Sunday, 18 November 2012

Game 25: Codename: ICEMAN - Won! - Part 2

Surely this means more sex!

At the end of my Won Part 1 post, I'd just been given a map by Stacy. That map was indeed a map with directions to her apartment, and this time I had no trouble following it. On entering, I began my search for the items she’d told me about. Stacy had mentioned that everything I needed was in the kitchen, so that’s where I started my search. The only things I could find of interest were the three canisters on the counter, which contained sugar, flour and coffee. They didn’t seem to contain anything else though, so I moved onto the fridge. The first thing I noticed was that there was something on the top of the fridge, so I walked over and typed “look on fridge”. The answer I got was “You’ve left me responseless”, so I assumed it wasn’t actually something I was supposed to pick up.

I guess I should strip off and get comfortable.

In the fridge was some typical food items, but the only one I was able to interact with was the butter. There was a plastic bag in the butter dish that contained a note. This note gave me information about the catering company, more specifically that they deliver twice a day to the compound, and that two guards search the caterer prior to entry every time. This was obviously hinting at how I might gain entrance to the compound later, but was unlikely to be the items Stacy wanted me to find. I refocussed my attention on the canisters, and began emptying the contents into the sink. After emptying the sugar, I find that the canister had a false bottom, which when removed revealed a tranquilizer gun stuck between two pieces of foam.

When she gave me the keys to her apartment, she knew I would go through the butter in the fridge to find her note.

Great, so I had a weapon! Stacy hadn’t arrived yet, so there must be something else I was supposed to do. There was a phone on the wall, but I had no numbers to call. It was then that I noticed the small green card on the wall next to the phone, which turned out to be a business card for the same catering service mentioned in the note I’d found in the butter. Interestingly, there were two phone numbers on the card, but no mention as to who the second one might be for. I rang the catering company, and typed “order food” when someone answered. About five seconds later there was a knock at the door, which really put me off guard! I hadn’t actually considered what I would do when they arrived. I opened the door though, and watched as they walked in, put the food on the counter, and asked for payment.

Yes, can you please send someone over here so I can take them hostage and steal their clothes?

I could think of nothing else to do but “use gun on man”, and was a little bit shocked when the caterer begged for his life. Was I really supposed to take advantage of a poor innocent civilian to gain access to the compound? I guess so! I demanded he give me his clothes, and he quickly stripped down to his boxers and asked “what now?” I didn’t really need anything else that he might have, so I tried to tell him to leave in about ten different ways, none of which worked. If I didn’t do anything within about thirty seconds, Stacy would arrive and tell me we were too late to save the Ambassador. I think I restored about twenty times at this point, trying to pick up the clothes, tell the caterer to get on the ground, tie him up despite not having anything to do it with, and got nowhere! I started to think about what James Bond might do! That didn’t work either.

Um...I'm not sure...this is my first time!

I restored back to before I’d made the phone call, and called the other number of the card. A voice answered with “This is Basal! Speak your business!” Once again I was caught off-guard, not having any idea what to say. Who was Basal and why did I need to talk to him? No matter what I said, he always responded with “you’re making no sense” and hung up. Perhaps Basal’s purpose would make sense later? I have to admit I was getting pretty frustrated at this point. I really wanted to finish the game and move onto something more enjoyable, but had to struggle on with no real purpose. Suddenly that object on the fridge caught my attention again. Surely it wasn’t just part of the fridge. What the hell was that thing!?

Basal! Howzit hangin bro!?

There were a lot of things I didn’t like about Codename: ICEMAN, but nothing annoyed me more than the parser limitations. When I walked to the fridge and typed “look on top of fridge” and received “on top of the icebox you see a roll of tape”, I was really pissed off. “Look on fridge” didn’t work, but “Look on top of fridge” did?!?! That’s really bad programming and that sort of thing popped up all through the game. Letting my anger go, I immediately picked up the tape and went back to the phone. The tape’s use was obvious, and once the caterer arrived and had taken his clothes off, I used the duct tape to tie him up. Finally I was able to change into the caterer’s clothes, and then Stacy arrived, proving that I’d now done what I was supposed to do in her apartment. Or so I thought.

