Sunday 21 October 2012

Game 25: Codename: ICEMAN - Vacation Cessation

Johnny Westland Journal Entry 1: “Damn it! Can’t a guy have a well deserved vacation without the whole world going to hell?! There I was lounging in the sun in Tahiti when Russian-supported terrorists decided it was a good idea to take the U.S. Ambassador to the Middle East hostage. That’s understandably pissed the president off, who’s ready to press the big red button if the ambassador isn’t released unharmed. General Braxton has called me back on duty to help resolve the issue, so I’ve not choice but to head back to Washington for further instructions. I get the feeling I’m going to need another vacation after this is over!”

I tell you what, after the last couple of months, I'd kill to go to some tropical island like this one

I’ve played over an hour of Codename: ICEMAN so far and there’s already much to tell. Not so much in the way of progress, although that has been fairly constant, but in the way of technical details and plot development. I’ve already mentioned it in the introduction, but I’ll repeat here that I very well could label new technical features as the first time they appeared in an adventure game, when in fact they had already appeared in games released earlier on in 1989 that I haven’t played yet due to the alphabetical nature of my list. I’ll also mention straight up that I haven’t yet reached for the manual once, which has put my initial concerns about Codename: ICEMAN at ease. I assume that will all change once the submarine sections arrive.

Doing so in a retro adventure game will have to do I'm afraid

The game begins with a brief intro describing the peaceful and beautiful island of Tahiti, where Lieutenant Commander John B. Westland (that’s me) is currently enjoying some well deserved leave. I then found myself in control, lounging on the beach. The very first thing I noticed was a magazine sitting on the small table next to me, so I picked it up and read it. In it was an article about the North African country of Tunisia, and how it was suddenly of interest to numerous countries due to a global oil shortage. The second thing I noticed was a blonde in a bikini smoothly strolling along the beach. Of most interest was the way my character’s head turned to watch her as she walked past, which I assume was scripted, but the whole scene reminded me of Leisure Suit Larry when I’d been expecting Police Quest.

I can't say I wouldn't have had a look myself, but our hero needs to learn the art of subtle perving

After standing up, I discovered that I was fairly ripped, so if Codename: ICEMAN does indeed have any similarity to Leisure Suit Larry, I’m bound to have more success than the little battler. The comparison was made even more obvious when I looked at the next girl that walked past, only to be shown a close up of her in a love heart, with “whew, what a hot lookin’ native girl!” splashed across the screen. I found a shirt on the back of my chair, so rather than waltz around showing off my abs, I decided to put it on and go check out the hotel. It was then that I discovered something that I’m pretty sure hasn’t been in any game on the list so far! I could walk diagonally!

If it wasn't for the word ICEMAN at the top of the screen, I might have thought I'd loaded Larry III instead!

You might be thinking that all Sierra games have given the player the ability to walk diagonally using the number pad keys 7, 9, 1 and 3, but in Codename: ICEMAN this action is visually represented by Johnny actually walking on a diagonal angle rather than appearing to walk horizontally while moving diagonally. Unfortunately, and I’m not sure if anyone can help me correct this, this new feature seems to cause some significant problems when using the directional keys, at least it does through DOSBox. Often when I press the up arrow key, Johnny walks diagonally, randomly selecting either NW or NE directions. I can’t see any pattern to it, but I've not choice but to use the mouse for movement rather than the keys (which is fine, but thought I'd mention it).

One small diagonal step for man, one giant leap for adventure games

I noticed a newspaper machine outside the hotel, but since I didn’t have the fifty cents (don’t they use the French Pacific Franc in Tahiti?) required to purchase one (or any possessions at all for that matter), went inside instead. Inside the hotel was a counter with a native woman behind it and a few noticeable signs. Here I discovered yet another technical feature of the game. I tried typing “look”, the way I always do in every room of every Sierra game. If this command doesn’t give me a description of my surroundings, then “look around” normally does. In the case of Codename: ICEMAN, typing “look” gives you a description of whatever item is in the line of sight of Johnny. So when I was facing the counter I was told about the “beautiful native girl behind the counter”, but when I was facing the small table at the front of the room I was told that there was “a flower centrepiece on the table”. That's cool I guess.

