Ice Climber

It’s time to chill out with Popo and Nana.

Review Date: February 7, 2021

Release Date: October 18, 1985

Platform: NES

Developer: Nintendo

Genre: Linear Platformer

Anecdotes: My brothers and I ended up owning tons of Nintendo games. My mom usually just left us alone to play, but occasionally, she’d watch, and even rarer, she’d play. There were two games she really hated (and still hates): Ice Climber and Elevator Action. She said Ice Climber was one of the stupidest games she had ever seen. She couldn’t understand why we would play it. Well, there were two reasons. The first was that two of us could play at the same time, even though the third could only watch. The other is that while my mom was right that the game was stupid, it was also fun.

Ironically, it’s a perfect day to play Ice Climber. The temperature outside is -7 as I type with a forecasted high of 6. The snow is piled so high that it looks like Antarctica out there. It’s supposed to be sunny, so I’ll be on the lookout for a polar bear with sunglasses to hit the streets of my area today.

Here’s a sampling of what Ice Climber has to offer: moving cloud platforms, Topis (one with an icicle), a Nitpicker, and numbered floors. Not shown are the conveyor belt floors.

Description: You play as Popo, or Nana if playing as a second player. Popo’s job is to climb the mountain and reach the condor at the top. The bottom half of each mountain is eight floors of trying to get to the top by chiseling out parts of the floor and/or jumping through openings. Two player games have both players on screen at the same time. The game employs Ratchet Scrolling, going up only, and falling off the bottom of the screen loses a life. After getting above the eighth floor, the rules change. Popo has to collect vegetables and jump into the condor’s arms for bonus points. Only one player can do that. Falling off the screen will end the mountain, get the points tallied up, then move players on to the next mountain.

The first vegetable that shows up is the dreaded eggplant. Luckily, there are no wizards nearby.

Positives: A polar bear comes out and causes the screen to scroll! I really appreciate the detail of how the Topis come out first to find holes in the floor, then run offscreen, and come back with an icicle. With a few exceptions, the developers stuck to the ice theme and the game tries to keep that theme throughout.

That’s an excited Popo right there!

The mountains are numbered 1-32. Popo and Nana can start on any mountain, but the vegetables will always start with the eggplants. This allows players to see and play any mountain they wish, but also prevents the point system from being abused. The mountains are still played in order, though, and completing mountain 32 sends players on to mountain 1. Nintendo loves their eggplants and mushrooms; both show up in this game.

It’s the old Polar Bear with sunglasses! If Popo or Nana is on floor 5, they’re done.

Negatives: The Ratchet Scrolling WILL cost Popo lives, even though there was solid floor down there. This is made worse by an absolutely awful jumping mechanic and bad play control. Vertical movement is fine, but horizontal movement is terrible. This causes one of two problems: Popo will miss on the way up and chop out a block, or Popo will miss on the way down and fall right off the screen. It’s especially difficult in the bonus area. Extra lives are tough to find. The only way is to grab an ear of corn, which will show up after finishing five mountains.

Grade: C

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