Apparently the tape is not "on" the fridge. It's "on top" of the fridge. There's a difference you know!

She advised me to take the caterer’s van and head over to the compound, and also told me not to forget to “conceal the weapon”. I figured I should take the food from the counter before leaving to complete the disguise, but I didn’t seem able to. I also tried to “conceal weapon”, but the game responded with “Don’t be a wimp.” Alright then, it was time to go get the Ambassador! Once I left the apartment, I automatically hopped into the van and drove over to the compound. On arrival, I typed “conceal weapon” again, and this time Johnny hid the weapon in the food that I apparently had ready for delivery. I hopped out of the van and tried to enter the compound. The guard stopped me, saying “You are not the regular caterer. Something is not right here. What is your name?” I answered with a fake name (automatically), and he then searched me and found the gun, ending my game in the process.

Basal? It's me! Come on mate! could I avoid him finding the gun? He obviously searched me thoroughly because he didn’t recognise me, but how could I make him recognise me when he’d never met me before? I restored back to the apartment and rang Basal. That number wouldn’t be listed on the business card for no reason. It had to be involved somehow! Perhaps it was the guard’s number? Even if that was the case, what could I say to him that would make him let me through? I tried saying I was from the Caterer’s company in about ten different ways and also tried mentioning the food order, but got nowhere. With no hints whatsoever as to what I was supposed to be doing, I very nearly requested assistance at this stage. But...out of desperation really, I tried typing “talk to man”...and it worked!!!

Because all guards are stupid.

I don’t need to tell you why this bothers me greatly. I’ll just move on as we’re getting real close now. Apparently I explained to Basal, despite not having any idea who or where he was, that I was the new caterer that will make the next delivery to the compound. This of course allowed me to hop back into the van and repeat exactly what I did last time, with the difference being he didn’t search the food I was carrying. Once inside the compound, I found myself in a room with two guards and the Ambassador tied up. I placed the food on the table, removed the lid, and picked up the gun. I typed “shoot”, and was thrilled when one of the guards went down. Unfortunately, my slight hesitation at this point allowed the second guard to shoot me. Time to restore, hopefully for the last time!

Get on the ground right now or I will...make you go to sleep!

The next time I typed shoot, and then immediately typed shoot a second time. That was all it took to take down both guards, leaving me to untie the Ambassador and presumably finish the game. The Ambassador was extremely relieved and grateful to be rescued, and told me so in about eight different ways. While I was listening to him, one of the guards woke up (some tranquiliser!) and shot me. I should have known this game would have one more trick up its sleeve. I restored, and this time after untying him, I tried unsuccessfully to get him to leave with me. No matter what I typed, I always faced a message like “leaving now would doom the Ambassador”. what was I supposed to do? Leaving wasn’t an option, but nor was staying. Another disguise perhaps? I typed “change clothes” and was thrilled when the Ambassador changed into terrorist attire. Now...we could finally leave!

Ambassador Loyd told Johnny to wait outside. He had unfinished business!

The Ambassador and I left the compound, only to be confronted by the remaining guard outside. “I shall now kill you both!” *sigh* Can this game please just end damn it! It’s like the last twenty minutes of Lord of the Rings! Thankfully, I didn’t actually have to do anything this time. Stacy came to the rescue and took the guard down before he could fire a shot. The three of us hopped into the van and I then watched a cut scene of the van driving up a twisting mountain path to an awaiting helicopter, with terrorists close behind in a jeep. At least I thought it was a cut scene! Once the van reached the first corner, it ploughed into the wall and we all died! I was going to have to control the van myself.

Unfortunately you didn't tell me I had to turn LEFT!