While these close-ups served a different purpose in Larry games, I do find they help to give more character to those people I can interact with

Typing “look around” did give me a description of the room at large, although it was a very simplistic one. “This is the Hotel Lobby”. It seemed I was going to need to use a combination of the two, and that I would be able to look at specific things without having to type the full sentences all the time. Why type “look at sign” when you can just make Johnny face the sign and type “look"? Anyway, that’s enough technical discussion; let’s get on with the game. I wasn’t able to get into a conversation with the local girl, but I was able to get my room key from her. The only other interesting things I noticed in the lobby was a sign with a phone number for Nosinkhy Dinghy and a door leading to a bar called The Chi Chi Bar. I thought I’d take a peak in the bar before trying to find my room.

6969? Seriously? Al Lowe wasn't involved in this?

The bar scene was all too familiar. A bunch of tourists seated at the bar having a drink and nice looking women invitingly sitting alone at tables. It screamed Larry, and I couldn’t help but go through the same procedures I would have had this really been an Al Lowe created game. The blonde at the bar seductively said “Hi big fella, sit and join me. I’m drinking Mai Tais.” as I walked of course I did! Unfortunately she paid no attention to me after I bought her a Mai Tai, and I’m not even certain how I did that given I had no money on me at all. I then focussed on the blonde and the brunette, who were both sitting alone at tables.

The Test: Does he like blondes or brunettes?

As soon as I tried to chat up the blonde, she informed me that her husband would arrive shortly. He did too, taking a seat at the table. This left only the brunette to trial just how much Larry had really been injected into this game. The answer seems to be "a lot!", as I was given a close up glamour shot of the girl, complete with animated sparkling smile. I tried to sit in the vacant chair in front of her, but no matter where I was standing or what I typed, I kept being told “You’ll have to find a seat.” I attempted every angle I could until suddenly, despite being positioned absolutely nowhere near the table with the blonde, her husband got up and belted me for trying to pick up his girl. Game over, and I had a feeling I was wasting my time trying to seduce women in a Jim Walls game.

At this rate it may take more than daring mockery to make me restore too many more times

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what the bar scene was for, so I had one more attempt at achieving something. I asked the brunette to dance, and was then a spectator to one of the funniest eighties throwbacks ever, with both man and woman busting out every move that you haven’t seen since Rick Astley was high in the charts (and I don’t mean YouTube charts). Once it was over, the brunette and I walked off the dance floor and reassumed our conversation-less positions at the table. Intrigued as to how far I could push it, I tried kissing her, only for her to slap me and leave the bar. By this point it was becoming more and more obvious that this was all a distraction. I’d received no points at all for any of it, and it just didn’t feel right that I’d be bedding women in this game. I left the bar behind and went in search of my room.

Why is this in the game?

There was nowhere else to go within the hotel, so I went for a stroll up the beach, assuming that my “room” must be some sort of hut, away from the main building. It didn’t take me long to come across a bunch of them, and each hut appeared to be numbered. Which was mine? When I looked at the key in my inventory, it had a clearly marked number 6 on it, so I used it to enter hut number 6. While there were numerous things to look at in my hut, there were very few that I could have any meaningful interaction with. The drawer next to the bed contained an ID card and some loose change, which I eagerly picked up. There was a phone on top of the drawer too, but the only number I’d come across so far was on the Nosinkhy Dinghy advertisement. I tried calling it, but there was apparently no-one in the office at that moment.

Great! Now how do I know which hut is mi....oh...never mind!

Within the closet I found my clothes, but any attempts to put them on (or even pick them up) were met with “It’s much too hot here for a suit”. I figured they weren’t there for nothing though, so I typed “look at suit”. “It’s a nice dark suit with 2 front pockets” was the response, and further investigation of the pockets revealed a little black book in one of them. I picked it up and looked at it, discovering two phone numbers within. The first one was for a General Braxton, while the second was for Gigi Boloni. I quickly walked back to the phone and dialled General Braxton for no particular reason. He wasn’t home, so I dialled Gigi. There was no answer there either. Hmmmm...the only thing I could think of that I might now be able to do was go back to the hotel and buy a newspaper with the change I'd found in the drawer, so that’s what I did.

