While many games today such as SNES's Legend of the Mystical Ninja (Goemon), Ranma 1/2 and Pocky and Rocky are considered too "Japanese" for the taste of many, and Crazy Climber may well have been the first game ever to be part of that group. The comedic looking climber aims to climb to the top of a building while avoiding bird droppings, a hilarious-looking giant Ape and the mad flower-pot-dropping doctor who attempts to knock the climber down with a pot, basket of fruit or a bucket of water. All the while, digitized voices shout phrases such as "Go for it!" and "Hurry up" which makes Crazy Climber one of the first ever coin-ops with voice.
Ok, everyone and their dog knows that VCS Crazy Climber is rare as finding Tanya Roberts without clothes on, but how about the game? If you strictly mean the gameplay, it's pretty good. Just don't expect many of the oddball and whimsical audiovisual qualities which served to entice many gamers the first time they saw the arcade game.
Here, the Climber is reduced to a limber-limbed stick figure with a triangular hat (he didn't even have a hat in the arcade version). The unique dual-joystick controls of the coin-op (which Atari could have incorporated into the game) are duplicated via an incredibly repetitive series of up and down joystick movements. Obstacles are equally mundane and graphically uninspiring. Both the bird with its bomb of dubious origin and the mad doctor are in attendance, but ever time he attempts to knock the Climber down with an object, all the animated graphics on the screen begin to flash like the ghosts in the VCS version of Pac-Man. So much for technical progress.
Like its arcade counterpart, the VCS edition grants players five Climbers with which to scale four scyscrapers. Climbers can only move up when the windows are open (represented by a black center in the middle of a blue, red or green frame). Every floor scaled earns between 100 to 400 points. Each round begins with 100,000 to 400,000 potential bonus points to be earned when the scyscraper is climbed and you're carried off by a helicopter. The bonus is reduced by 100 points for every 10 seconds of elapsed playing time. Another 100 bonus points are subtracted every time you fail to avoid an obstacle. The same falling debris will also knock a Climber off the building unless his arms are firmly gripping an open ledge. And another 100 points are lost each time you receive an electric shock from a passing neon sign or are hit by a girder (which will alwyas knock you to the ground no matter how firm your grip).
Asking players to avoid rather than overcome obstacles stands out as either the most frustrating flaw or a unique plus in this game, as it was in the arcade version. Parker Brothers steered clear of this dilemma in their Crazy Climber derivative -- Spider-Man, by allowing players to save themselves with web fluid.
While it's unfortunate that the VCS version is missing the handsome high-resolution graphics, the pitiful "Oh, Nooooooooooo," as the Climber falls from his perch, the giant gorilla and the bonus balloon, Atari did a decent job of retaining the feel of the arcade. It's too bad they didn't attempt a 5200 version, as it would've been better able to preserve the graphics and sound qualities of the coin-op, not to mention the dual-joystick control mechanism (with the dual-joystick holder that is used with Robotron and Space Dungeon). All things considered, VCS Crazy Climber is one of the better "extremely rare" 2600 games and worth a look if you're a fan of the original or a patient gamer.