Ice Climber Review

Action SeriesPut on your insulated parka, get your hiking boots, and grab your hammer. It’s time to play Ice Climber! You must scale the dangerous icy mountain while avoiding elemental hazards, strange beasts, and treacherous obstacles. Luckily you don’t have to go it alone. Put that second controller to use by having a friend or sibling join in on the frantic action. Choose your partner well as he or she could be an ally or a foe, depending on how competitive the game session becomes.

From the Ice Climber title screen you can select 1 of 32 different mountains to scale. The higher the number is, the more difficult the excursion. After selecting the difficulty level, a Condor will fly from the bottom of the stage and scroll all the way up to the top of the level. It has hidden vegetables that, if found, garner bonus points. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, we need to make it up the tricky mountain.


The main characters are Popo (wearing the blue coat) and Nana (wearing the red coat). Each carries a hammer that can hurt enemies and break blocks. Pressing left and right on the directional pad will move them accordingly. Much like the arcade game Mario Bros., if you move all the way to the edge of the screen and keep on walking, you’ll come out the other side. The “A” button jumps and the “B” button swings the hammer. When jumping, the hammer is held above the head and can break blocks and harm enemies in its path. The main goal is to reach the top of the course, so oftentimes it will be essential to destroy blocks immediately overhead to create a hole and then jump up through it to reach the next floor.

Standing in the way of you and success are level hazards and enemies galore. Some enemies, like Topi, walk around the level rather slowly at first and are easy to dispatch by swinging the hammer and sending them running off-screen. They are able to fill gaps in the floors, so they’re always working against your natural upward progression. Nitpickers are much more aggressive and unpredictable as they can fly about in any direction and often make a beeline for you. Careful jumping and quick reflexes will be needed to kill these menacing birds.


As you progress, the levels become more difficult. Oftentimes the terrain poses the greatest challenge with floors that automatically move, unbreakable objects, and moving clouds that must be jumped on at just the right moment to reach the next platform. Later stages have icy stalactites that will shake and fall off, hurtling down toward your character. You instantly lose a life if one makes contact. While it can be handy to have a second player around to kill more of the enemies, it also takes more coordination, as the players must stick relatively close together. If one goes too far up the mountain without waiting for the other to catch up, the screen will scroll and the other player will lose a life. Clear the eight different floors and you’ll make it to the bonus round. Collect veggies to nab extra points, and if you see the corn be sure to nab it for an extra life. This section is timed, so make it to the top and try to hitch a ride on the Condor for even more bonus points.


Graphically the game is colorful and looks like it runs off the Mario Bros. engine. It has the same black static background and some of the floors look like they’ve been copied over as well. There aren’t a lot of enemy variations, which can be a bit disappointing given the number of levels. Still, the game performs well, especially for a launch title and it has that arcade-style look to it that’s awesome to have at home on the television.

The music is very catchy despite there being only a few tracks in the game. The bonus stage music is so memorable that it will haunt your dreams. All of the sound effects augment the action on-screen and nothing seems out of place.


Ice Climber is one of the better launch games. I like that it has a 2-player simultaneous co-op mode. No one likes to sit around and wait for a turn after all. If you’re looking for a fun game to show off the NES and one that’s great for multiple players, this is definitely one to get. There are plenty of levels to keep you and your friends busy. One minor quibble – why isn’t the game called Ice Climbers, since there are two of them?


Added on May 25, 1986

Computer Entertainer Logo

Taken from the April 1986 issue:


Computer Entertainer awarded Ice Climber 3.5 out 4 for graphics and 3.5 out of 4 for quality of game play and entertainment value. It received a Recommended rating.

Computer Entertainer Review Guidelines:






♦ = ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAMS (1st set of diamonds = quality of graphics; 2nd set = quality of game play and entertainment value)

Any program for a given system is compared only to other programs for the same system. In other words, all C64-compatibles are judged separately from Apple. Some programs, which are virtually identical for multiple systems, will be so noted. When we review software for more than one system, we will note differences and which system we reviewed.

Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He’s currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.

Craig Majaski

Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He's currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.

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