Review: Ice Climber (NES)

By Drew Wilson

Ice Climber is one of the earliest releases on the NES. We bust our way through the ice to find out if this action game is worth a replay.

Ice Climber was released in 1985 and was one of the earliest releases on the NES.

The storyline appears to be that the animals featured in the game have stolen food. It is up to you, the Ice Climber, to reclaim the various mountains the food resides by capturing the condor that appears at the top of the mountain.

The controls are simple: “a” for jump and “b” for attack. You are only equipped with a wooden mallet.

To get to the top of the mountain, you have to jump up and destroy parts of the platform one level up. Then, you jump through the hole you created to get to the next level. Some of these chunks are just simple chunks of colored ice. Other chunks have lines running through them. This apparently represents land that moves the character one direction or the other (the only way to find out which direction that is is to simply jump onto it and find out the hard way). Finally, there are parts of platform that are unbreakable (typically solid parts that have a square design in them).

To add to the complexity of this game, you’ll also get moving platforms that seem to be clouds. These clouds travel at different speeds and sometimes are found in batches along the way, causing you to move from one unbreakable moving platform to the other.

Along the way, you’ll encounter enemies. There’s the white enemy that wanders in from the sides of the various levels on the mountain. You can quickly dispatch of them with a well placed swing of the mallet. Sometimes, these enemies will actually patch holes you created in the level above by dropping more ice on them, so quickly moving through the levels can be the key to your success.

Another enemy is the bird that flies from level to level. Sometimes, you can defeat them by a well timed swing of the mallet, but other times, you can simply jump up and hit them with your hammer if the height is right.

Occasionally, there is the polar bear enemy you can encounter. The polar bear doesn’t necessarily kill you like other enemies directly, but it does seem to bounce you around, possibly sending you back down the mountain a certain distance.

The screen gradually moves up depending on how high you’ve traveled up the mountain. If you fall below the screen threshold, you lose a life with the exception of the bonus area.

If you reach a certain level on the mountain, the last remaining portion will be enemy free. The caveat to this is the fact that you have only 40 seconds to reach the very top and capture the condor. If you fall below the screen’s threshold or you run out of time, you will not receive the level bonus points.

Personally, I found this game to be good, but not great. The one thing that really irritated me is the odd jumping pattern. You can jump extremely high, but you can hardly make any horizontal distance (about 3 blocks worth depending on how much of a running start you get – quite often less then that. This gives the game an artificial difficulty due to the high risk of falling down for not making it over a very small gap. Still, the simple nature of the game does make this game enjoyable and allowed me to make new attempts at climbing the mountains.

Graphically, this was good all around for a game made in 1985. There is no shortage of Atari games that have far worse graphics and the pixel size is small enough to get the graphics to a decent level. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the stark black background, the colorful pallet gives this game a certain eye candy flare.

The audio department was good. The music that embeds pretty much all of the game gives the game a polished feel. While the music is simple in nature, it is effective. The sound effects were OK. They may remind gamers of the sound effects of Super Mario Bros, but Mario on the NES came several months after this game. So, overall, this game was passable to overall good.

Overall, I’ve heard this game being referenced a lot, so I thought I’d give it a spin. It wasn’t too bad. It has that classic NES feel to it with the title screen and menu system which is a feature in many earlier NES game titles. It’s an interesting concept that employs moveable screens. Overall, this game wasn’t bad.


Furthest point in game: Mountain 6.

General gameplay: 15/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 62%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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