Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Piff's What Ifs? 1- Ice Climbers Wii

Piff’s What-Ifs? 1- Ice Climbers Wii

This is a new feature we are trying out. It’s called “Piff’s What-Ifs”. In it, I, or any other crew member, can pitch their idea for a Wii game they would like to see. You can also send in your own “what-if?” by posting in this thread or sending us an e-mail at Please tell us what you think of this kind of feature in the comments below.

“Ice Climber”- an obscure NES that is only relevant today because of Smash Bros. It’s a game about platforming up a mountain, taking out polar bears with mallets, retrieving vegetables and most importantly, getting a high score. A platform without any real narrative to speak is already pretty different but I think the platforming wizards at Nintendo have the creativity to create a unique game that, along with Super Mario Galaxy, can help to revive the dying genre.

It’s just you, Nana and one giant Zelda-dungeon style mountain. No overworld or filler to provide pointless context. You climb mountains. You are the Ice Climbers. Controls are fairly simply. You control Popo with the nunchuk and direct Nana with the pointer who will dutifully follow you otherwise. With the pointer. Z and B buttons swing their respective hammers or icepicks or whatever tools they may acquire. Finally, by using the d-pad you can pull up a window to choose from a set of commands to give to Nana. Those are just controls though and the beauty of pieces like this is that they can be changed if necessary. It’s gameplay and design that are important.

The mountain is broken up into levels that get harder as you progress upwards. Every few levels or so you would reach a summit and save, represented by a cute cutscene about making camp. One of the many complaints of the original Ice Climber was that the jumping and block-breaking gameplay was tedious and repetitive. So, by having the mountain be divided into individual “rooms” each level could introduce a new gameplay mechanic, although I’m sure ideas would be recycled at some point.

Obviously classic Ice Climber gameplay would have to be translated into 3-D. The best solution would be to use Super Mario Sunshine bonus level style pinpoint platforming. Blocks would have to be broken, conveyor belts would have to be crossed and enemies would probably have to be whacked. In these levels Nana would not be issue or maybe not even present like in single player Ice Climber. Most levels would probably end up being like this as classic platforming can be very versatile with enough unique level design.

Then there are the other types of levels. The amount and variety of these levels could make Ice Climbers something like a single-player or co-op minigame collection with really long and engaging minigames. One level could simply be to clear out a horde of enemies in order to make your way upwards. It would awesome if you had access to the Ice Climbers Smash Bros. moveset to make the combat more interesting. Another level could be to scale up the face of the mountain avoiding enemies like the honey-comb walls in Super Mario Galaxy. In areas with high probabilities of avalanches stealth gameplay might have to be used. Maybe you could even capture a condor to race another condor or use it like a Deku Leaf to fly across a chasm Wind-Waker style.

These next two level ideas I think have a lot of potential. First you must familiarize yourself with the concept of parkour, or moving your body to a destination as efficiently as possible. It’s starting to become popular among today’s games like Mirror’s Edge, Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia. In these levels an avalanche occurs leaving only minutes to escape a collapsing part of the mountain. There would be no enemies. In order to escape you would have to platform out of the room using the constantly shifing floor, ceiling and walls. The tether between you and Nana would help you keep up your crucial momentum and hammers and icepicks could be used to break obstacles or create footholds. What could be great about these levels is that they truly takes advantage of 3-D space for platforming which is why I think Ice Climbers Wii should run on the Super Mario Galaxy engine.

The final level idea I had was something similar to a point and click adventure like Zack and Wiki or the outstanding WiiWare puzzle game Toki Tori. The level itself would be one big puzzle that needs to be solved in order to escape. Enemies would only be there to add to the puzzle or the difficulty. These levels could make us of items and rely heavily on the different commands you could give to Nana.

With so many different level ideas it would probably be wise to give players to option to skip certain ones. Also, levels could always be replayed for a higher score to make it more like the original Ice Climber. Maybe there could also be boss fights like one against the giant Condor of the original. Winning one would most definitely give you an eggplant or one of your other stolen vegetables. Finally, it would be entirely possible to play the game by yourself but the parts where Nana is prominent could work with two players as well. In the parts where she isn’t as prominent, maybe she could serve as the second wiimote in Super Mario Galaxy, doing little things to help Popo along the way.

Wow! I didn’t think it was possible to put so much thought into Ice Climbers. But I do think the concept has potential. This is only one way Nintendo could bring it back. We’ve already gotten our Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Smash Bros. If Nintendo can’t come up with new IPs, maybe they can bring back a franchise as old as this. Three words: Ice Climbers Prime.



TheAssailant said...

Wait, would it still be called Piff's What Ifs if I did one?

JMinor said...

no, it doesn't have to

Anonymous said...

This is a good idea guys. I likes it. but assie's askies does not ring the same bell.

TheAssailant said...

lol, ASCII

Anonymous said...


otherwise pretty kewl. posted some suggestions on the forums.