The moment I, Johnny Westland...
Well, I made a lot of progress on the weekend, but I can’t say it was a lot of fun. Codename: ICEMAN continues to make me backtrack, and throws repetitive tasks at me that are clearly designed to make the game longer. It also suffers from some pretty serious parser limitations that make solving some puzzles if not impossible, far more difficult than they should be. There were at least a couple of occasions during the three hours plus I put into it where I was close to asking for assistance, only to eventually figure out was of cheating the system. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself and giving the game away (so to speak, don’t get excited). At the end of my last post I was finally in a position to take on the Russian destroyer with a functional weapon system.
...became first in command of the USS Blackhawk!
This section of the game really sucked. The manual gave me some basic hints about how to do battle, but the rest was really just trial and error. My instinct was to fire off as many torpedoes as I could, as quickly as I could, but I soon found out that the majority of them miss the target, leaving me a sitting duck when I run out of torpedoes. I reckon about one in every ten torpedoes actually hits the destroyer, so considering you only have a handful of torpedoes to fire, that pretty much forces the player to cheat. I eventually settled into a groove of firing one torpedo, waiting to see whether it would hit the destroyer, then saving my game if it did. Every time I missed, I restored and tried again. Only a matter of time I hear you thinking. Wrong!
That's clearly going to miss dude!
You see, the destroyer fired harpoons at me too, and these seemed to have a pretty damn high chance of hitting me. The manual suggested that diving would make it more difficult for the enemy to hit me, so I started diving as low as I could and then resurfacing while firing my torpedoes one at a time. In the end, I think I had to hit the destroyer four times for it to sink, but even then I had to cross my fingers that the harpoons already on their way towards me didn’t make contact. It probably took about half an hour for me to figure out how to cheat the system and then go through with it, which was tedious to say the least. Did anyone find a better way of beating this?
My supersize torpedoes will defeat your infrared beams any day you Ruskies!
Once the destroyer was dealt with, I received another encoded message from Washington, and yet another from the CIA. I’d figured by now that there was no way I was going to find out how to get into the safe or crack the CIA codes in the game. Since I knew that adding a 3 to each decoded number was the key to cracking the CIA codes (I only know this from a reader comment), it just seemed silly for me not to decode them. The first thing I did was decode the one I’d received much earlier in the game. “Russian war ships on patrol. Use extreme caution in Bering sea. Use alternate entry to harbor.” No shit! This begs the question though! Was there any way that I could have avoided contact with the Russians? I can’t see how I could possibly have used an alternate entry into the harbor.
So this is the message that you made impossible to decode. Not important or anything isn't it!
Regardless, I set about decoding the new Washington and CIA codes I’d received. The Washington message decoded as “Contacting fisherman… After exiting the water, contact agent for further instructions.”, while the CIA message decoded as “After polar crossing is achieved… Do not surface for remainder of mission.” Neither of these assisted me in the here and now, so all I could do was hop back behind the controls and head towards the next waypoint. As soon as I started moving I was informed of “many icebergs in the area” and advised to “turn on my TV monitor and slow down”. Once I figured out how to turn the TV on, I soon found myself navigating the sub through an iceberg obstacle course. What first looked easy turned out to be tedious once again.
I'm not trained to navigate this submarine through a field of tornadoes!
My first attempts to dodge the icebergs failed miserably, mostly due to the terrible collision detection in the game. Three hits and it was game over for me! My second attempt gave me more success, and after negotiating around six or so icebergs, I suddenly found myself in the clear. I’d expected some sort of message to pop up, but nothing happened. I started looking at my position on the map and wondering if I was supposed to be directing the ship towards the next waypoint or something. In the end I thought I must have missed something, so I restored back to the beginning of the icebergs and started again. This time I passed a lot more icebergs and eventually received a message telling me I’d scored 7 out of 10 for crossing the ice pack. It appears I discovered yet another bug on that second run through!
My six pack wouldn't rate that high!
With the icebergs behind me, I wondered whether I should be applying the CIA message and remaining submerged for the remainder of the journey. Was that the “polar crossing” it mentioned? While I was pondering that, I was informed of “active sonar on 150 degree arc, 100 miles south of true north. Sonar is stationary...could be ice station looking for us”. I sat there for a while waiting for another message, but received a game over screen for not responding to the sonar. What was I supposed to do? I restored and this time I got up and went and had a chat to the sonar man (next to the radio man). He was far too busy to talk to me, so that wasn’t the answer. Eventually I just tried typing “contact ice station” and that turned out to be correct!
No thanks to you buddy!
This contact resulted in two new messages from Washington and the CIA respectively. The former message was “Rendezvous with USS Coontz...36 degrees latitude 12 degrees longitude. Listen for erratic sonar. At that time, signal presence with one active ping. Pass through straits under Coontz.” The latter message was “Diversion tactic necessary. Locate nearest off-shore drilling rig and destroy. Do not use Blackhawk weaponry.” The coordinates mentioned in the Washington message were in fact my destination coordinates, so I only had to worry about that on arrival. The CIA message had me worried though. Was I supposed to find this drilling rig now somehow? Should I dive and plant the explosives I found in the torpedoes room underneath the rig? I decided the game would soon let me know if I was meant to have made a diversion already, so I hopped back behind the controls.
One active ping you say. Easy...what can go wrong!?
I immediately received more sonar messages: “Reporting inversion layer at 1,000 feet. Reporting trenches on ocean floor.” Navigation then informed me that we must be above Reykjanes Ridge, whatever that is. I knew from my earlier manual readings that inversion layers were warm sections of water that can be used as cover from active sonar. I began my descent to 1,000 feet, assuming that I was about to be attacked again. I received a bunch of other messages that basically informed me that a sub was “dogging” and “pinging” us from somewhere, and eventually that they were flooding their tubes to fire upon us. I thought to myself “no problem, I’ll just use my cheating tactic again and this should be all over in a jiffy”. Nope!
