Type: Action
  • Players: 1 or 2 Simultaneous
  • Product Number: NES-??-USA
  • Rarity: C+ (Borderline Uncommon)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 6

    Box Scan
    Ice Climber Screen 1 Ice Climber Screen 2

    This is another first-generation title for the NES. Ice Climber was released at the time of the NES launch, then it quickly disappeared into obscurity until the Ice Climbers recently reappeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee on the GameCube. While the game provides a nice diversion, some problems with the controls keep it from getting a warm reception.

    High in the Artic wilderness is the biggest refrigerator in the world-a mountain stashed with bushels of vegetables that a condor has stolen from a group of Eskimos. A pair of brave explorers have decided to climb up the mountain and recover their veggies. But to do so, they have to use their hammers to bash through several ledges of ice in order to reach the top of the mountain.

    This game features 32 vertically-scrolling levels, and you can pick which level to start at. One or two players can take up game, with player one controlling Popo (the blue guy) and player two controlling Nana (the female red climber). Each level has eight platforms, and the object is to use you hammer to smash your way through each platform to reach the top, where the Bonus Stage is. When you jump up ou automatically swing your hammer to chip away at the ledge and create a hole that you can jump through to the next ledge. You then repeat until you reach the peak. Most of the ice blocks can be smashed easily, but some of the ice is slick and will slide you to the left or right (these have diagonal lines), while other blocks (the more detailed ones) are indestructible. You also have to make use of moving cloud platforms to reach the upper ledges. In addition, you have to deal with several critters that try to hamper your progress. There's Topis (seals in the Japanese version, and yetis in the U.S. version), which try to fill in the holes you make. Nitpickers are birds that fly around the screen and swoop in at you. Icicles try to drop down on you. And if you take too long to advance, the polar bear will come out and stomp the ice, forcing the screen to move up. Once you go up you cannot go back down, and you lose a life if you drop off the bottom of the screen. Once you reach the bonus stage at the top of each mountain, you have 40 seconds to grab as many vegetables as you can while climb to the peak, where the condor is flying. If you grab the condor before time runs you you get mucho bonus points, but if time runs out or if you fall off the bottom (you don't lose a life here), then no bonus for you. In the 2-player game, the first player to grab the condor gets the bouns. Then the action starts over again.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics aren't half-bad for an early cartridge. Overall everything has a nice bright look to them and you can easily see what everything is supposed to be. The characters have a decent look to them and sport some cute animation. On the other hand, the stages all look the same with virtually no variety. As far as the audio goes, there's only one main background tune (other that the bonus stage theme) that's not very memorable but doesn't interfere with the action. The sound effects seem to be lifted from other games (the sound you make while jumping is almost the same as Super Mario Bros, for example).

    The controls are both easy and hard to use. The easy part is swinging your hammer. B lets you swing overhead and hit things, while A has you jumping and bashing anything overhead. Unfortunatley the main problem is the jumping controls. You can jump striaght up without any problems. The tricky part is trying to jump forward; you have to get a running start to get any distance, which makes jumping onto overhead platforms much harder that they have to be. This can lead to a lot of unfair deaths. The movement also tends to be floaty and your character often slides when he stops running or lands on a ledge, which could also result in you falling off them to your doom.

    Challenge & Playability:
    While the gameplay is solid, several negatives drag this cart down. The problems with jumping can cause much frustration; it makes it tough to get to the higher platforms, often causing you to fall to your death. Also, some collision detection problems crop up with the ledges; sometimes you end up missing platforms even though you have enough air to make the jump. The biggest negative is this game is addictive at first but then wears thin quickly. With little variety in the gameplay, it doesn't take very long for it to get monotinous and repetitive. The two-player mode is a nice feature, and you get some decent mano-a-mano action, but doesn't really add very much to the game.

    Fortunately, despite the negatives, Ice Climber is still a pretty playable title. This game is easy for anyone to pick up and play, and the enemies don't really pose a threat, so you should have very few problems (other than the jumping). The stage select makes it so you don't have to start from stage one every time, which is also a plus.

    So while Ice Climber serves its purpose as a decent launch title, there's just not much to keep anyone's interest for a long time. It can be fun if you can get past the jumping problems and does serve as a decent battleground for two-player contests, but the repretitiveness and frustration keep this from being more than just above-average. Had the jumping controls been done better, this game would have scored higher and been more fun to play. Those that have the patience to weather the control issues will find a decent title, but others will simply leave this one in the cold.

    - Review posted on December 9, 2006