Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Game 25: Codename: ICEMAN - Introduction


I can't help but notice it says 1990 on the bottom of the title screen, but every site I go to suggests it was released in 1989.

If there was any doubt that 1989 would be another year of Sierra adventure games, let me squash that right now. While 1988 had five games from the genre giant, the year ahead will have no less than six, with Codename: ICEMAN being the first cab off the rank. There’s something I should mention though before I begin my usual introduction, and it relates to the order in which I’ll be playing the games. As it can be very difficult to find out exactly when games were released, particularly when they were released in pre-internet days, I’ve been playing through each year’s games in alphabetical order. In this instance that means I’ll be playing Codename: ICEMAN first when it was actually released last. Here’s a list of the SCI engine Sierra games in (from what I can tell) was the order they were released to the public in 1989:

Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon
Hero’s Quest: So You Want to Be a Hero
Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals
The Colonel's Bequest
Codename: Iceman

The more observant among you may have noticed there are only five games in that list, and that’s because Manhunter 2 was also released in 1989, despite still being built on the old AGI engine. I have no idea what month that game came out and therefore have no idea where it really fits into the timeline. Why do I mention all this? Well, since quite a few Sierra employees are connected to many of the above titles in various ways, it’s safe to assume that there would be some sort of progression in the application of the technology. With that in mind, I guess it would have been nice to play the games in chronological order. I may incorrectly state that Codename: ICEMAN was pioneering in some way, only to find out later that one of the games created earlier had already included that element. When I reach the next “The Year Ahead” post, I plan to at least attempt to put the selected games in chronological order rather than solely alphabetical.


A fairly inviting cover, but who thought putting blue writing on a blue background was a good idea?!

Enough small talk, let’s get on with the show. Codename: ICEMAN is certainly not one of the most well known Sierra efforts, and from what I can tell, it’s also not one of the most loved. I’ve not played or even seen it before, so I can only hope that it connects with me in a way that it didn’t with players of the day. It’s probably most renowned for being Police Quest designer Jim Wall’s first attempt at making a game outside of the series he brought to life, and also for having a large portion of the game take place in a submarine. Just like the previous game’s Jim had worked on, Codename: ICEMAN takes a semi-realistic approach, demanding the player follow strict protocol if they are going to be successful. It appears to be the submarine simulation sections that left players feeling disgruntled, so it will be interesting to see how my experience is affected by them.


No that fine looking action man is not Bob Stewart. That be me!

Most interestingly, since Jim had no Navy experience to go with his vast Police force knowledge, he called on Naval Officer Bob Stewart to make sure the details and protocol were as close to reality as the game mechanics would allow. Programming was handled by Pablo Ghenis (who was one of the designers of the SCI engine), J. Mark Hood and Doug Oldfield, all of whom would go on to have a hand in many future outings. Jeff Crowe, Gerald Moore, Kenn Nishiuye and Cindy Walker were all part of the graphics team, just as they were on Hero’s Quest earlier in the year. Finally, Mark Seibert once again handled the music, which is no surprise since he seems to have done so for just about every game the company developed in this era (including Space Quest III, Hero’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry III , all made in 1989).


Speaking of fine looking gentlemen...well...they can program!

I’ve got my hands on the game (which I’ll be playing through DOSBox), the original manual, as well as a submarine navigation chart that came with it. It’s all pretty scary to be honest, and it doesn’t fill me with confidence that I’m going to enjoy this much. The manual launches straight into detailed protocol that I assume must be followed precisely, and the submarine control panel descriptions seem incredibly complicated. If I have to know even a quarter of this stuff to play the game I’m going to have my head in the manual almost permanently. There’s no mention of my character’s background or any events that have recently taken place, so I assume everything will be revealed once I start playing. Finally, I uncovered one page of a Codename: ICEMAN comic online, but I’ve not been able to uncover the rest. If anyone can do it, I’ll be generous with the CAPs. “Attention on deck!!!!” Oh crap, I’ve gotta go!


This is the sort of thing I expect to find in simulator games, and it's also why I don't play them.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've recently written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 points (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle unassisted (see below for an example). If you get it right I will reward you with 40 points in return (it's going to keep going up until someone beats me)! It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Multiple readers can predict the same score, but will be rewarded a decreasing amount of points if it turns out to be correct.

Example Bet:
Bet: "V nz erq, V nz qrnq, vs abhtug ohg urnq fubhyq or pnyyrq qrnq.
Qb abg fyrrc, va ubhfr lbh perrc, whfg pyvpx zr sbe gur uvag V xrrc."
Gur punyyratr vf frg: 20 PNCf

Extra Note: Once again, Lars-Erik will gift the next readily available game on the list to the reader that correctly predicts what score I will give this game. So, if you predict the right score (or are closest), you will get 10 CAPs and a copy of the Quest for Glory collection from GOG! Good luck!