I wonder how many players failed to check the pockets? It's not completely obvious!

I inserted my fifty cents into the machine and collected my newspaper. Reading it awful lot really. To summarise...the cold war between the USSR and the United States is getting nasty, with a Russian-supported terrorist group called Jaharah Khommini Sieb Abdul having taken the United States Ambassador to the Middle East as hostage. They’re demanding ten million dollars ransom or the Ambassador will be killed. The U.S. has responded to Soviet naval build-up in the Mediterranian (sic) by ordering its 7th Fleet into the area. The U.S. President has vowed to take an aggressive military stance if the Ambassador is not released unharmed. I’m guessing that I’m going to have some role to play in a rescue attempt!

The "cold" war is "heating" up? Oh I get it!!!!

I couldn’t help thinking at this point about Canageek’s recent comments on how silly the plots have been in the majority of these retro games. If the plot continues in the sort of fashion hinted at so far, then this game might have the serious tone and storyline he’s been looking for (if you ignore the sexually focussed elements). We’ll have to wait and see! Reading the newspaper gave me some information that will no doubt become relevant soon enough, but I was still standing in front of my hotel in Tahiti, wondering how I was going to get myself into a position where I could be of assistance to my country. All I could think of is that I needed to call either General Braxton or the dinghy hire company, and that one of those calls would lead to me getting off the island. I went back to my hotel and tried both with no success. Hmmm...was there something I was supposed to do in the bar after all?

I really hope my January month off work doesn't end up like this!

As I entered the hotel on my way to the bar, the woman behind the counter called out to me: “Oh, Mr. Westland, I have an urgent message for you!” I can’t say I love this sort of plot progression tactic, where the player has no real logical motivation to do anything or be anywhere, and instead is required to walk around until they’re in the right place at the right time. I guess in the game’s defence in this instance, there are really not very many locations that you can visit, so you’re bound to be where you need to be at some point. The message was: “Call immediately! General Braxton.” Given I’d already called the guy twice, including an attempt made just a couple of minutes ago, I was none too pleased to read this. Sure, I understand that adventure games often contain this sort of linearity, but a little bit of flexibility wouldn’t hurt would it?

Can you send this back to General Braxton? Message: "Answer your bloody phone!"

I rushed back to my hut and called General Braxton, who answered this time of course. He apologised for cutting my leave short, but told me to get my ass back to Washington ASAP. Due to the sensitive nature of the scenario, I was given no further information before he hung up. Let me is the time to call Nosinkhy Dinghy? Too right! I informed the hire company of my situation, and they told me to meet the dinghy in front of the hotel entrance. Taking my leave from Tahiti seems to be a fitting place to take leave of this post. I realise that I’ve spent a long time describing what has resulted in only 15 out of 300 points, but now that I’ve covered off the initial technical details, things should progress much quicker from here. Wish me luck in Washington!

Next post: Tahiti airport. See what I did there?

Session Time: 1 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 1 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 not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. This is on the verge of spoilerhood, so I'll put it in code: Gurer'f npghnyyl bgure guvatf gb qb va gur vfynaq naq rira fbzr rkgen cybg cbvagf lbh'ir snvyrq gb hapbire (lbh pbhyq svaq n tvey naq rira n sryybj ntrag gb orq jvgu). V guvax vg'f abg n qrngu abgr gb zvff gurfr guvatf, fb srry serr gb tb ba.

    1. Actually I could make a challenge out of this for anyone playing along Trickster: Who'll be the first to trg gur tvey va gur vfynaq?

