Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Game 25: Codename: ICEMAN - Navigation Education

Johnny Westland Journal Entry 2: “Well, after my lovely vacation in Tahiti was cut short, I find myself in the thick of an international crisis. General Braxton informed me on my arrival to Washington that I would indeed be required to take part in a rescue operation of Ambassador Richard Loyd, and that my involvement would include the use of a high tech submarine called the USS Blackhawk. I hopped onboard the Blackhawk at Pearl Harbor and have since been able to put my lessons in the operation of the control board into practice. Only now do I know the true location of the Ambassador, and it appears I will now be required to navigate a specific course to the Mediterranean. This isn’t what I had in mind when I was lounging on the beach a couple of days back!”

(sigh) much for my vacation.

Either Codename: ICEMAN is a really tough game, or it’s possible to complete the game without solving certain puzzles. At least, that’s how it’s appearing to me right now. It’s strange really, because the game feels quite linear, but my brief experience with it and the comments from readers suggest otherwise. Maybe I’m already a dead man walking and I just don’t know it yet! I’m giving you all permission to tell me if I’m definitely facing a dead end in this game, but please make sure you’re right before doing so. I’d hate to restore and play through part of the game again only to find out I could have made it unassisted in the first place. Why am I giving dead end announcement permission for this game when I wouldn’t normally do so? Because I really don’t like the idea of playing through the submarine parts multiple times!

Stupid country can't manage without me for a couple of weeks!

At the end of the first post I’d just received orders to leave my vacation behind and make my way to Washington. I’d organised a dinghy to take me off the island of Tahiti and was about to board. Once I did so, the next thing I knew I was on a plane, 45000 feet above the South Pacific. A couple of clicks later and I found myself hopping in a car to leave the Dulles Airport, but only after I showed the driver my ID card (which I thankfully had picked up from my room in Tahiti). My chauffeur drove me to the Pentagon, where I exited the vehicle and entered the landmark building. The game had started very slowly, but it seemed ultra keen to get me into the thick of things now.

Which is just as well driver! Just as well!!!

Inside the Pentagon I was required to show my ID card again to the guy at the front desk, and then again when exiting the lift on the floor I was to meet General Braxton. This is where you have to question whether aiming for realism is really a goof formula for entertainment. It’s very possible that someone of John’s status would be required to show identification numerous times during their day, but making the player of a computer game do it three times in a couple of minutes is bordering on annoying. I eventually entered a room where General Braxton stood ready to brief me on the situation. There was another man in the room too, seated in one of the three chairs available, although I had no clue as to who he was.

Look, I'm trying to move on ok. Can everyone please stop reminding me!

Braxton began by informing me that “intelligence has located the compound where the Ambassador is begin held”, but that “for security reasons, that information will not be disclosed in this meeting.” As expected, it’s my job to rescue the Ambassador as part of a covert operation with codename...yep, you guessed it...ICEMAN. I am assigned to the nuclear attack submarine, USS Blackhawk and will rendezvous with the boat at Pearl Harbor. After telling me the papers authorizing my assignment were in the folder on the table, Braxton then told me I am to report to a man named Jonathan Hawkins, Captain of the USS Blackhawk, and that the mission details are locked in a safe on Blackhawk.

Well-conceived? Feeling pretty good about ourself are we?

Finally, Braxton added that I should “commit the numbers 134 to memory”, before handing over to the other man in the room, Forest Collins of the Central Intelligence Agency. Collins then used the two displays at the front of the room to show me firstly the compound where Ambassador Richard Loyd (that’s the first time his name was mentioned) was being held, and then secondly an image of a female agent that I am to make contact with. Apparently she will be dressed as a Muslim and will have in her possession a map that will direct me to the compound. The briefing concluded with Collins giving me the coordinates I should head for in the Blackhawk and then giving me some information about the Electronic Noise Cancellation Transducer device that separates the boat from other attack subs.

A Muslim you say? Well that shouldn't be too hard to pick out from the crowd!

