Tuesday 31 December 2019

Ice Climber (NES review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1985

Ice Climber is an action-platformer that was part of the Black Box series of games.

Supporting 1-2 players (co-op), the objective is to use a hammer to break the arctic ice above you and then climb to the top of the mountain. There's 32 mountains to conquer and various enemies such as polar bears and condors try to stop you from succeeding. The controls are easily the biggest sticking point, as they're incredibly stiff and don't provide you with the finesse needed to react in an efficient and reliable manner. Similar to Psycho Fox (1989, Sega Master System), movement relies on momentum so your character always requires a run-up; however, the inputs aren't particularly responsive and you don't have much control over mid-air adjustments leading to many missed platforms and lost lives. The collision detection isn't the best either, as you'll often leap straight through the edge of a platform. Where the game does shine though is in its ever-changing level design, as with such a simple concept, the idea of leaping vertically ad nauseam could easily have become monotonous; instead, new layouts and mechanics (such as moving floors and enemies that bridge ice gaps you've created) are introduced to keep you guessing, in turn, helping to improve your skills and on-the-fly decision making. I also like how you can choose any of the 32 mountains at any time, as it allows less skilled players to at least see what the game has to offer, while giving pros a chance to skip ahead to more challenging levels. The music features the primitive Black Box style tunes you'd expect from the era, but the melodies here are very catchy and do a great job complimenting the on-screen action perfectly.

Ice Climber is a decent game for short bursts thanks to its above-average level design, but the fickle controls do ruin some of the fun. Also, while the core mechanic is solid, it's not enough to sustain an entire game, and when you factor in the title's short length it's doubtful that many people will want to return for repeated play-throughs.

Random trivia: In 2004, Ice Climber was re-released on the Game Boy Advance as part of the Classic NES Series.

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