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Ice Climber Package Art

Ice Climber

Back when the NES -- or more specifically, the Famicom -- was still the greatest thing since sliced bread, Nintendo was throwing just about every game concept they could at the wall to see what stuck. But for every Mario, Link, or Samus who went on to international glory, there was a one-off character who'd go forgotten. But when Popo and Nana were ressurrected for a very unique appearance in Super Smash Brothers Melee, Nintendo fans everywhere suddenly wanted to know more about these cute little eskimoes and their ice climbing ways. And now they've got a second chance at stardom in Nintendo's Classic NES series.


It's easy to tell that the graphics have been spiffed up a bit from the version that appeared on the e-Reader. There's much less of that "squashed" appearance, especially in the character sprites. Still, this was one of the earliest NES games, so there's really not an outstanding level of detail.


Some nice, jazzy tunes float by in the background, and the action is punctuated with the typical assortment of arcade-style sound effects. Nothing too fancy here.


As you could tell from the title, Ice Climber is a vertically-oriented platformer. As one of twin eskimoes, Popo or Nana, you must scale a mountain filled with moving platforms, conveyor belts, birds, yetis, icicles, and sunbathing polar bears. You're armed with a hammer, which you can use to clobber anything that gets too close or to smash your way through the ice above and reach higher ground. If you can make it to the eighth "floor" of the level, the bonus round starts. You'll get forty seconds to hop your way through a cunning maze of platforms to snag vegetables and try to grab onto a giant bird for major bonus points. With a generous 32 levels to try and conquer, this game offers quite a bit of platforming fun.

Ice Climber would be an instant recommendation for any platforming fan if it weren't for the often spotty control setup. It seems to take a lot of momentum for Popo to get any height or distance from his jumps, which isn't always the easiest thing to arrange when you're trying to jump from one two-block platform to the next. There's also Popo's infuriating tendancy to fall straight through a platform that it looks like he'd landed on. Even after I thought I was adjusted to it, I still lost more lives than I care to think about by missing what looked like a solid landing.

The game boasts a few extras. Although you won't need it until you've really mastered the game, it's nice to know that a sleep mode has been implemented. You can also save your high score for posterity. This is a very welcome feature, as the high score is a pretty good indication of your skill level. You can skip straight to the last mountain from the title screen if you want, but breaking 50,000? That's impressive.


Don't let Super Smash Brothers Melee fool you. Popo and Nana are bloodthirsty rivals once they start scaling that mountain. It's a race to the top, and only one Climber can claim the winner bonus. If you let your opponent get too far away from you, you may find yourself scrolled right off the bottom of the screen and into oblivion. It's a great two-player experience, much better than the old Mario Brothers game that Nintendo kept recycling.

It's notable that the game can be played single-cartridge with either a link cable or the upcoming wireless link. It's notable that you can use this to temporarily give a copy of the game to a friend, much like the game copy feature in Ultimate Card Games. Once the link is broken, you can both play the single-player version separately. But with a game better played together, what's the point?


I enjoyed this game a lot more than I expected to, but it's still eclipsed by what would come later in Super Mario Brothers. If the controls were just a little tighter, it'd be a solid recommendation even for people with no particular interest in the NES Classic series. It stands as a worthy example of the NES's early years, but if you're not into retro, you can afford to skip it.

final score 7.0/10

Staff Avatar Ed Griffiths
Staff Profile | Email
"Nothing can kill the Grimace!"

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