This was a lot of information to take in, and I’m really glad I took screenshots on the way to refer back to later. I imagine players in the eighties would have been hastily writing all the details down on sheets of paper. As soon as I picked up the folder off the table and left the room, I was once again aboard of plane, this time heading for Pearl Harbor. Interestingly, I was informed that “you carefully review the orders temporarily assigning you to the USS Blackhawk”, and yet I as the player wasn’t shown anything. I assume this is a bit of a hint that now would be a really good time to peruse the manual, and if it’s not it should be! I’d have my head in it for most of the next half an hour!

Go to Pearl Harbor and get on a submarine. Further instructions await you there. Overwhelming indeed!

On arriving in Pearl Harbor I was once again faced with a driver waiting for me at the airport. This time he wanted to see my orders, presumably so he knew where to take me. I showed them to him, and was then transported to the USS Blackhawk. As soon as I arrived, I knew it was time to reach for the manual. There was certain to be a correct protocol when boarding the submarine and communicating with the officers. Indeed there was, and I followed strict instructions on saluting the flag, saluting the officer of the deck, requesting permission to come aboard, and finally presenting my orders. I criticised Police Quest for this sort of “puzzle” and I have to do the same here. It’s educational to know exactly how things work in the world of police and navy officers, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t actually made a decision or attempted to solve anything in this entire post so far!

In the navy! Yes, you can sail the seven seas. In the navy! Yes, you can put your mind at ease.

After entering the USS Blackhawk I was taken to my quarters, where I was left to explore. Typing “look around” revealed there were a bunk, closet, desk and bookshelf, so I investigated them all. I found and picked up a vernier calliper from the desk and a book about Decoding from the bookshelf, and then turned my attention to the computer on the desk. It seemed to be a decoding system, requesting primary and secondary word keys along with a code. I had none of those things, so I simply pressed enter a few times. You can see below the result of my effort, which is mildly humorous. I imagine Al Lowe would have come up with something a little more creative, but this is not his game.

Jim's three year old son came up with some cracking jokes for the game

I walked into the bathroom and looked around, but couldn’t see anything to pick up or interact with (other than using the toilet and the sink). I therefore left my quarters and reappeared in the control room. Here I met Captain Jonathan Hawkins, who directed me to the control board where further instructions would follow. I sat down at the controls and looked at the stupendous amount of levers, buttons, lights and monitors. Before I even had a chance to refer to the manual, Captain Hawkins started giving me directions. Not directions on what button to press or lever to pull, but directions to travel and depths to dive to. It was going to be entirely up to me to figure out how to do what he was instructing, and any mistake led to mocking game over messages.

Wouldn't it be better to have an expert at the beginning of the mission!? It's not like it's an important mission or anything!

What followed was about thirty minutes of head scratching, trial and error, and numerous saves / restores. I “learnt” how to direct the submarine, control the speed and dive to certain depths, and controlled all of it with the mouse. Click the mouse button and hold it down on a lever, then pull it in the direction you want it to go. Moving them the exact amount is the key, but probably the most challenging aspect was that when I was urgently instructed to dive, I kept doing so without closing the hatches. I looked over every marked section of the control panel in the manual (there are 33 different parts of the control panel that are listed and described), but none of them had anything to do with closing the hatches. I eventually tried simply typing "close hatches" in a desperate hope that it would just happen. “Using the PA system you order the hatches closed”. Well, I guess that could be considered a puzzle...right?

So that was a short trip!? Oh dear...

When we finally reached our destination and I managed to stop the submarine successfully (it took a few attempts), the captain tapped me on the shoulder and said “meet me in my quarters, Westland. It’s time to open that briefcase”. Next thing I knew I was watching as the captain opened a safe in his quarters and removed the case, then placed it on the table and opened it. Inside was an envelope, but I was also informed that “something looks odd about the top section of the briefcase. Looking closer, you can definitely tell there is a second compartment in the top section of the briefcase.” Before picking up the envelope, I had a shot at opening this second compartment, but the game simply didn’t respond to anything I commanded. It didn’t understand “open compartment” or “use calliper on case” or anything I could think of. Strangely, when I tried to access my inventory to see what else I had to use I was faced with a “sorry, not enough memory” message! Is that a joke?!

There are jokes and then there are intentional wind-ups. Let me look at my frickin inventory!

