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  • I

  • still remember when the cast of Smash Bros. Melee was being announced. Peach? Excellent.

  • Gannondorf? Please take my money. Mewtwo? Now were getting serious. Ice Climbers?

  • Who the hell are the Ice Climbers?

  • If you blinked - or weren’t born at the time - chances are you missed the Ice Climbers

  • debut appearance in the mass of US launch titles for the NES back in ‘85. And the

  • N64 launched with... two? C’mon, Nintendo. Buried in that list - between Hogan’s Alley

  • and Kung-Fu - was this little nugget, detailing the trials and tribulations of one or two

  • parka-clad mountaineers on their daring quest to recover a payload of fresh vegetables from

  • a tyrannical condor-pterodactyl-thing.

  • See, back in ‘85, that’s all you needed. Some big bird, on the lam from Jim Henson,

  • swipes some produce from a couple kids and absconds up a strange, technicolor mountain,

  • inhabited by cute little Yeti fluffballs who meticulously repair the floors and pathways

  • of their home. Unfortunately, youre not the cute little Yeti fluffballs. Youre

  • the kids what got their lunch swiped. But the bird didn’t take your mallets. IT’S


  • That mightve been some flowery lead-up, but here’s the net effect: You climb. You

  • go up. And after eight strata of enemies, the occasional divebombing bird, icicles,

  • and a particularly perturbed polar bear (complete with coolguy shades and pink boxers), it’s

  • Bonus Stage time! Which is like scaling time with more nutritional value. You slam your

  • way up to the peak, bouncing off of clouds, reclaiming your rightful foodstuffs, and preparing

  • to face off against...

  • that feathered jerk. Who doesn’t actually do anything. He just flies around and waits

  • for you to sock him in the undercarriage. Do so and it’s a sizable bonus, fail (by

  • falling off the mountain during the bonus stage) and you have to deal with a crying

  • little Ice Climber during the entire score reckoning. You horrible, horrible person.

  • Here’s the problem, though... as could be expected from a game withIcein the

  • title, the controls are stone-cold difficult. Jump timing is razor-thin, midair control

  • is painfully realistic (that is to say, there’s barely any), collision detection on ledges

  • is shaky at best, and your falls accelerate so fast it’d make Guts Man’s head spin.

  • This is by no means easy, but it is unspeakably unique. This is platforming taken to an almost

  • absurdly literal level. You need to burrow up through platforms, then establish yourself

  • on platforms, defend platforms, and ascend to the next platform.

  • While it’s pretty rare to come upon an NES cart of this classic, there are a number of

  • ways to experience the game itself, primarily in the wake of Nana and Popo’s reemergence

  • in the Smash Bros. Series. The original was made available as a series of e-Reader cards,

  • ported to the Game Boy Advance as part of the NES Classics series (viz the version youre

  • looking at now), hidden within the bell-and-tree-stump-littered world of Animal Crossing, and finally, released

  • for the Virtual Console on either the Wii or 3DS. Of those 18 NES launch titles, Derek’s

  • already covered two: Super Mario Bros. and Excitebike. Ice Climber makes three. I think

  • all 18 should be represented here on Undertow, don’t you?


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