| Nowadays, Taito and Nintendo have almost completely separated genre-wise. Taito makes nothing but sequels to Puzzle Bobble, and Nintendo mass produces Pokemon games while letting the public wait years after announcing sequels to its other franchises. That is, before announcing that said sequel has been cancelled. But, at one time, both companies worked mainly with the same genre: 99 one-screen level, black background, old-school arcade platformers. And, while Taito gave us games involving strategy and reflex like Bubble Bobble and New Zealand Story, Nintendo was already far ahead, creating the conventions that define all platformers today. Namely cheap tricks to make the game harder, like conveyor belts, icy floors, and moving platforms coupled with frustrating jumps. And while some, like Donkey Kong took these aspects in moderation, others took them way out of hand.
Ice Climber was one of these games. Every single aspect of the gameplay is designed to completely piss you off. If it isn't the ice floors or moving platforms, it's the the conveyor belts. And to make things worse, your jumps are tweaked in such a way that you go up 5 times your body length, but can only move a tenth of that to the side. Which makes it a lot harder for our starving Eskimo friends, Popo and Nana, to take their eggplants and corn back from the condor living at the top of each of the mountains.
However, Ice Climber isn't as bad as it would seem to be at first. The two player mode is reminiscent of (although not nearly as good as) two players in River City Ransom in that you can either cooperate or compete. While you can't do anything as cool as playing baseball with a steel pipe for a bat and iron knuckles for a ball, the two ice climbers can either time their jumps to move up together and help each other out by killing enemies, or they can try to kill each other and go for a high score (as falling below the bottom of the screen will kill a player). Needless to say, the latter is more fun: in fact, Nintendo released Vs. Ice Climber for the arcades for that very purpose.
You can't expect much graphics and sound-wise from a game this old. The graphics make most of the enemies in the game unrecognizable; until I read the manual, I though that the condor was some sort of dinosaur. And the background, of course, is pitch black. The style of music on the title screen is similar to the original Mother's; jazzy tunes played by that weird synthesized Nintendo sound. However, the 15 second repeating pattern during gameplay is just plain annoying.
Apparently, Popo and Nana are the wussiest eskimos around. Anyone who could die from being touched by a seal probably shouldn't be climbing mountains all the time. Either that, or they're simply hallucinating. How else could you explain the flying penguins? Either way, climbing an icy mountain with nothing but a wooden mallet usually isn't a very good idea (although it might not be so stupid considering all the moving platforms to help you out).
Ice Climbers isn't a great game. If anything, you won't get bored playing the same levels over and over again: there's a stage select feature built in (press up and down on the title screen). But, on the other hand, it is a decent old-fashioned arcade platformer to pick up if you've somehow gotten bored with Bubble Bobble.
Rating: 2.2 out of 5
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