I knew from an earlier save game that the only things in my inventory were the code book and the calliper, neither of which seemed to help me get into the secret compartment. Perhaps I would need to find an item later in the game and come back to it? I picked up the envelope and opened it, revealing a navigational chart (presumably the one I have in PDF version) and a set of orders. The orders directed me to the Mediterranean, and more specifically 12 degrees longitude and 36 degrees latitude, no later than 0700 on the 29th of January. I need to rendezvous with the CIA agent at an oasis at 1000 hours the same day, and the orders then informed me that my route should include Bering Sea, Bering Straits, Arctic Ocean, Greenland Sea and Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland, and that I then should proceed south through the North Atlantic and east through the Straits of Gibraltar. Bloody hell!

Yeah sure, I take that trip all the time. Shouldn't be an issue.

Once I’d finished reading the orders, the captain took them to be destroyed and locked the case back in the safe. If I was supposed to have accessed the second compartment already, I’d failed. The absence of a game over message gives me hope that I will get another chance down the track. From what I understand, I now need to get out my map and figure out the exact coordinates of the proposed route, and then enter them all into a computerized charts table in the control room. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, and if I have to direct the submarine halfway around the world, I’m unlikely to enjoy the experience. Still, as usual, I’ll give the game every chance to impress me. I can’t say I feel impressed so far, particularly as I just wrote a post covering an hour of play where I logically figured out absolutely nothing. I feel like a spectator, or a puppet at best.

Of course I will! Right after I translate this book out of Old Babylonian and write an equation that merges the laws of quantum mechanics and general relativity!

Session Time: 1 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 00 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've 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. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've asked to be informed if I'm definitely heading towards a dead end. Please be certain before announcing anything though. Thanks!


  1. You might be out of luck there, there are two possible dead ends for you already, which I can't tell from your text if has happened.

    1. Spoiler: Vf lbhe VQ pneq lbhef?
    2. This one I can't remember if it's a dead end or not, but it's something you've missed at least, and could be a dead end. Hint: Lbh'er zvffvat fbzrguvat sebz gur vfynaq. Spoilerish:
    N tbbq fcl arire fgbcf ng whfg n qnapr.

    1. 2. I don't think it's a dead end. But (kind of) adds something to the plot.. Not sure about this, however.

    2. I am not sure whether either of Lars-Erik’s hints are actually dead ending mistakes. Both are required only for penpxvat gur PVN pbqrf, but is that optional? (In fact there’s also a third thing required for this puzzle, that is, nfxvat gur pncgnva sbe gur pbzovangvba bs gur fnsr.)

    3. Hmmmm...really not sure what to read now.

      I'll let you guys come to an agreement on what I should know, if anything. If you're not confident about it, then I'll play on and we'll see what happens.

    4. I'm pretty sure about the first one, but again, as it's been quite a while since I played it last I'm not 100% positive. Unfortunately I don't have the time to replay it to check for it right now, so unless someone else can verify or not I guess you'll have to take your chances, Trickster. :)

    5. Just read the Strategy Wiki for the game, and it seems to suggest that all the things Lars-Erik has spoken are merely for points (and plot points). At most, you’ll miss a piece of info required for one puzzle you might want to solve later on, but it’s possible also to guess what it is – if you don’t guess it, here it is in ROT13: PVN pbqrf erdhver nqqvat guerr gb rirel ahzore. So, I’d say you can carry on.

    6. I'd say it's entirely up to you Trickster, it looks as if you can still win with what you currently have on hand. However you'll be missing out on two bits of info (and some scoring points). If you later you feel you simply must know what that information is, you can always use Ilmari's post that starts with 'Just read the Strategy Wiki' as it will let you know what you need to know to get that information without informing you of exactly how you missed out on learning what you need to know. Otherwise if you want to ensure you have that info the proper way, you will have to start over pretty much from scratch, because like Jack Shephard in Lost you'll have to go back to the island!

  2. Those quarters are incredibly roomy for a submarine. In a real submarine there would probably be something like 12 people living in the same space. I guess some people just get lucky!

