Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Retro Review: Ice Climber

Ice Climber was released for the NES in 1985, but most people only know of the game thanks to 2001’s Super Smash Bros. Melee for the Game Cube. In order to provide more characters from Nintendo’s past, the characters of Popo and Nana were added to the fighting game’s roster, and like Marth and Roy, introduced gamers to these characters for the very first time. Unlike Marth and Roy however, who were stars of games that were only released in Japan at that point in time, the Ice Climbers of Popo and Nana did have their game released stateside…everyone just forgot about them.

There’s a pretty good reason for this too, Ice Climber is a terrible game. The object is to help Popo or Nana scale a hazardous mountain where there's food at the top, but you’ll ultimately be leading yourself into the depths of a snow filled hell. The challenge in this game doesn’t come from the bears or yetis you can strike with your hammer, it doesn’t come from the icicles that threaten to impale your little climber. No, the challenge from this game comes entirely from the atrocious jumping mechanics.

Much to their credit, Popo and Nana have one hell of a vertical; little buggers... well... fleas…snow fleas really… When you press the A button they make Mario look like he’s got rickets. And they’re carrying giant hammers to boot. Remember what Mario was doing with a hammer in Donkey Kong? Couldn’t jump at all. Popo and Nana though, 20 feet in the air, easy. They’ll knock out chunks of the ice ceilings above them and make it up the mountain in no time. Or they would if not for the fact their horizontal jumping is weirdly terrible. If you’re not moving forward with any kind of velocity, then when you’re jumping, you’re going nowhere from left to right. And even when you are moving before jumping, you’re lucky if you get yourself another quarter of an inch horizontally in the air. No, if you want to make a jump you’ve got to be going all out before jumping and then maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to jump far enough to reach the next platform.

Even then, sometimes you’ll just fall through the platform in general. See, you can’t just land on the edge of the platform, you’ll clip through it even if you clearly land on top of it. The “sweet spot” so to say for the game to register your landing is actually located several pixels inwards from the edge. The end result is you frustratingly launching Popo and Nana to their deaths by watching them fall through the edge of a platform that they very clearly landed on.

And ever since the Ice Climbers landed on Super Smash Bros. Melee, Nintendo has been trying to ram them down our collective throat. Ice Climber has been released on virtual console, was included as part of the 3DS Ambassador Program, and the game was included as a demo or”masterpiece” in Smash Bros. Brawl and Wii U.

The one good thing that could be said about the game is that it did allow for a simultaneous, co-operative, two player mode. If you and a friend wanted to, you could both scale the mountain and work together to chip away at the blocks; one of you as Popo, the other as Nana. At the time, this was unique considering most games made you alternate turns between players. Looking back at it now though, why would you want to play the co-op of Ice Climber when you could play Contra or Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers instead?

There's nothing very memorable about the music, the graphics, the characters, any of it. Even with low expectations in place because it's an old-school NES game, there are so many things this could do better. In the same respect there are so many other better things you could do with your time and money.

If it weren't for the simply awful jumping controls and mechanics, this game might be more enjoyable. Instead, they are frustrating, obtuse, and give you absolutely no reason to play this game.

Final Score: 2/10 or 1 Sad Popo out of 5 Sad Popos.

Sad Popo property of Pikamander2: http://pikamander2.deviantart.com/

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