I can't be a seasoned submariner because if I was, I'd know what the hell I was supposed to do!
You’ve probably picked up on how tedious I’ve found some aspects of this game, but this section took the cake by far. I spent close to an hour trying to destroy this damn Russian sub without being destroyed myself, and at times I was tearing my hair out. The sub rapidly fired torpedoes my way with pretty much all of them making contact. One hit was enough to send me down to Davy Jones, meaning I had absolutely no chance of hitting it multiple times prior. I figured the inversion layer was the key to success, but even if I sat at 1,000 feet or just under that, I kept getting crushed. It was by pure luck that I dove to just past 1,100 feet, and suddenly the torpedoes started missing me!
Oh...so by 1,000 feet, you meant 1,100 feet! My bad!
Even still, since I had so few stingers (apparently I could only use stingers at this depth) at my disposal, I was forced to use the one shot save and restore tactics as I used during my previous battle. The major problem wasn’t defeating the sub though, it was dodging the three or four torpedoes that were already in the water once my final stinger made contact. By the time I hit the sub three times and destroyed it, the Russians had entered the inversion layer, meaning I could no longer just sit there and wait for their weapons to miss me. I must have restored about twenty times after beating the submarine, only to watch as I followed them into oblivion. I literally had to play through the whole scenario multiple times until I finally managed to get to that last hit with few enough torpedoes in the water to match the amount of decoys I had. Not fun!
I really wish the whole submarine bit had started with "Forty-six hours later..."
I was very pleased to find myself at latitude 36, longitude 12, once this test was over. I’d made my destination, and hopefully would no longer be required to play impossible battleships for the rest of the game! As the Washington message had suggested, the USS Coontz was waiting for me, so I signalled them with one ping (the first time I pinged them twice and the pedantic bastards left the scene!). I was then given an overhead view, with the USS Coontz represented by a yellow cross. I needed to navigate my ship into the same space as the moving target, which I apparently did well enough to receive 4 out of 5 navigation skill points.
Oh come on! Surely you can ignore one extra ping! Come back you pedantic bastard! I'm on your side!
I then had to keep the USS Blackhawk as close to the cross as possible as it zig-zagged across the screen. Not a difficult task when it wasn’t changing direction much, but very challenging when it suddenly decided to take a right angled turn and go up a gear in speed. Subs apparently do eight point turns while attempting to change direction at speed! Succeeding in sticking with the cross pretty much involved knowing what it was going to do next and therefore being able to prepare for it. After a few failed attempts, I stayed close enough to the USS Coontz to receive a navigational skills rating of 8 out of 10, and was able to move on. I’d reached Tunisia, and a weak captain tapped me on the shoulder to congratulate me on my success!
This is me trying to stay exactly underneath the yellow cross. Admiring my talent aren't you!
The captain told me that “It looks like we have more on our hands than we anticipated. There’s a gunboat out there keeping a close watch on the entrance to the harbor!” I was then told to take a look through the periscope at our predicament. I was able to move the periscope left and right a full 360 degrees, but there really wasn’t all that much to look at. I certainly couldn’t see anything that looked like a gunboat, unless the grey blob merging into what appears to be the mainland was it. I did come across a drilling rig out to sea though, which immediately reminded me of the CIA message telling me to blow one up. I took note of the fact the rig seemed to be at 283 degrees (and that the grey blob was at 40 degrees), and left the periscope.
Yes...that thing! At least that one looks like something.
The captain was nowhere to be found at this point, and he hadn’t exactly left me with any instructions. I tried getting behind the controls to see what would happen, but received a game over message telling me I was on a time limited mission. What mission!? Well, the obvious thing to do was to try and blow up that drilling rig, and I wondered whether the key to the storage room compartment was now in the machinist mate’s possession. I wondered whether the compartment held scuba diving gear, rather than the radiation suit I’d first assumed. Well, the machinist mate did have the key now, which he gave me, so I was about to find out whether my way of thinking was on the money.
It's amazing how often people only find keys when they need the contents within the compartment that hosts the lock in adventure games.
I used the key to unlock the door and then watched as Petty Officer Johnson entered the room and take the scuba equipment out of it, vowing to take it to the escape hatch for me. I immediately wandered up to the engine room and collected the dive vehicle. I then entered the escape hatch, put on the scuba gear, and pressed the big red button. Watered flow into the room, so I opened the hatch, and swam out into the Mediterranean Sea! The game told me that I had “a strong feeling of insecurity” as I directed the dive vehicle away from the Blackhawk. That feeling turned out to be well founded, as less than thirty seconds after leaving the ship, the DV-3X diver malfunctioned and I was left for dead!
Well you can't blame me can you?
Apparently I was supposed to check the diver, as if I’d done so I would have noted there was a missing washer. Clearly I’m going to have to collect said washer from the machine room and insert it using a wrench from the drawer in the engine room, but somehow I doubt even that is going to be n easy process. I continue to be thwarted at every stage of Codename: ICEMAN, and often I’ve only become aware of what I “should” have done after not doing it causes a game over message (and usually my death). I’m determined to finish this game, but I can’t say it’s been much fun! At this rate I’m going to have to postpone playing Emmanuelle so I can join Chet in playing Hero’s Quest from this weekend onwards. Just wrapping this game up in time may prove challenging!
I guess I should have learnt from the lessons taught to me in Police Quest.
Session Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 12 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 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!