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Canyon Climber (Apple II) artwork

Canyon Climber (Apple II) review

"Canyon Climber is the second-worst game ever made for the Apple II. The worst would have to be U.F.O., but let's not get ahead of ourselves. "

Canyon Climber is the second-worst game ever made for the Apple II. The worst would have to be U.F.O., but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The Devil's number is THREE, not six

Straight from the backside of Beelzebub! Here's a platform game from 1982 with three endlessly cycling screens which are randomly and confusingly put together to make your brain explode. You play a small individual with a large head who must apparently tool about in mountainous country whilst staving off angry goats fuelled by chaos theory, arrow-happy Injuns and birds who eject DEADLY EXCREMENT!

Why? So that you may stand on a small hill, do the happiness dance (BOOYAH!), and then be tossed back into the canyon (aka Hell) by the king of the goats for another round of suffering.

The travesty of design in every area of this game is astonishing. In mimicking and sampling game mechanics from anything and everything that was vaguely popular at the time - but with a complete lack of understanding for a single one of them - someone managed to create what must surely be one of the dumbest games in history.


Consider the first scene: A canyon of sorts rendered with particularly ugly full-screen colour. Four 'floors' of gangways and canyon-spanning bridges are connected by a fan of ladders. Dynamite must be manually set at both ends of each bridge by having your weird little man walk over them. Then he must hit the plunger at the top of the screen to detonate the whole mess for reasons that elude me. Sort of like the second screen of Donkey Kong, only... not.

Now consider the goats, the bloody goats! These hellspawn veritably rampage all over the screen, hooning back and forth along the platforms completely at random. In any infinitely small slice of time, a goat might change direction from left to right or vice versa. This direction change is not heralded in any fashion and it is instantaneous. Your lone defence against these bastions of cheapness is a puny jump affected by hitting the joystick button. And there is NEVER such a thing as a sure jump - the goat might reverse in the middle of your flight, resulting in you taking a goat-horn in the go-nad. Yes, it is %100 luck as to whether you survive any encounter with a goat.

You can try hiding in the corners, but a goat will materialise on you. Goats can even materialise on you at the exact moment you reappear in the level after losing a life!

Death is horrid. There's no manly 'Auh', but a descending gurgle as your man flails in ugly fashion and plummets off the screen with all the grace of a lobbed sack of potatoes.

The game is also shoddily programmed to the extent that the speed of the whole environment can accelerate or decelerate by a factor of up to %100 based on the number of moving objects on the screen at any one time. As you can imagine, this does wonders for your ability to react to killer goats. And when your spinning, gurgling corpse finally clears the screen, the goats seize all of the CPU power that was just moments ago fueling your death animation and use it to joyously romp about at warp speed! This is sooooo insulting. I swear I can hear them singing 'The Canyon Climber is dead! We are the mighty goats! The Canyon Climber is dead!'

Help me mother.

A second unbearably painful scene, much like the first one.

Five evil slopes which dogleg up the screen with the assistance of ladders must be ascended by the masochistic Canyon Climber. Indians known as Dances With Goats are cunningly parked behind each ladder and will unleash arrow after arrow at you in a monotonous rhythm. Mercifully, the arrows are not wont to reverse direction without notice in the way that goats are - but they are very long, and since they're moving downhill and you're moving uphill, jumping over them is really grueling. Just brush an arrow (or an Indian) and you will plummet to another gauche death. Back to the bottom of the canyon for you, oh paltry one!

If the prospect of jumping over five floors of obscenely long arrows is too much to bear, try grabbing one of the little shields at the edge of the screen. Now you can't jump, but you CAN absorb a random number of arrows. That's right, I said random! Who knows if it will be the first, second, or third arrow which will plough on through your crappy wooden defences to kill you? Since you can't jump in the meantime, and taking an arrow in the back is surely fatal, you might as well just run forward screaming and hope for the best. It's just more of that special Canyon Climber Design Magic (TM).

Level Three: Enter the Pokey Birds!

Just one more screen to survive before you get to do your funky dance at the summit of the mountain... canyon! Whatda? Nevermind.

A series of lumpy plateaus which wouldn't go astray on a golf course stand between you and a pretty ordinary graphic depiction of the sun in the sky, which marks the summit. As you leap from plateau to plateau, and intermittently fall to your death due to some shoddy scenery programming (where on earth are the edges of these lumps?) you will no doubt be smiling as you are molested by a flight of pokey birds who poop crazily all over the canyonside. Like most things in this game, touching the poop is fatal. Touching the birds? Fatal.

Still, relatively speaking this is probably the easiest of the three levels (I stress the relatively) and when you make it to the top, you will perform one of the most crappily amusing dances in videogame history. As you shake your head and say, 'By Jingo, this is alright', a goat enraged by your dancing antics will materialise (Hang on, how did he get up here? How did he make it past the Indians and the pokey birds?) and butt you off the summit.

NOOOOOOO!.. gurgling and flailing as stupidly as ever, your man is flung back down to level one, and an extra life is logically awarded to you for surviving a thirty storey plummet.

Now you get to do it all again.

The Truth

Think of the magic in the straightforwardness of a simple, charming adventure of a hero on a quest; of a sunny day. Now SCUTTLE IT.

The Canyon Climber hero is a fat-headed dag who appears to have sucked on one helium balloon too many. His quest is inexplicable and pointless, and so is everything else about this game. At any point you can ask yourself, 'Why am I doing what I'm doing in this game right now?' and you'll never be able to answer your own question without a huge stretch of credulity. Why blow up the bridges when I want to progress up the mountain? Why are the Indians so PO'd? Why are the birds so Regular? Everything's based on luck; whether your shield will splinter or not, or whether or not a goat will perform another miraculous 180 degree turn as you expose your groin to its horns.

The programmers of Canyon Climber obviously looked at games like Donkey Kong, and said to themselves, 'Well, they have ladders, they have these sloping floors, you generally have to climb to the top...' but then they just plonked these elements blindly into a new framework with zilch consideration for the way they must logically fit together to produce an entertaining game. Or one in which you can use any skill.

Final Words

When people say 'Heroes of the Lance'... when people say 'Altered Beast'... when people say 'Bokosuka Wars'... Bloomer just tosses his head back and laughs, laughs I tells you! BAHAHAHAHAHA! And not only because he likes all three of the aforementioned games. He just goes on to say, 'I've played Canyon Climber', and the conversation is over. Because it's true what ASchultz said: Games like this should make us feel grateful for how far we've come.

Thank you for reading my review; you've been a great audience.

-- Canyon Climber -- (A Bloomer Tinselfoil Demerit Winner) -- 1/10 --

bloomer's avatar
Community review by bloomer (February 05, 2004)

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