Saturday, 17 November 2012

Game 25: Codename: ICEMAN - Won! - Part 1

Johnny Westland Journal Entry 6: “I saved the Ambassador! After leaving behind the USS Blackhawk, using an explosion as a diversion, and then making my way to the compound unseen, I was able to make contact with the female agent. In an incredible coincidence, that agent turned out to be Stacy, the woman I spent the night with in Tahiti! She gave me directions and access to her apartment, where I disguised myself as a caterer and then executed my plan to enter the building where the Ambassador was held hostage. Everything happened quickly once I got in, but somehow I stayed alive and got the Ambassador out in one piece. I’ve earned some serious medals for this mission, but more importantly, I’ve now got Stacy by my side. Life is good, and I’m going on vacation again. This time I won't let them disturb us!”

Boy was I glad to finally swim away from the submarine...

Sixteen and a half hours!!!! That’s how long it took me to finish Codename: ICEMAN. That’s three and a half hours more than Zak McKracken and Leisure Suit Larry 2, which were the joint leaders prior to now. It’s not even like I got all that stuck on specific puzzles throughout the game, although I’ll describe some below that had me scratching my head. The real time killers were the “mini-games” and the parser, which screwed with me numerous times. I imagine if I played through from start to finish now I could do it in about two to three hours, but I could be well off with that estimation. Anyway, the home stretch of the game contained some more traditional adventure game puzzles, which had been sadly absent since Tahiti, but even so this post is unlikely to be gushing with praise.

...only to die moments later!

At the end of my last post I’d just put on my diving gear and left the USS Blackhawk using a diver vehicle. I’d turned the game off in protest after the diver malfunctioned due to a missing washer I could never have known about, leaving me to die in the deep blue sea. I knew exactly where I would find the washer that was needed to repair it, and I also figured I’d need one of the wrenches I’d seen in the engine room drawer. After restoring to the engine room, I first “checked” the diver in the same way I “checked” the patrol car in police quest, being informed that it was “running fine except for a slight vibration”. I tried listening to the vibration as well as looking at it, but it was only when I typed “check vibration” that I was told it was “coming from the shaft”.

Even if I had of checked the diver, a slight vibration doesn't seem that bad does it?

“Checking” the shaft revealed there was a nut and washer missing that would secure the prop, but I knew that wasn’t going to be enough. I’d seen wrenches, nuts and washers of various sizes, so I measured the shaft to find the diameter to be ½ an inch. I went off to the machine room and collected ½ inch nuts and washers, then collected a ½ inch wrench on my back through the engine room. I tried to think about what command I would use to fix the shaft. “Fix diver” or “fix shaft” resulted in “you will need to be more specific”. “Put washer on shaft” ended up achieving what I wanted, and “put nut on shaft” continued the success. Using the wrench turned out to be more challenging!'s damn cold in here you know!

I tried to “use wrench”, “fix shaft” “use wrench on nut”, etc. etc., but wasn’t having much luck. Finally I got it with “tighten nut with wrench”, but these parser limitations really do make what might otherwise be fairly satisfying adventure style puzzles tedious and frustrating. How did they think it was ok to only allow one specific command for actions when numerous others make total sense while remaining within standard Sierra parser standards!? Well, the good news was that I now had a repaired diver, so I set out to go blow this drilling rig up again. I entered the water and began swimming from screen to screen. I’d kind of hoped that the path to take might become obvious, particularly as I knew the general direction I needed to go (283 degrees). Instead, things got really weird! I’d be travelling straight ahead and yet the Heading and Yards seemed to be going up and down randomly.

Heading: F#$% knows! Yards: Anyone's guess!

I thought perhaps I was supposed to enter the heading into the diver. I tried “enter coordinates into diver” and about twenty other variations, but nothing worked. What was I missing? I then figured the likely thing was how many yards away the rig was from the ship. Was I supposed to have found this out too while using the periscope? Is that even possible with a periscope? I saved my game, then restored back to the periscope scene. I tried everything I could think of to get distances to the rig and the mainland, but couldn’t do it. I really wished at this point that I knew something about submarines, and after spending another twenty minutes aimlessly swimming around in hope of just running into the rig, I decided to request assistance.

Making up words is funnerific!

I put a request for assistance comment up on my last post, explaining my current predicament. Shortly afterwards, Ilmari directed me to a previous ROT13 discussion between Charles, Jarikith and himself. It turns out I wasn’t the only person having trouble with this section. Charles was in the same boat (sorry)! After Charles had cleverly described his situation in the form of a limerick, Ilmari had replied with one of his own. “If the problem is just navigation, the solution is triangulation, landmarks are of assistance, find out angles and distance, diving won’t be tribulation.” Well that confirmed my suspicions that figuring out the distance to the landmarks was the key, but how? Out of desperation, I thought I would ask the radio and sonar guys if they knew the answer.

Do I really have to ask for everything around here? I mean, you all realise I've never done this before right?!

