(sigh)...so 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!