As a Nintendo 3DS Ambassador (an early adopter who paid the full $250 at launch for the handheld), I received a bunch of Virtual console games for free via the 3DS eShop a while back. One of those games was Ice Climber, a classic 1985 NES platformer that I really didn't spend much time with back in the day. Revisiting the game now however, I have a much greater appreciation for it.
Ice Climber stars Popo and Nana, blue and pink parka wearing Eskimos, who must scale a series of mountains that constitute the different levels in the game. In the single player mode, players take on the role of Popo, and the two-player mode pits Nana against Popo to see who can scale each mountain first. Standing in their way are eight layers of ice, and players have to break through each layer in order to jump up to the next level. Trying to stop them are yetis, polar bears and birds, who do things like fill in the holes in the ice, or even make the bottom of the screen move up, costing you a life if you're caught at the bottom. You also have to contend with falling icicles and conveyor belt-like patches of ice, all aimed at knocking you off the mountain, messing up your jumps, or running you into trouble. Once the eight layers of ice are navigated, there is a bonus stage where you must platform to the summit and then hitch a ride on a condor to get off the mountain. Falling during the bonus stage doesn't cost a life, but nets you a lot less points. You also get points for collecting vegetables along the way.
While the overall mechanics are simple, there is a lot of precision jumping and timing that goes into successfully making it up each mountain. I got lulled into a false sense of security after the first couple of levels, but the game gets challenging quickly. It's particularly difficult to get to the top of the bonus level of each mountain, something I rarely did.
Like a lot of classic platformers, it's easy to learn and difficult to master. It’s definitely worth checking out, but sadly if you’re not a 3DS Ambassador, you won’t be able to download Ice Climber on the eShop. Your best bets are finding the GameBoy version that was released as part of the NES Classics line, or downloading it through the Wii’s Virtual Console, as it is available there. Also, if you have the Animal Crossing game for GameCube, you can play the entire Ice Climber game within it.
3.5 out of 5