HAMSTER has brought numerous retro titles to Switch, but Arcade Archives Crazy Climber is the furthest it's gone back in time yet, with a game that actually predates Nintendo’s first console. Arriving in 1980, the year before Jumpman climbed ladders to rescue Pauline from Donkey Kong, an unnamed climber scaled the sides of tall buildings in Nichibutsu’s Crazy Climber. There’s no in-game story reason for this, but you get points for doing so and if you want more points, you’ve got to keep climbing.
In order to make it to the top of the building there are numerous things you must contend with, the first of which being the controls. Our protagonist is no Spider-Man so you’ll need to put in a bit more effort than simply pushing the control stick to crawl your way to the top. In fact you need to use both control sticks (one for each arm) as you use open windows to work your way upwards. You can also move sideways when required; buildings at their widest being six windows across. There is a logic to the controls (up to reach up, down to pull yourself up) but initially they can seem quite fiddly.
It’s possible to use a single arm to climb, but get into a rhythm with both sticks and your ascent will be much quicker. Arms can be reached out to the sides, positioning yourself between windows and enabling you to reach above a closed one to continue your climb, rather than move around it. Often moving around it is the best option however, and in order to shimmy left or right you must push both sticks in the required direction. After a while, the controls become natural, although there are occasions where you find yourself stuck between windows and have to think how to position your arms in order to move in your desired direction.
Visuals are unsurprisingly basic, but bright colours and simple but effective animation makes the action easy to follow and the dangers clearly displayed; death coming due to slow reactions rather than unseen troubles. Someone scaling the building without any equipment may be an impressive feat, but the residents are not happy about it. So unwanted is your presence that some will pull their windows shut, requiring you to change path or move quicker so as your makeshift handhold does not disappear. Other residents will drop plant pots towards you, which like a window slamming on your fingers will send you plummeting to the ground below. One way you can deal with these horticultural projectiles is to plant your feet (push down on both sticks) which will cause the pot to bounce off your head. It's very useful, but this move also requires quick reflexes.
It’s not just the residents that cause you trouble there’s also a fire-pooping bird and, incredibly, a large ape that moves from one side of the building to the other and will try to punch you off. Later levels features more items dropped at you such as girders, dumbbells and billboards. You may also come across electric signage with a detached cable. A small shock will simply change the colour of your sprite, with a larger one being another way for you to drop from the building and lose a life. The only help you may find is from a balloon that--if grabbed--will transport you up a few floors.
Points are awarded the further you climb and should you make your way past all these dangers and reach the top of the building, you’ll find a helicopter hovering about. Grab on to it before it flies off and you’ll receive a points bonus, with further points awarded based on how quickly you climbed the building. Whether you grab the helicopter or not, you’ll soon find yourself at the bottom of the next building (four in total), ready to climb again.
There’s some simple music at the start and end of stages as well as when the bird and ape make an appearance. In between these moments there’s just the basic sound effects as you move upwards as well as from the bird and ape as they attack. Dropped items also make noises, with dumbbells/girders being quite irritating, but the hollow sound of a plant pot bouncing of your noggin works well as does the subsequent reaction from the climber and the yelp should he be falling.
Having got the hang of the controls you can set about improving your score. Having reached the top of the fourth building, you are sent back to the first and the cycle repeats until your lives are gone. As scoring high is the only aim of the game and there are no continues, the original arcade mode and the Hi Score mode are very similar. Dive in to the options and the original mode can be made a little more difficult by increasing the score at which you are awarded an extra life, but it can also be made easier by increasing your stock of lives to six (rather than three). Alternating two-player is also available should you wish and HAMSTER’s usual Caravan mode is also present which limits you to five minutes of playtime. However you play, the aim remains to improve your score and each mode has an online leaderboard for you to try and improve your placement on.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, the first level is fairly straightforward, although unexpected closing of windows and the sudden appearance of dropped plants can still cause trouble. From the second level onwards the challenge increases with more items dropped, more windows closing as you approach them and an increase in narrow sections of building. There’s no ending sequence to play for, but there’s replay value in the game from trying to improve on your score, particularly if you just missed out on your goal.
Crazy Climber is a game with a simple premise: just climb! There's a good range of dangers to contend with and although the game shows its age, the action is easy to follow. Audio is also simple, but only the falling dumbbells and girders annoy, with the rest having a simple charm about them. There's enjoyment in finding ways to improve your score whether climbing more buildings or climbing the same number, but faster. The nature of the controls mean it doesn't have the same pick up and play simplicity of a Space Invaders or Pac-Man, but Arcade Archives Crazy Climber can still provide high score chasing fun.