video_game_king's Ice Climber (Nintendo Entertainment System) review

Broken jumping mechanics ruin what might otherwise be a good game

Perhaps one of the best games for the Gamecube was Super Smash Bros. Melee. It reached to the far ends of the Nintendo universe to bring together some of the best fighters possible. Understandably, some of these characters are rather obscure and unknown to many people who own the game. Popo and Nana (referred to as the Ice Climbers) are two such characters. However, the source material of this deadly duo is far from the cult classic that Super Smash Bros. Melee would have you believe.

Like most games of the era, the story is paper thin and only serves to transition into the gameplay. The two explorers, Popo and Nana, have to get back an incredible amount of vegetables from a condor that placed them on 32 mountains. The obstacles that stand in their way are icy/brick platforms, arctic animals, and the deadly concept of gravity. Your goal is to climb to the top, retrieve 4 vegetables during the bonus stage, and get to the next mountain safely. Ironically, the evil condor can help you achieve this by grabbing onto his talons (not of his own accord, of course). In the co-op mode, doing so will give you a point bonus. However, a number of gameplay flaws keep this from becoming a decent game. Much like in Metroid and Kid Icarus, the advancement is vertical instead of the horizontal scrolling of most games at the time. But like other games, there is no turning back when the screen scrolls up with your avatar. This could be passed off as making the game legitimately difficult if not for the travesty that is the jumping controls. Popo and Nana jump up just fine, but move very little on the horizontal scale when airborne. The only way to make some of the tough jumps is to get a running start. However, some levels will place you on tiny platforms that don’t allow for much running room, if any at all. This becomes even more problematic when playing with a friend, as much like in Contra, the screen will scroll up, regardless if both players are high enough for them to avoid death. Such a faux pas only serves to add insult to injury in a game with a vertical focus.

The music is somewhat indicative of the time it was released. The soundtrack is meager, consisting of a pathetic four medleys played throughout the entire game. In 1985, this was acceptable so long as the soundtrack was memorable and superb, with games like Super Mario Bros. setting the standard. However, the songs in this game consist of minimalist pings and low-key notes that span only a few beats. In summation, this is not the melodious quality that you’d expect from a large company like Nintendo.

The graphics aren’t any better. Each character only has a few frames of animation, with the enemies having about two or three frames on average. But perhaps one of the most noticeable blunders comes within the bonus stage. The words “Bonus Stage” do not fade away as one might think, but rather are engraved into the background. The timer also suffers this affliction, as instead of scrolling up with the player, two simultaneous timers are etched into the background, painfully evident in the introduction to the game. On a lighter note, the game does have a cute charm that some early Nintendo games had. While the animations may seem limited and the mistakes noticeable, this game has a somewhat redeeming quality in its graphics.

So all in all, this is not the all-star hit that you would believe. Monotonous gameplay combined with grating music and flawed jumping controls in a game with a focus on vertical ascension kill what could’ve been a sleeper hit of a game.


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