    1. In case anyone's interested I found this nice cutaway of a real, modern submarine:

    2. I toured a US submarine in Buffalo when I was in cubs. That was pretty cool. Canada just buys ours 2nd hand from the UK, then discovers they sold us junk. (No, really, none of them currently work, and one arrived unusable. We suck)

  3. The one that worries me most is "Sorry, not enough memory". That is almost certainly an actual game bug rather than an in-game message. Quest for Glory 2 had a "memory leak" - memory that was allocated, but not properly freed - every time you fought Jackal Men. If you had too many of those fights, eventually the game would run out of memory in a completely unrelated area, often frustratingly near the end of the game. It's possible that Codename: Iceman also suffered from memory allocation issues.

    You may be saying, "But I have Gigabytes of memory, and computers back then maxed out at 640K!" All true, but early SCI games used a mode in which all of the currently-accessible game code *and* internal storage had to fit in a single 64K memory block. The pointers were 16-bit offsets into that space, so you couldn't use more memory even if you had it.

    The lead programmer on Codename: Iceman was J. Mark Hood, who later became the programming director at Sierra, and then an executive (Senior Vice President) at Sierra/Vivendi. Mark was heavily into simulations, so spent a lot of time on the submarine and such. It would not surprise me if there are many optional quests in Iceman that you don't need to complete.

    1. Hi Corey, just wanted to say that I feel privileged for having you around providing insights straight from the golden era. Thank you!

    2. However, saving likely only saves your inventory and some sort of location in game. So, when you reload the game all the memory should be freed back up. So if you see that try saving/restarting. Also; back up your save file.

  4. BTW, did you try using keyboard instead of mouse in sub simulation?

    1. Keyboard's definitely my preferred method here but since there's no handy dandy hotkey list or keyboard layout in the game you have to read the manual to pull out what does what among all those other listing that are just indicators and such. That being the case here's the actual important Keyboard controls.

      Keyboard Controls for the Blackhawk:

      Engines: + and - keys. + goes up through each engine stage from reverse, all stop, all ahead slow, 1/3rd, 2/3rds and full speed ahead - backs down through each stage.
      Steering: Left (Left) and Right (Right) arrows each press will turn the wheel further in that direction to increase or decrease turning speed.
      Dive: Up arrow (Dive) and Down arrow (Rise)
      Monitor On/Off: Shift-F1
      Fire Control Panel On/Off: Shift-F2
      Select Weapon: Shift-F5
      Lock on Target: Shift-F6
      3-D Imaging Display: Shift-F7
      Fire!: Shift-F8
      Active Sonar On/Off: Shift-F3
      Silent Running On/Off: Shift-F4

    2. Tsk, my formatting went away, but Shift-F5 through Shift-F8 are all used when the Fire Control Panel is On, hence why they are listed directly under it.

  5. Wow, once again I decide to end my session and read the full post just to discover that I am at the exact same point, Trickster! I guess the draining experience of manning the sub and trying to figure out what the $%&@ to do with that suitcase compartment was enough for one day!

    By the way I did get the same "not enough memory" message when trying to access my inventory and was equally baffled by it. I see you have more points than I, so I must've missed something. You can actually get a book from the bookcase? Bah.

    Oh, and I agree with Ilmari -- keyboard is the way to go for the sim part. I actually got the hatches part straight away, it was the "acknowledge green board" bit that stumped me!
    Also, is it me or are the rudder indicators not working at all?

    1. Acknowledge green board is referring to the hatch indicator lights, with one of the three being red until you 'close hatches' making them all green, thus being ready to dive. And I'm just slightly ahead of where you stopped and Trickster ended with his post. Phew I was worried I was falling behind when I decided I really needed to take a break from the game. :)

  6. I kept typing "acknowledge green board" and getting "Yes, John, 'acknowledge green board'" as the reply. I could almost hear the condescending tone! Didn't feel too bright when I realized I only needed to say "green board"...

    I always feel I'm falling behind -- Trickster's too good, he does it all while simultaneously taking screenshots and notes. I'll see if I can slip in a bit more time today while he sleeps, bwahahaha.

  7. Two new adventure games on GOG, although one of them looks more like a puzzle game:

    Lucius seems to be a horror themed game which pays homage to classic horror movies such as The Omen, The Shining and The Exorcist. Sounds awesome to me, but that could be no more than marketing words.