While I wasn’t convinced this would work, it did! Talking to the sonar guy and typing “get distance to rig” resulted in “the oil rig is approximately 2850 yards from us Sir”. Winner! I then tried asking how far it was to the gun boat, but got nowhere. Happy that I at least had something to work with now, I made my way back to the engine room and got the diver. I thought I would have one more attempt at entering the coordinates of the rig into the diver, and this time “enter coordinates into diver” worked! I could have sworn I tried the exact same command while swimming and received something along the lines of “you cannot do that”. That’s pretty harsh, but I’d fluked typing the command in the right spot. I entered the distance of 2850 and the heading of 283 degrees for waypoint #1, but then I was asked for coordinates for waypoint 2!

Ha...asking for waypoint 1 suggests there's more than one...oh!

Getting a bit fed up, I checked my earlier screenshots where the captain informed me of the gun boat guarding the harbor. Harbor? Was that the second waypoint? I went back to the sonar guy and typed “get distance to harbor”.  “The harbor entrance is 1640 yards aways.” Ilmari’s hint had given me the focus I needed, but I’d managed to solve the rest myself. I should have felt thrilled, but the game’s pedantic, convoluted nature was really starting to rub my up the wrong way. I felt more relief than satisfaction and really wanted to get off the ship ASAP! I quickly made my way back to the engine room, entered the two waypoints into the diver and made my out into the surrounding ocean.

I tried looking at the timer but wasn't able to. Kind of important don't you think?

With the coordinates successfully entered into the diver, things became so much clearer when diving. The heading wasn’t the way I was facing, it was the direction I needed to go to reach the next waypoint, and the yards were how far away it was. No wonder I didn’t know what I was doing earlier? I very quickly found myself at the oil rig, and “set the explosives” as commanded by the CIA. After the timer was set, the second waypoint appeared on the diver console, so I figured it was time to make my way to the harbor. I eventually arrived at a screen where the ocean floor appeared and there was a slope upwards towards land. Thankfully I saved my game at this point, because trying to move up the slope resulted in me triggering a magnetic field set up to detect intruders. Once again the game punished me for something I could never have known about, and I was forced to restore.

Forced to restore by enemy game developers.

Of course the solution to the magnetic field was obvious. The device I’d won off the old guy while playing dice was supposed to neutralize magnetic fields, so I turned it on and passed the obstacle without further trouble. It was on the next screen that something quite interesting happened. A fishing net suddenly dropped down from above, reminding me of one of the Washington messages I’d decoded earlier. “Locate fisherman’s net. Signal your presence by placing a bottle in net when way is clear...Fisherman will remove bottle.” I put the rum bottle in the net and waited for it to be pulled back out of the water. Thinking that meant I should now emerge too, I moved up out of the water. Again...I was captured and forced to restore! Apparently I needed to hide my diver before exiting the water!

And to think I thought "the fisherman's net" was just a metaphor!

I was running out of air at this point, but I managed to find the shadowy spot where I was supposed to hide my diver, then returned to the net and put the bottle in. I then had to wait until the net came back down empty before making my way out of the water. Boy was I happy to be back on land! The fisherman was sitting on the rocks, and I could see some buildings in the distance. I took a quick look back at my screenshots to see what exactly I was supposed to do once I arrived at my destination. “You must make contact with a female agent who will be disguised as a Muslim. You must use the code name, ICEMAN. She will have in her possession a map directing you.” Seems pretty straight forward, but I tried without success to talk to the fisherman before heading off in search of what I’d already figured out was Stacy.

Dude...I'm an American speaking Arabic! The least you could do is tell me how awesome I am!

I wandered into the area with buildings, but didn’t get very far before a man ordered me to stop, demanding I explain my presence. Apparently I was not able to explain why I was there in scuba diving attire, so was captured. Yet another game over! I restored a few times at this point, trying to go different ways to avoid capture. I wasn’t able to enter the buildings, but I was able to leave the screen off to the right by getting on the other side of the rocks in time. I continued from screen to screen, but soon began doubting myself. My instructions were to make contact with the agent as soon as I arrived to get a map. Had I missed her somehow? When I was captured yet again, I spent some time wandering the shore looking for her.

The masked avenger wandered the streets looking for trouble.

While “Iceman” was the code word I was supposed to speak to the agent, I thought I would just try it on the fisherman. To my surprise, he gave me a fish! The fish had a piece of fishing line in its mouth, so I pulled it out. There was something attached to the line, so I picked it up. It turned out to be a capsule, and inside the capsule was a small map. Hang on a second! Was this fisherman in front of me the agent? Surely not! I was a bit confused, but I looked at the map to find it had directions to a disguise. Well, they say that men are better map readers than women, and I generally consider myself to be pretty decent in that department, but I totally misread this map. I took the dogleg in the middle of the map to represent a pathway (that had exactly the same sort of angle) I’d seen earlier a couple of screens north and east, so that’s where I headed.

So you're giving me a map to find a disguise so I can find an agent that can give me a map. Anyone else see how stupid that is!?