51 comments:

  1. Since I won last time with Chamber of the ridiculously titled game (I'm kidding, I kinda love the B-movie/sci-fi serial title) I don't think I should be in the contest, but I wanted to put a score vote in anyways for CAPs.

    I do not have fond memories of this game and I expect that to come across in the final score. The premise is very unique, but premise alone will not save the game I expect. I don't remember there being much of a story. It is a Sierra game, so the general gameplay will be up to par I suspect.

    In the end I expect this to be one of the lower scoring games... 43.

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  2. No honest idea about this one, but it's still worth a try. I've only heard of it by name and not sure what to expect from it so I'll go a bit higher than Mooki but still in the low Sierra grades.

    My guess : 47

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  3. Please make sure you play the game with MT-32 soundcard enabled - newer DOSBox builds can emulate the soundchip... well, rather good.

    The difference between this and Adlib is night and day, if you need some convincing, I can record the title theme from both soundchips.

    And, uh... 44. :)

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  4. Sierra games in general have fared quite well, but you might dislike the submarine bits... I'll still guess 50, because even Gold Rush scored that much.

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  5. Rushing to take 42!
    Oh, and the writing on the cover actually has a metallic finish, but it can't be seen clearly on the screenshot. And the letters and images are also in relief -- all in all, a nice cover!

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    1. Erm, serves me well for not refreshing... I'll go with 41!

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  6. I say a nice round 40. We were never able to finish this game. There was some bug we hit every time we tried to play it. Of course, this was forever ago, so I don't remember what it was.

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  7. There are many potential problems with the game (it's quite short, most puzzles are just procedures from manual and the simulator part), but I nevertheless liked the game quite much back in the old days.

    So I say 51.

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  8. I'll take a WAG somewhere between the current scores and say 48.

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  9. I'm going to be a little optimistic here, because I'm a big Sierra fan and this was one of their best ever years.

    Final Score: 54

    I think it's going to do fairly well, but not challenge for the top spots. Hopefully the submarine bits won't be too bad.

    Not decided if I'll play along yet. I might give it a bit of a go, but I never got past the sub part so I haven't got high hopes I'll do any better now (although this time I should be able to find the manual!)

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  10. Never heard of it. I like the setting though, and I'll admit to having high hopes for this one in terms of how much I like reading about it.

    The Mad Gamer: 40
    Charles: 41
    Pacpix: 42
    Mooki 43
    Knurek: 44
    Novacek 45
    Alfred n the Fettuc: 47
    Sarah: 48
    Canageek: 49
    Ilmari Jauhiainen: 50
    Fenrus: 51
    Andy_Panthro: 54

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  11. Okay - I'll go with 46, purely because its in the middle of whatever everyone else was guessing, and I think this game will score lower than Police Quest which got 52.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. I didn't like this one, but I think the score will be in the mid-40s, which are all taken. I'll lowball at 39.

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  14. Meh... all the 40's taken... I'll go with 52 then. Never played this one but I'm confident of Sierra.

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  15. I'll go with 46, even though I'm almost certain it'll go a bit lower than that.

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    1. Or, apparently I won't :-) It probably won't go as low as 38, but I'll have to do with that as my pick.

      My real guess would have been 42. I recall the game as having annoying gameplay and a weak story. Even if the atmosphere is quite nice.

      Delete
  16. Umm, 37 then. I seriously don't think it will get high enough for the fifties, but I realistically think somewhere in the low forties.

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  17. Oh, I got riddle!

    Vg'f gur haurycshy uvag fxhyy sebz gur Cunagnfzntbevn, evtug?

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    1. It is! I really thought that one was going to take a while to solve! Did you know the answer straight away or did it require some thought and / or Googling?

      Congratulations unimural!

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    2. Nice work. My first guess was Ted? from Day of the Tentacle but he didn't fit all the clues.

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    3. Based on the timestamps between my messages, it took me 1 hour 20 minutes :-) Initially I was really baffled, I mean, most adventure games include creeping in a house. But I suppose the macaberish word choices helped my subconscious first to start thinking of a red skull and then later of the game. Instead of telling my why the database handles keep dying with no apparent pattern to it.

      I did do a quick google to verify that I was correct.

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    4. The only memorable adventure game skull I could think of was Murray!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9xLoTXC5fk

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  18. While it's not exactly an adventure game, I'm very excited that Bioforge has been released on GOG!!!! For some reason that came has stayed with me despite playing it only once when I was about 20.

    Has anyone else played it?

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    1. (raises hand) One of my all-time personal favorites, actually. :-)
      We played it with friends and we still quote it from time to time. Indeed a ground-breaking -and very underrated, IMO- game that built upon what made Alone in the Dark a revolutionary masterpiece.

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    2. I only remember the very beginning of Bioforge... something involving an arm.

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  19. Hmmm...I just had an idea. It's obvious that everyone ends up choosing a different predicted score to what they really think, just so they'll be in the running for the prize.