    The other game is Incredipede, which is a level based puzzler from what I can see.

    1. Ars Technica article on Shadowgate:

  8. The Longest Journey and Dreamfall are both on sale on GOG too this weekend. If you haven't played, you really should!

    1. Curse you Trickster, you can't even get CAPs *glare* ;)

  9. The Fool and His Money had just been released.

    It's a pure puzzle game, with some story elements to it. Well, the game is also a novella, in a way. So not an adventure game by any stretch of the word, but I could imagine some of you might enjoy brainteasing in other forms as well. It's a sequel to the 1987 puzzle game Fool's Errand, which is a rare excellent puzzle game.

    You can get a teaser for the new game and an emulated version of the old game for free from his website. And of course buy the new game.

    As a side note, the game had infamously long and difficult path to release, as documented by the wikipedia page.

    I wonder if the old newsletters are gone for good. They were often hilarious.

    1. I loved Fool's Errand back then, I always played it at my friend who had a Mac. We actually got almost to the end (during many, many years) without any help (except from our parents and a thesaurus). What makes it exceptional, is the overarching puzzle that combines all individual puzzles, which are also tightly integrated to the story.

      As an adult, I re-played Fool's Errand with the PC port - how ugly it was (and still is) when compared to the original Mac version. Anyone who would like to play it, should definitely find a way to play it with the original version.

      That said, I have been following also the progress of The Fool and His Money. Very infrequently that is, as the progress wasn't too rapid. I coincidentally revisited the web page just some weeks ago and was delighted to see that the final release date was announced and really close.

      Ok, that's enough talk - on my way now to buy the game!

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  11. Replies
    1. More so than I recalled. I'm glad I still have my Codename Iceman Hintbook, I've consulted it.. more than I'd like. :P

    2. Also looks like someone in the dev team really didn't like save scumming. >:(

    3. @Charles: If you want, you can skip that part of the game (but then you’ll have harder times in the future).

    4. @Ilmari: yes, I feared that but most of all I'm paranoid about dead-ending myself. I didn't expect them to add an extra layer of punishment though!

    5. I think I'm going to need to some help. Will hopefully get a post up tomorrow, most likely ending with an RFA.

      Unless I can figure things out in my sleep. :)

    6. After being stuck for a long time, now I'm actually making some progress and liking the game more (turns out I had missed a few obvious scenery elements in the background). Puzzles have been generally on the sensible side, and figuring out things has been a rather satisfying brain workout. I'm even warming up to the sub sim parts that at first felt quite daunting.

      The main offender I've encountered so far are the scripted events that happen at a certain place and time and won't let you go back. These lead to dead ends. Multiple saves are a necessity, more so than in previous games IMO.

  12. STEAM HALLOWEEN SALE! Ends 1 November. (Do I get extra CAP for filtering through the adventure games and posting links to each one, instead of just posting the link to the sale page? I am risking someone else scoping me here)

    Alter Ego:
    Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened - Remastered Edition:
    Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper:

    More to follow

  13. Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of The Baskervilles:
    Scratches - Director's Cut:
    The Testament of Sherlock Holmes:

    1. Nancy Drew®: Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake:
      Dracula Origin:
      Nancy Drew®: Curse of Blackmoor Manor:
      Midnight Mysteries Collection:

      Man, that is a lot of point and click adventure games.

      On the topic of Sherlock Holmes, I found that in the The Awakened it is better then I thought; if you hit space all the stuff you can interact with appears. This removes the pixel hunting that was driving me mad. Also, I found you can access your notes during the type the answer to a question sequences, which makes me much less likely to look up the answer on them. I'd be willing to replay these with Trickster, or similar ones, when we get to them. You know once we get out of the text parser era.

      They do suffer from 'rub X on Y until it works syndrome though' (one of the reasons I laugh people people claim they are more intellectual then other genres) and picking up the wrong pipe should not end your game (or is there a way to drop a pipe?)

    2. There's also an adventure indie bundle (which strangely includes Blackwell: Deception, which is the fourth in the series, and should definitely not be played before the other three)

    3. And Telltale's The Walking Dead.

      And others, I'm sure.