what comes to mind when I say NES? Probably Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda and Duck Hunt regardless of rather you have played those games or not. Ice Climber is one of those games no one really thinks about, but should. Ice Climber is one of those games that is an addictive classic for those who played, and...well, everyone else just knows about it because of Super Smash Bros.
Ice Climber is a platformer in which you control either Nana or Popo, depending on which controller port you use, in an attempt to scale mountains and collect vegetables. Why vegetables? Who knows. Why did Mario collect umbrellas in Donkey Kong? I really don't think they put a whole lot of thought into these concepts back then. They just said "Hey, we need something worth points." and someone else said "Let's slap eyes of some eggplants." The goal is, as with most games of this era, to get the highest score possible on that mountain.
You start each level on the bottom of the mountain. By jumping into the blocks of the mountain above you, you chip away the rock, making way for you to, hopefully, jump up to the next tier. Along the way you will encounter enemies such as birds, who will attempt to end your upward journey mid-jump, to Topis, small yeti like creatures who obnoxiously refill spaces you've created with new ice or rock. These enemies can be defeated, although some only temporarily, by smacking them with your hammer. Once you reach the icy peak of the mountain, you have successful completed the level, however you will be given 40 seconds to complete the bonus area. This consists of platforming on usually very tactically placed unbreakable platforms, most of which have a vegetable for you to collect. By reaching the very tip top of the summit, and carefully timing your jump to grab the talons of the condor, you can increase your final score exponentially. While completed these bonus stages is not mandatory for completing the mountain, it is essential to master if you want a good score.
You can of course, be joined by a second player, who will control the other Ice Climber. Want to help each other get really good scores? You can do that...or you can be a total prick and prevent them from getting anything. The real fun of Ice Climber comes from trying to top your own or someone else's score, either as a whole or an individual mountain. You can play any of the games 32 mountains any time you want, or try to progress through them in a linear fashion. Some of them are simple and straightforward, but some of the later mountains will push you to your platforming limits.
The controls are as simple as run, jump, hammer but the handling is a bit weird. Nana and Popo don't handle quite the same as Mario and Luigi. It's going to take you a lot of practice to get used to the way they jump - high, but not a lot of distance. a lot of people get discouraged when they first play this game because of that, but it's definitely worth the effort of practicing.
Ice Climber is a challenging and worthwhile platformer that is often overlooked in the NES' library of never ending platformers. If you have not played the game, I highly recommend at least trying it. Aside from playing it on the NES, it is emulated in the Gamecube game Animal Crossing, was a 3DS Ambasador's program download and is available on the Wii's Virtual Console as well as the Gameboy Advance. No matter how you choose to play, if you can overcome the obstacles of this games challenge you will be rewarded with an amazing NES classic.
By the way, in Japan Topi's were baby seals. PETA loves Nana and Popo!