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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?

Ice Climber Review
  • 7/10
    Graphics - 7/10
  • 6.5/10
    Sound - 6.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Gameplay - 7.5/10
  • 7/10
    Lasting Appeal - 7/10

Final Thoughts: GOOD

As a launch title, Ice Climber delivers the goods. It features arcade action that has plenty of levels to traverse. Plus, a 2-player co-op mode makes this game a blast to play.

User Review
4/10 (1 vote)


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 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.

5 thoughts on “Ice Climber Review

  • Blue Hedgehog

    I am very excited for this game! I don’t have a video game console yet, but I am planning to get one for this Christmas, and Ice Climber seems to be perfect game for the holidays. It could be really fun to play with friends, help each other, or try to race ahead just to get more scores than the other player.

    What do you think, is Ice Climber better than Mario Bros. from the Arcade Classic series? Which game is more fun to play with friends in two-player mode?

    • Craig Majaski

      There aren’t too many 2-player simultaneous co-op games available for the NES at the moment. As it stands, Ice Climber (I wonder why they didn’t name it Ice Climbers, since there’s two of them?) can be a fun time with another player helping out. It can also be frustrating waiting for the other person to catch up, or if they move too fast. I’d say it’s a fun experience and worth the purchase.

      Now, you’re wondering about whether Mario Bros. is a better game than Ice Climber. If I had to pick just one of the two to own, I’d lean toward Mario Bros. as I really enjoyed that game in the arcades and the NES Game Pak is a good conversion. I like the gameplay mechanics in Mario Bros. more as well. However, Ice Climber does pack in a bit more variety. So, really it can be a toss-up as to which one to purchase. Both can be had for as low as $19.99 if you catch a sale, so it’s not too terribly expensive to own both.

      If you’re really looking for a game to blow your socks off, you should check out Super Mario Bros., easily the best looking game on the NES at the moment. It’s packed with levels that scroll and huge animated characters. There are fun power-ups and the game is absolutely stacked with secrets to discover. This one doesn’t feature 2-player simultaneous play, but it’s a fun time nonetheless.

      Happy to hear you’ll be getting a NES soon. Do you know which package you’re going to get? The Deluxe Set or the Control Deck?

  • Blue Hedgehog

    I want to get the Control Deck package, because it comes with the Super Mario Bros. Game Pak, and that is the game that I want to play the most.

    Thank you for your advice! I think I will choose Ice Climber for Christmas because it fits the winter mood more, but get Mario Bros. later.

    • Craig Majaski

      I think that is the smart choice. It’s not only a cheaper option, but it comes with the best game on the system (so far). Ice Climber is also a good choice. You’ll have hours of fun with it!

  • Blue Hedgehog

    This is my favorite game on my new Nintendo! I wouldn’t say that Ice Climber is the best game on the system, because the game isn’t as advanced as many others (like Super Mario Bros. and Ghosts ‘N Goblins), but there is still a lot to like about this game, from the simple, yet engaging gameplay to the fantastic level design, especially in the later levels.

    I see that many people struggle with this game, so here are a few tips that might be useful for new players:

    Don’t rush! Give yourself a few seconds to plan your next steps, and always be cautious!

    Avoid unnecessary risks: just like a real ice climber, always think before you act!

    Find the best route! There are usually multiple ways to get to the top, some of them are easier, some of them are harder. As the levels are constantly changing in the game, sometimes you have to wait for the Topis to build you the easy route.

    Let the Topis do their work! The levels are constantly changing in the game thanks to the hard work of the Topis. Once you reached a floor it is better to have solid ground under your feet, so you don’t fall down accidentally in a small hole after a bad jump. So do not disturb the Topis, but take advantage of their hard work instead.

    Take advantage of your environment! Things like moving floors and clouds can be both hazards and saviors: if you run to the opposite direction on the moving (conveyor belt) floor, you can build up momentum and jump much further. Clouds can provide a temporary solid ground under your feet when you are standing on a single floor tile next to a wall and have to break the floor above your head: just synchronize your jumps with the clouds and you won’t fall down.

    Don’t give up early! The game might seem difficult at first, but once you get used to the controls and learn the game mechanics it becomes much easier and much more fun to play.

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