    Maybe from now on everyone should pick what they really think and then if multiple people have the correct score at the end, I will figure out a transparent way to pick one at random to receive the prize.

    Thoughts? Any other suggestions to stop the current trend?

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    Replies
    1. That is probably a good idea. I find it amusing that no one is guessing 43 after I did even though I specifically said I can't win the prize. I really think it will score around that point and am just trying for CAPs.

      As for a transparent way to pick between potential winners...

      What you need is a random number generater that is not under your control or the control of any of your readers, but that can still be checked easily by all parties. Perhaps you can use the XKCD.com geohashing algorythm to determine the winners? Each one who correctly predicted the score would give a random number guess for a specific future date. The one who comes closest to the randomly generated GPS coordinate using the geohashing algorythm wins.

      I love XKCD so this popped into my mind.

      Delete
    2. You could ask the traditional gamer in the group:

      http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/

      It records a roll history for your account, and you can comment each one when you roll it.

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    3. lol, you're not the only traditional gamer Canageek. I still had my baby teeth in when I first started pen-and-paper 1st ed D&D under my ghoul DM of an older brother (I am not a game elitist however, all versions of D&D have their pluses and minuses, and it doesn't matter when you came in so long as you're a fun person to play with).

      The very first character's name that I can remember was "Super-Star!" Laugh all you want, but I was 5 and that was an awesome name to a 5-year old.

      At any rate, glad to see that you are implicitly agreeing with me Canageek that a random number generator outside anyone's control is the obvious fair way to resolve the issue.

      Never heard of the one you site. I'll have to check it out.

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    4. I was a bit older then that when I started; Dad ran my first game for me when I was in grade 5.

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  20. I remember playing Bioforge! I'm pretty sure I only got about halfway through it, though, due to being terrible at the fighting parts. Maybe I should revisit it when I get that far.

    I think it's a good idea to encourage people to pick the same scores. Although if I picked again I maybe wouldn't bump it up that much. I liked the intentions of this game, but like PQ2, the movie-style plot means you're forced down a fairly linear path and you don't get much freedom to explore. I think you might find some of the frustrations you encountered from the first part of PQ2 resurfacing as well.

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  21. I think most folks are under rating this one, by putting it in the 40s! I can't recall any super unfair parser issues or hidden timers that leave you wondering 'what the heck am I doing wrong', it's got standard Sierra graphics and inventory, sound, etc, plus an added unique factor of its partial simulation. That being said.. I really only played the game to completion once, so the story may be what holds it back, still it's going to at least make more sense than Sci-Fi and what not.. so I'm placing it firmly at.. 55.

    Also in addition the manual there was a map that was packed in with the game. I don't recall whether it had any puzzle related importance or not, but if you don't have the Codename Iceman Map along with that manual, you may want to find a copy of it Trickster.

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    1. The map is important! Although I have to admit I had a pirated version back then and did not know about the map.. still I managed to solve the particular puzzle with a real world atlas I found in our bookshelf! What a feeling of accomplishment it was :)

      The map can be found quite easily from internet.

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  22. This is a game I remember vividly from either advertisements or someone else having... but I never played it, sadly. I may play along with you this time! We'll see, starting a new job tomorrow, playtime may decrease suddenly.

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  23. New sale on GoG: http://www.gog.com/en/promo/deponia_2_preorder_promo_18_10_12
    Deponia point and click adventure games 40% off for the next 18 days.

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  24. Ahah. Now that I have dug my Code Name: Iceman stuff out from every other game manual I have laying around.. I shall play along!

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  25. Also, a less then complimentary but funny replay of the opening of Gabriel Knight; The Beast Within. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9uw7OeXBPU&feature=plcp

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  26. Just though I'd mention that Lori and Corey Cole (Quest for Glory creators) now have their Hero-U Kickstarter up and running here:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1878147873/hero-u-rogue-to-redemption

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    1. Finally! Thanks for the info, Jarikith!

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    2. No problem! Look for me there! :)

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    3. Looks really interesting. And if I understood correctly, the game even seems to take place in Silmaria, the game world of QFG5 . I just wonder what familiarities they will e able to include, that are not copyrighted by Activision (or whoever..)

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  27. I'll do 46. I know several people have guessed it already, but there it is.

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  28. I'll guess 38. That screenshot looks quite daunting!

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    1. Sadly you have to do that before Trickster puts up his first post on the topic. He is getting close to starting a new game though (We think) so stick around!

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  29. If you want to play along, Codename: Iceman can be streamed from Archive.org at: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Codename_ICEMAN_1989

    Note that you can't save in the streaming version of DOSBOX they use, but if you want to give it a go with zero set up, give it a try.

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  30. Is that William Shatner on the cover?

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    1. He does have a similar face, now that you mention it, but I doubt it, since the screen would be screaming about his involvement, if they'd gotten him to advertise the game. Plus, I think at that time Shatner was already ... how to put it discreetly ... incapable of wearing the original Star Trek costume.

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