Review: Rock N’ Roll Climber (Nintendo Wii)

Cue the 80s guitar riffs!
Rock N’ Roll Climber
Genre: Sports Simulation
Developers: Vitei, Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 08/10/2009

Giles Goddard may not exactly be a household name, but if you were a fan of Nintendo during the late-SNES/early-N64 era, it’s a name you might want to become more familiar with. He had a major hand in some of Nintendo’s most innovative games from that era, games such as Star Fox and Mario 64, and was the main mind behind the classic 1080 Snowboarding. After a few years away from the spotlight he resurfaced at GDC 2009 to show off his new WiiWare title, which was, of all things, a rock-climbing simulator. It wasn’t just any rock-climbing sim either, this was climbing infused with the power of rock n’ roll! So get that lighter in the air because we’re about to turn this video game evaluation up to 11!

Actual photograph of me reviewing Rock N’ Roll Climber. Also pictured: My bandmates waiting for their turn.

1) Story/Modes

Rock n’ Roll Climber delivers a whopping two modes, Challenge and Free Climb. Challenge has you trying to complete a series of climbs within a time limit, and Free Climb is the same thing without the time limits (for those of you tired of all that damn stressful challenge fouling up your games). There are a decent handful of courses to climb, but in the end it doesn’t add up to much content. The fact that the game only costs 8 bucks softens the blow a bit, but there have been other 8-dollar (or cheaper) WiiWare games that have offered a lot more than this.

Story Rating: Poor

2) Graphics

This game’s about as visually appealing as a bikini car wash at a leper colony. It’s not like this game required grandiose, complex environments; all they needed to pull off was a cliff and a person to climb it, but no matter how low you set the bar, sometimes people will still find a way trip over it. The cliff looks nothing like anything you’d see in real life; it’s nothing but a flat grey wall with spitball-like blobs attached to it.

The character models are even worse. Both have neglected to, you know, bring along any rock climbing equipment on their rock climbing expedition, opting instead to scale sheer cliffs in their street clothes, and what street clothes! The guy is so dorky you’ll long for the day when TV makers introduce wedgie-vision, and the girl looks like she buys her clothes at K-mart while dreaming of the day she can afford Hot Topic. Absolutely no effort has gone into attempting realistic animations; instead each of your character’s limbs moves completely independently, giving your the character the look of a marionette manipulated by 5-year-old.

I like a flexible woman
Actually one of the less ridiculous poses you’ll get yourself into.

Graphics Rating: Worthless

3) Sound

Given the overall quality of this game, it seems somehow fitting that during many of your climbs the only thing you’ll hear is crickets loudly chirping. Yes that’s right, a game called Rock N’ Roll Climber has almost no music to speak of in it. Your reward for successfully completing a climb is a less than 5-second guitar riff that sounds like it was lifted from a mid-90s Genesis game. That’s it. The soundtrack of Rock N’ Roll Climber in its entirety. Astounding.

Hopefully this doesn’t become a trend. I’m not really looking forward to playing along to the sounds of wind gently rustling over the prairies in Rock Band 3, or having the action in Brutal Legend accompanied by soothing whale songs.

Sound Rating: Worthless

4) Control and Gameplay

The concept behind Rock N’ Roll Climber is a simple one: you have to climb up a cliff covered with obvious foot and handholds and get to the top. That’s it. The complexity comes from the game’s control scheme.

Her parents just don't understand her love of rock climbing

You hold the Wiimote and Nunchuk out in front of you in a vertical position and hold down the B and Z buttons to grip onto the wall. In order to grab a new handhold, you release either the Z button on the nunchuck or the B button on the Wiimote to let go of your current hold, then tilt the Wiimote or “Ëœchuk in the direction of the new handhold you want and, hopefully, your character will reach toward it. Controlling your character’s legs is ideally done with the balance board. You shift your weight to one side of the board to make your climber lift their opposite foot, leaning forward will make your climber straighten our their legs once they’re secured to a foothold, and leaning your weight back will make your character bend their legs. You can play without the balance board if you want, but I don’t recommend it, as you still have to control both your arms and legs, except now they’ll all be confusingly mapped to the Wiimote and Nunchuck.

If this control scheme sounds rather baffling, it’s because it is. Nintendo has always claimed that motion controls make games more intuitive and accessible, but Rock N’ Roll Climber is the exact opposite. It took me over 20-minutes to get a hang of the game on even the most fundamental level. My character was like a spider on the inside of a wet toilet bowl; it’d feebly struggle and contort, but never actually make any progress. Eventually I got the hang of things, but even then progress is meticulous, slow, and kind of exhausting. The game never really changes either, aside from the addition loose or slippery handholds added in later courses, and these really just serve to make the game more annoying.

Don’t get me wrong, there are flashes where the game is almost fun. Where you can see what the designers were going for. Unfortunately, the game ultimately comes off as a rough and unfinished tech demo, which needed about a half-dozen more layers polish before being released.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Mediocre

5) Replayability

About halfway through the first climb I knew I had made a horrible mistake downloading this thing. If you decide to stick it out and play through all the courses you might get a couple hours out of this game. Trust me, you won’t be back after that.

Replayability Rating: Bad

6) Balance

This game is the worst kind of frustrating in that the challenge doesn’t come from the course design. These cliffs should be fairly easy to navigate. No, it’s the wonky controls that hinder your progress. Worse, since you’re using your whole body to control the game you don’t even have the luxury of throwing the controller against the wall in frustration. Well, unless you’re the masochistic type.

Balance Rating: Mediocre

7) Originality

Hey, it’s time to actually say something nice about the game! Don’t get used to this. Rock climbing is relatively unexplored territory for video games, and the control scheme used is certainly ambitious and unique, even if it doesn’t work that well. There’s nothing quite like Rock N’ Roll Climber out there, and honestly, I hope there never is again.

Originality Rating: Good

I hope he falls

8) Addictiveness

You know that feeling when you order an expensive dinner in a restaurant, take that first bite, realize you should have ordered something else, and suddenly that meal you were looking forward to a minute ago has transformed into a mountainous pile of food you dread having to finish? That’s Rock N’ Roll Climber, except my meal lasted a few hours, required me to stand on a balance board contorting like a spaz, and then I had to write a 1500 word essay about my experience afterwards.

Addictiveness Rating: Worthless

9) Appeal Factor

Well, it’s published by Nintendo. Granted, it may be the worst thing they’ve ever published, but their name being attached is all a small handful of people will need. Pity the Nintendo fanatic.

Appeal Factor Rating: Dreadful

10) Miscellaneous

Listen Nintendo, I know there’s a strong temptation to help an old friend out when they’re down. Trust me, I’ve let my share of old friends sleep on my couch. I know you and Giles Goddard had some good times in the past, but when he shows up on your doorstep with a game this terrible and you go ahead and publish it anyways, you’re only enabling him.

Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless

The Scores
Story/Modes: Poor
Graphics: Worthless
Sound: Worthless
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Good
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Dreadful
Miscellaneous: Worthless

Final Score: Bad Game

Short Attention Span Summary:

Given the names involved in development and the publisher, this game is a shockingly lousy effort. Rock N’ Roll Climber is a baffling combination of obtuse convoluted controls, dull course design, hideous presentation, and all the genuine rock n’ roll spirit of an episode of Dora the Explorer. If you’re wondering why Nintendo of America is doing their best to make sure nobody even notices this game has come out, well, now you know.



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