Ice Climber (NES) Review

Ice Climber

Man oh man, do I ever dislike Ice Climber. I never played it growing up, Popo and Nana, the Ice Climbers, appearing in Melee was my first exposure to the series, and I didn’t even get round to properly playing it in any fashion until the mini-game collection known as “NES Remix” came out on the Wii U. Those short bursts didn’t convince me that the game was any good, and playing the full game now for this review certainly confirmed it… At least the Switch Online service meant I didn’t have to pay for the “Privilege”! Let’s take a look, shall we?


Ice Climber 4

Not the most exciting screenshot… I mean, not the most exciting game in general, really…

Ice Climber was released in Japan on January 30th 1985, with a US release on October 18th  that same year. Europe got the “pleasure” September 1st 1986.

The game, thanks to being an early “black box” NES release, has seen its fair share of re-releases over the years, mainly on virtual console.


Ice Climber 2

Climbing that ice!

You control your Ice Climber (Popo if you’re Player One, Nana if you’re Player Two) and start at the bottom of a mountain, which is just a series of eight platforms and a peak, and you have to use your mallet to break upwards through the layers to reach the top. You can use the mallet to attack the variety of enemies that stand in your way, though it only stuns them and sends them backwards, rather than getting rid of them permanently. Once your reach the peak you have 40 seconds to grab as many vegetables as you can, and for big points, jump up and grab the flying condor. Occasionally you’ll get slippery ice, and as you progress you’ll also get moving clouds that you have to jump on, which brings me to my main problem…

The jumping… Oh my God the jumping… It’s so bad! You jump in a very slow manner, and if you jump in one direction then it’s incredibly hard to judge where you’re going to land. Forget jumping accurately on small platforms or moving clouds… I’m just glad you can fail the bonus stage on the peaks, otherwise I’d never get past the first level! So frustrating…

Graphics and Sound:

Ice Climber 5

Some of the “classic” enemies. Well, I at least recognise the polar bear with the shades from Smash!

Graphics are obviously a quite basic 8-bit affair, given it was released on the NES in 85 I’m certainly not holding a lack to detailed backgrounds against it. It looks fine for the time period, but won’t light your world on fire now, even if you like the 8-bit look in games.

The sound track is also understandably very basic, a title screen track, a “starting the stage” track and a bonus level track, and that’s pretty much it. Sound effects are also basic, jumping makes a satisfying sound, it’s just a shame the jumping is so unsatisfying…


Ice Climber 3

Define “bonus”.

A bunch of vegetables have been stolen by a giant condor, and the two Eskimos have to climb various mountains to get them back… That’s it, thanks to being such an early game!

Thoughts Now:

Ice Climber 1

Oh look, there’s one of the moving clouds! That’s about everything there is to show!

Man, I try to like this game… so hard. But much like Kid Icarus, it was sort of good for its time, but it’s just… not aged well. The controls and specifically the jumping are just not good to play. I’m sure if you practiced enough you’d get used to the odd arc to the jumping, but I certainly don’t have the will to try…

2 Star Game New

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