I was in the mood for some old school action gaming, and so I finally got back into Ice Climber on the original NES. The game was one of the system's launch titles in North America, and it got a huge boost in attention due to the out-of-nowhere inclusion of its two characters amongst the playable roster of the classic and still hugely popular Super Smash Bros. Melee. I was also reminded that I needed to revisit the game after having played NES Remix a couple months ago, which includes challenges excerpted from the game.
I have vague memories of playing the game as a kid, and even then the controls felt stiff, especially compared to the smoothness of the controls of games that followed it, like the original Super Mario Bros.. The gameplay, which consists of jumping to break open paths, climbing, and attacking and dodging enemies, feels unique, but it doesn't take long before things feel super repetitive. The game has a number of hazards, including moving platforms, ground that pushes you in a particular direction, and icicles that fall from above, with the best of them definitely being the sunglasses and swimsuit-wearing polar bear who forces you to move higher if you spend too much time without moving upwards. There are also cute little abominable snowmen (seals in the original Japanese version) that help or hinder (depending on your current need) by filling in empty spaces in the floors. (I tend to feel a little bad about defeating them since they definitely help more than they hinder overall.)
There are a good number of elements to the game, but somehow all the different combinations of them that appear in the different levels just don't feel different enough to a modern gamer. Still, this is par for the course for this type of early game, which definitely feels like it would be more suited to an arcade than playing at home. There are 32 unique levels, and the game has a handy level select, which is nice. It's not too hard to get through any of the levels using up all the chances provided, but getting far on a single credit and earning a high score is much more of a challenge.
Despite some of the worst jumping mechanics ever, the game is a fun blast from the classic NES past. The design is great and features colorful characters and enemies and a fun bonus round with some catchy music. Getting to the top of the mountain and catching the condor's claws is always satisfying, and I can imagine that the two-player mode is also an entertaining combination of fun and frustration. The mechanics aren't as enjoyable as its peers, such as Balloon Fight or the original Mario Bros. game, so it never gets that addictive, but it's definitely still fun overall. The game has been rereleased on numerous platforms, the 3DS version has a nice bonus in the form of download play, whereby a player with the game can send a temporary copy to a friend in order to play the two player mode. Not my favorite of the classic NES games, but this was a nice trip down memory lane.
Not too rough Ice Climber links:
- Entry on Wikipedia. Apparently "in some countries of Europe, the console game was bundled with the NES, increasing the game's familiarity outside Japan." Interesting.
- NintendoLife has several reviews of the game. Here's their review of the 3DS eShop version.
- Entry at strategywiki.org
- Some footage, from Coyote12101
- Random cute fan artwork