A port of the cult classic coin-op, Crazy Climber has the honor of being the first Atari Fan Club exclusive game. Why Atari decided not to make this game available to the general public is unknown, but due to this Crazy Climber is one of the rarer games in the 2600 library. Perhaps Atari thought the game had limited appeal, or maybe it was a marketing ploy to get people to join the fan club? Either way, many players were denied access to this interesting game.
For those of you not familiar with the arcade game (which was fairly rare), Crazy Climber is a vertical scrolling climbing game in which our daredevil hero must scale the tallest skyscrapers in an attempt to. err. be the first man to scale the building I guess (ok so the game plot wasn't that deep). However your task isn't going to be an easy one, your arch-nemesis The Mad Doctor (didn't he used to fight Batman or something?) is out to foil your attempt at fame and glory (what else is an arch-nemesis for?). Along the way you will also have to dodge loose girders, electric signs, and closing windows on your trek to the top. Oh did I forget to mention the giant condors?
The movement scheme in Crazy Climber is unique and frustrating. The arcade game used two joysticks, one to control each arm/leg. Movement was accomplished by moving one leg/arm up, and then moving the other leg/arm up (to sort of pull yourself up). Since many people found this control scheme too difficult (which was one of the reasons so many veteran gamers like the arcade game), Atari decided to simplify things for the home release. The 2600 version combines both of the arcade joysticks into one, so all you have to do to move is push up and down on single joystick. Crazy Climber will crouch when you push down and stretch when you push up, completing this movement cycle will cause Crazy Climber to move up one section. This same motion is used to move left and right on the building, but tends to be a little more difficult. To have any chance of surviving you must rapidly move the joystick up and down (or left and right) in a quick rocking motion, however this can be difficult and painful to do. If you move the joystick too quickly the game won't pick up your movement and throw off your rhythm. Trail and error is the only way to figure out the best rhythm for climbing.
While the gameplay may be top notch, Crazy Climber's graphics leave alot to be desired. The graphics are blocky, questionably colored, and generally unappealing (as were most early 2600 efforts). The 2600 was capable of doing much better, but at the time Crazy Climber was developed (late 81/ early 82) these graphics were considered to be the norm. The sound effects are decent (a few beeps and short tunes when various bad guys appear), and the music before each stage is actually fairly catchy. Too bad these musical interludes are few and far between.
If you willing to forgive the lackluster graphics, Crazy Climber has alot to offer. The game provides a stiff challenge even for seasoned veterans, just like the arcade game. For those of you who tried to like the arcade game but were turned off by the difficult control scheme, the 2600 version may be the answer. Interestingly, when Crazy Climber was first advertised in AtariAge it was shown in the then standard black label, but by the time it was released (many months later) it sported the new silver label style. Why did Atari wait so long to release Crazy Climber? Perhaps the answer lies at the top of one of those buildings?