Monday, November 28, 2011

The Great Gaymathon Review #46: Ice Climber (Famicom)

Game: Ice Climber
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
System: Famicom
Release date: 1985

It could and should go without saying that Ice Climber is unlikely to be everyone's cup of tea. Hell, it wasn't even my cup of tea until a month or so ago. Why? For me, it began and ended with the game's frustratingly stiff, Mario Bros.-esque jumping mechanism.

If you've never played this early Nintendo-published title, that's a problem because the point of Ice Climber is to help its parka-wearing, mallet-wielding protagonists--Popo is the guy, Nana is the gal--make their way from the base of some 20-odd mountains to their peaks. You do this by forcing them, via your controller's A and B buttons, to bound from platform to platform while bashing, or even avoiding, pesky enemies like tottering seals ("Topi"), swooping birds ("Nitpickers") and sunglasses-sporting polar bears. (For some weird reason, a blood-red condor stole Popo and Nana's cross-eyed vegetables and stashed them atop said snow-covered bluffs.)

Is the game's stilted jumping mechanism a deal-breaker? It will be for some, and it was for me originally, but it doesn't have to be. The key is to embrace and accept it. After that, things become much more manageable. You'll still struggle, of course, but it won't be a pull-out-your-hair kind of struggle--or at least it isn't for me.

That's because there's a lot to like about this game once you get over Popo's and Nana's leaping abilities (or lack thereof). For instance, there's the game's rather jazzy soundtrack. Its graphics are pretty nice, too, although a bit repetitive. My favorite part of this classic platformer, though? Those aforementioned veggies. What can I say? I like games with produce.

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts


Bryan Ochalla said...

One bizarre/interesting thing I forgot to mention in this review: In the Famicom (Japanese) version, Popo and Nana club cute, blue seals (ew!) as they make their way to the top of each mountain, while in the NES (North American and, I think, European) version they club yetis instead.

I can't decide if I should add this detail into the review itself or if I should leave it here. For the time being, I'll leave it here.

Viewtiful_Justin said...

I had no idea there was a difference between them. How interesting!

Umm...also? The soundtrack is way rad.

Bryan Ochalla said...

I have a feeling Nintendo swapped out the seal for the yeti to avoid hearing from animal-rights activists, Justin. That's nice and all, but I have to admit I have just as hard a time bopping the cute little yetis on the head as I do bopping the seals on the head. Strangely, I don't have a problem with bopping the birds on the head.

Also: All subsequent Japanese releases of this game -- or at least the GBA re-release -- feature yetis rather than seals.

As for the soundtrack being rad: Yes! It may be my favorite part of the game, to tell you the truth. So different from what you normally hear is such old-school games.

Sean said...

I think you hit the nail on the head there - the key to enjoying this game is to just accept the fact that the characters jump in a very difficult to control way. From then on, its not a bad game at all.

Marco Grande Arbitro said...

Ice Climbers: beautiful game, but I could never finish it ... In fact, I did end up in my brother!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Well, Sean, I think you're the one who got me to realize that I just had to accept the jumping mechanism as it is. After that, the game became a lot more enjoyable. Thanks for that! Now if I could just get a bit deeper into the game...

Bryan Ochalla said...

I hear you, Marco! I can only get to about the sixth or seventh stage myself before losing all of my lives. Still, I like playing it :)

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Funny thing about birds in games: I HATE THEM!! I'd bop any bird before ANYTHING else.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ha ha! I'm guessing you're not alone, Justin. A lot of people seem to have issues with birds -- both in real life and in games. I'm with you when it comes to birds in games, BTW. Of course, that's at least partially due to the fact that most birds in games are evil!

GameScanner said...

Hi Bryan,

I've been reading your blog a bit and must say you caught my attention.
Nice articles overall. Ice Climber was hard to play, but still I enjoyed the game. I'm a sucker for Nintendo and 8 & 16-bit games.

But the reason I'm posting this is to thank you for sharing such beautiful, hi-res scans! I'm obsessed with preserving (and sometimes restoring) video game box art.

Please, do continue your blog and share those scans. Especially Famicom ones. Just to let you know I fixed some of your scans and re-posted them here:

Credit is given obviously :) Just wanted to let you know. And if you have some more scans you would like to share, please let me know. I'd love to host them.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, GameScanner! Thanks for the nice comment. I'm glad you've enjoyed the blog so far. I'll definitely be reviewing more Famicom games -- and sharing scans of their boxes and manuals -- so keep an eye out, OK?