I ended up in a rather tranquil scene, with a waterfall, a flamingo and Muslim woman by the edge of the water. I was informed that “I swear I’ve met this woman somewhere before”, so obviously it was Stacy disguised as a Muslim. I said the word “Iceman” to her, but all I got back was “the woman casts you a furtive glance but otherwise ignores you”. Huh? I tried everything I could think of, but she just wasn’t going to talk to me. After a short amount of time, I was captured yet again, so restored back to receiving the map from the fisherman. It suddenly dawned on me that there were two buildings on the map, whereas Stacy wasn’t actually situated near one. Perhaps the two buildings just to the north were the ones I was supposed to be checking out?

I see how it is! You only like me with my clothes off!

Inside the first building I typed “look” and was rewarded with a wooden crate containing a disguise for me. Hopefully that would stop me from being questioned all the time and maybe now Stacy would talk to me! This time the code word was met with “Hello John. Long way from Tahiti! I’m happy to see the mission is a success so far John. I wish you luck on the remainder of it”. That was it! Where’s my map? I typed “get map”, and only then did she give it to me, along with a key to her apartment and a phony ID. That seems pretty odd to me. Her only purpose for being there was to give this stuff to me, so why didn’t she just hand it over when she first saw me! Anyway, she promised to meet me at the apartment later and told me that “There are things in the apartment for you. You can find them in the kitchen.”, so I walked away to continue my mission. The end was appoaching!

That's it!? You risked your life in a dangerous foreign country to wish me luck!?



  1. I've already written part 2, and will post it tomorrow. I hope to get the Final Rating post done tomorrow too so I can get onto Hero's Quest on Monday, but that may be a little ambitious. We'll see how we go.

    I hope you're all having a good weekend!

    1. My weekend will mostly consist of playing Quest for Glory, so I may even complete it before you start!

      I'm beginning to regret saying that I'd do a max playthrough, raising some of the skills is pretty difficult!

  2. Nice to see we're getting to the end of it. I'm sorry to report that the game beat me! Yes, I got hopelessly stuck in Stacy's apartment, and having already asked for a couple of hints I decided I'd had enough of it. It was the diving sequence that sucked the will out of me...

    Speaking of which, you seem to have missed the alternate entry to the harbor (and the use for the flares). Also, did you hear any explosion? I take it the "distraction" was necessary, but the game gave me absolutely no feedback about it, to the point that I went back to check that the explosives were set correctly. As it turns out, not only can you not check the timer -- you cannot interact with the explosives AT ALL once they're placed. This along with several other head-scratchers lead me to believe the game needed at least another round of QA.

    I'm curious about the "long way from Tahiti" comment you got from Stacy. Since I hadn't interacted with her back at the beach resort, I didn't get that line nor I got any clue from the game that I might recognize her from somewhere. I find that interesting: could it be that this is the first game where *dialogue* is affected by previous choices? (of course having plot choices in the first place is unusual for a point & click adventure. ICEMAN may be poorly executed but it seems to have had ambitious goals).

    1. On the subject of the unfinished feel, the sparse and poor nature of the descriptions jumped out at me especially in Tunisia. Some of them looked like placeholders. Consider what the game tells you when you look at the landscape after arriving at the beach: "there's lots of cliffs and stuff". I would expect that level of laziness from a free fanmade adventure, but from a Sierra blockbuster?

    2. You're right. That description made me laugh, and not in a good way. Though if that description was in a comedy game like Space Quest I'd have assumed that it was done on purpose for laughs.

  3. Having to search for a disguise after getting out of the water? You can tell that Johnny Westland is no James Bond:

  4. I'm amazed at how the submarine equipment is in such a state of disrepair. Did nobody check this stuff before leaving port? Shouldn't the engineer be doing these things?

    I'm frustrated with the game just reading about it. Glad to hear you made it through. I'm looking forward to starting Quest for Glory on Monday. With you as Fighter and Chet as Thief, I'll be taking up Mage first. I'm thinking I'll take each character through at least once though and see if I can carry them over to the second one.

    1. Zenic: It sounds like they bought it second hand from the British. (No, really. Run a search on 'Canadian submarine purchase Britain' to see the junk they foisted off on us. Of the three we bought, one arrived useless, one caught on fire and I can't remember what happened to the third. I think it crashed, but I can't remember if that was a crew or equipment failure.

  5. Question: This is something that's been bugging me for a while but I hadn't thought to ask about it: On every third screenshot or so, the cursor is in shot and I keep thinking it's my own cursor in the way. Would it be possible for Trickster to move the cursor before he takes the screenshot, or is that difficult in more time-sensitive games?

    1. From the one game I've done, I'd say it is hard to think to move the cursor to the edge, as I was constantly pressing the screenshot button as I played, but for later games you won't get confused as games get their own cursors.

      Expect to see lots of 'eye' or 'hand' icons in future screenshots :)

    2. Good to know! Thank you.