    2. Orra gurer, qbar gung. Tbg gur rneevat naq gur zvpebsvyz gb cebir vg. Nyfb fnirq gur tvey sebz gur ibyyrlonyy tnzr. V'z thrffvat Gevpxfgre chg arire jnyxrq nebhaq jvgubhg cvpxvat hc gur fuveg naq gur ibyyrlonyy tnzr vf bayl gurer jura abg jrnevat vg fb gung lbh pna wbva va. Guhf ur jnf arire sbeprq gb ybbx ng gur znahny sbe gur PCE vafgehpgvbaf.

    3. OK, that was quick. I'll reward Jarikith by giving him 10 of my CAPS.

      Gur vapyhfvba bs gur PCE fprar va gur tnzr vf n ovg fgenatr, V guvax. Vg freirf ab cybg-eryngrq checbfr, naq vg qbrfa'g ernyyl jbex nf n pbcl cebgrpgvba, jura lbh pna fb rnfvyl fxvc vg.

  2. Haha, uh oh. This is all going to end in tears. Good luck, man, I played this a lot as a kid and had to hit the clue book over and over. It was almost a 1 to 1 run through using the book. Reading eagerly.

  3. You ended your first session just about where I did, I went a tiny bit further to get off the actual island before stopping. :) Also of technical note, when you type 'look at ' if Westland is not facing it he will turn to face it.

    1. I like the technical improvements in this game already. Small things, but progress nonetheless.

      Being able to type "look" when in front of something nicely avoids the frustration of not knowing what the hell the primitive graphics are trying to show you.

    2. I prefer the method of right-clicking to look at unknown objects (like in Quest for Glory and Colonel's Bequest) so that "look" gives a description of the room and important objects. That's standard parser behaviour and what I'm used to.

  4. Reading further.. I'll choose to theorize it's not really a plot hole that you can buy the mai tai without money because its charged to your room (Do I get a No Prize? :P). More of a plot hole is the fact that you leave the island without your belongings. That's your clothes in the closet after all, or how else is your black book in them? You can't take the suit, wear the suit, pack the suit, do anything else with the suit before you take off on the ferry and you have absolutely no visible luggage on you. So.. yeah.. that suit and any other belongs besides your blackbook and ID card are simply there for whatever next lucky person rents that hut, or for whichever staff person cleans the room between guests and keeps it for themselves. :P

    1. For that matter why is a single suit completely unsuited (ooo a pun!) for the island he's visiting, his ID, his black book, 50 whole cents, and the single set of island appropriate attire that he's wearing apparently the only thing he brought with him to this island paradise? Okay.. I'm done poking holes now!

    2. Isn't that how secret agents like James Bond usually travel? Without any luggage (unless it's custom made by Q), but always a tuxedo ;)

    3. Am I the only one to notice that secret agents never use condoms? I mean, while I can understand that Mr. Bond has probably taken a few too many hits to the groin to worry about kids, how does he not have a few dozen STDs by now?

      Also, considering our agents plans, you'd think he'd have some in his hotel room.

  5. So I'm a bit ahead and I can answer:
    - I didn't miss the pockets on the suit (very IF-like, that bit!)
    - I did miss the dancing scene!
    - I did get the blonde girl utterly inebriated thanks to a steady supply of Mai Tais (all of them seemingly on the house!), which led to another Larry-esque scene
    - I'm a bit mortified that there seems to be quite more stuff to do on the island that I've managed to miss completely. :-( On the other hand, this is a good sign that the game has learned from PQ 2 in that there may be plenty of optional actions.

    1. You think it's learned something right up until you realize you dead-ended yourself later on by not reading something more carefully and then have to restore back to the end of your first play session. :P

    2. Yeah, let me suggest to all of you that are playing it, save often and use as many save slots as possible! :p

    3. I just discovered that the game has actually less dead ends I remembered - for instance, vg'f abg sngny vs lbh snvy gb orng gur oybbql qvpr tnzr.

  6. Regarding calling to Braxton the question is: Why should you call him? You are not the only agent in CIA.


Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's 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 the reviewer requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game...unless they really obviously need the help...or they specifically request assistance.

If this is a game introduction post: This is your opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that the reviewer won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return.
It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All score votes and puzzle bets must be placed before the next gameplay post appears. The winner will be awarded 10 CAPs.