Monday, July 30, 2012

NESquest #15 - Ice Climber

(Ice Climber, October 1985, Nintendo)

Let's face facts. If it wasn't for Super Smash Bros, there are characters that would've gone either forgotten or unknown to most. Today, we look at the game where the cute little kids in parkas more commonly known as "who the hell are they?" made their debuts, Ice Climber.

Remember this face kids. This man = badass

Ice Climber was the first game programmed for the Famicom by the criminally underrated Kazuaki Morita. While Super Mario Bros may have been Miyamoto's vision, without Morita, it would've stayed that just that. Ice Climber was his "warm-up" prior to taking on the lead programming duties of future blockbusters you may have heard of.  All three Super Mario NES titles, both NES Zelda games, Star Fox 64, Ocarina Of Time, and The Wind Waker are just some of what Morita has given to the world. Quite the resume for a rarely recognized genius no? Intrestingly, Ice Climber was a pack-in title for many European NES releases, naturally making it more popular among those regions than anywhere else. Debuting as one of the "Vs" arcade cabinets before its NES release, it didn't exactly set the world on fire even though it seems better suited for that medium with its emphasis on co-op play. 

What was Nintendo's hard-on  for eggplants and hammers early on about anyway?

Onto the premise of the game, you play as Popo, an Eskimo youth attempting to reclaim food from a condor who resides at the top of a mountain. There are eight levels of each mountain to climb and the only way to ascend is to leap through holes you make with a hammer. Different blocks have different purposes as some are breakable with one hit, some are seemingly made of adamantium, and some have the ability to send you flying in certain directions. Of course, since Miyamoto was involved, there's going to be some strange shit going on too  Your enemies are Topis, useless fuzzballs that just get in your way until later stages, Nitpickers, a flying bird that debuted in Donkey Kong Jr, and a surreal polar bear sporting shades and pink shorts. The bear only struts his stuff if you take too much time advancing destroying the lowest current level with a stomp. Once you make it to the top, a timed bonus game takes place, where Popo and Nana, if two players are involved, race the clock to grab their food and get sweet revenge on the condor by jumping into it head first. At least, that's what I got from it.

It's the Icee Bear!

But how is it? Okay, fine, you win, I can't stall forever. Trolls come together, lock hands, and join in unison in a "NESquester bloz" chant, because I really can't stand this fucking game. Oh, it had its fair share of chances too. Ever since this quest began i earnest, I have played the 18 launch games and pretty much only them and gave Ice Climbers at least 100 levels of play time trying as hard as I could to like it. I wanted to be one of the majority but it just wasn't meant to be. The controls are horrible. If Popo isn't standing in a very precise spot, you're not going to come close to where you meant to land. The jumping will really make you want to murder a unicorn in the bonus stages too, where you are given around thirty nine seconds to struggle up a fourty second course, so miss once and the game may as well cut to an 8-bit middle finger. The challenge can be merciless in the later stages and a level select is present at from the outset to show you how hopeless it all becomes. That's not to say that I can't see its charm as the graphics are really well done and the music is up there with the better echelon of launch title tracks. The controls are impossible to get past and I present Clu Clu Land as a game that also had bizarre control but was at the least fun, learnable, and had replay value. 

"Hey Popo! 25 years and still noone has found where we hid the body of that red parka wearing prick who hogged our box art sloplight. Hip Hip HOORAY!!!"

5/10 Not the best but far from the worst, the decent co-op mode and originality save it from a lower score. I realize just because I don't care for it doesn't necessarily make it a bad game and a fiver does seem fair. The jumping mechanics are just too frustrating to get beyond and when a game pisses you off more because you can't make simple jumps than the challenge of the game itself, it's not a fun experience. What else should games strive to accomplish other than fun?

Cosplay for the broke!

Everyone knows these cute lil' boogers returned in a major way as the most oscure of the characters brought back for Super Smash Bros, so there's no point in going into that but if you'd rather one hell of an intresting interview with Morita himself:

No shit, in the original Japanese version, you could club a baby seal!


  1. Right about this game. If they cleaned up the controls (or gave it the same engine as SMB) this would have been a really good game, but they didn't, so it's not.

    How many black box games are left?

  2. Clubbing the baby seal - yup, that had me cracking up when I read that. Hard to argue about any of the comments though, especially the control as you and Adam touched on.

  3. I remember this game as if it were yesterday, it's a cool reminiscence ;)

  4. in my opinion this game is a classic of nes. immediately after the mario

  5. is one of my favorite childhood games, I miss her sometimes

  6. NES it was good, these times of this game. I remember it very well