That turned out to be pretty difficult. The controls were extremely unresponsive, and not only did I have to press left or right at exactly the right times, I also had to balance my speed exactly to avoid either driving straight off the cliff or being caught by the jeep. It wasn’t much fun, and at one point I took the option of pressing F8 to skip the whole scene. I just couldn’t handle the fact that I lost ten points for not completing it though, so I gritted my teeth and resorted to save and restore measures. Every time I got around a corner I would save my game, before continuing up the mountain. Once I reached the top, the game did, finally, end!

B A R spells bar!

There was a lengthy outro where the resulting political drama was explained and I was congratulated for my achievements. I was awarded both “the coveted Gold Dolphins” and “The Naval Distinguished Service Medal”, and was also promoted to the rank of Captain! As seems to be norm for Jim Wall games, Codename: ICEMAN finished with the main character getting the girl, as Johnny “tenderly kisses Stacy”. That my friends, is the end of the game, and I can tell you right now that I will not ever be playing it again. I’ve been frustrated by certain interfaces or puzzles throughout the course of this blog, but I don’t think I’ve been as consistently irritated as I have been throughout Codename: ICEMAN. I’m sure the final rating will reflect that irritation.

Save the day, get the girl. Mr Wall is such a romantic!

Session Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 16 hours 30 minutes


  1. 16 hours and change of irritation! You're a trooper, thanks for saving me from ever playing this!

    1. My pleasure! Well, not really, but you know what I mean.

  2. Man, this one was a nightmare. At least you're playing QFG next, which should be a lot more enjoyable!

  3. You sure earned your golden dolphins, Trick. So my inability to notice the duct tape was the reason I stopped playing at that point. After restoring like 100 times with the poor man in his boxers in front of me I threw the towel. The game kept telling me that I needed something to tie him up, but nothing turned up in my searches. I guess I needed to be more "on top of" things...

    As for Basal, that stumped me too, and now that I know the solution I'm pretty irritated about it. Character interaction is handled soo badly in this game. So far "talk to man/woman" had been used to initiate conversation, and when a character asked you point blank for something, you usually had to type a noun. This rule is broken here for whatever reason.

    By that point however, I was waiting for the end. Seems like the scenes at the embassy are on speedbump after another. And I'm glad I avoided a final mini-game. "Driving" a car from that perspective has to be very annoying.

    Oh well, I went really low with my score for this one, so maybe I'll get it right for the first time!

    1. I think that Sierra in its parser phase didn't in general handle conversations well. In some Sierra games we have to use "ask about", in others all talking is done with "talk to" and finally in some cases we have to write a key word, like "iceman" here. In practice a player could not then know which method of talking to use in particular cases. Compare this with the standardized conversation parser of Infocom (a combination of using commands of type "ask/tell Mr. X about" and "Mr. X, do this").

    2. Does anyone know what language the parser was written in? It sounds like that could be either that Infocom had better prebuilt commands that you could easily reuse, OR Infocom had better guidelines for writers, (Though shalt phrase it "Ask Mr. X about Y" or "Mr. X, do this"). I wonder which it was?

    3. Well, I recall reading that Infocom's parser was written in a stripped-down version of a LISP-like language and included a list of commands and their synonyms that grew with each parser revision, so the writers could focus on designing the rooms, objects, story and puzzles.

    4. @Canageek: Infocom used a virtual machine to interpret "story files" written in what they called Z-code (after Zork). It was a proprietary format, but in the 90's someone created a compatible standard known as Inform. Z-code allowed for much more granular communication, e.g. most IF games will sneer at you if you try to "use" an object and instead will ask you to be more specific. NPCs and objects are handled in a much more organic way as well.

  4. Ah yes, the classic adventure game arcade sequence. I've never quite understood the motivation for putting those sorts of things in games. It's like a forced stealth section in an otherwise normal FPS game.

    I guess it's easy to see why this is one of Sierra's less remembered games, it just doesn't seem as well made or interesting as some of their other series.

  5. Wow, you and Chet ended your games very, very close to one another. Good timing! I'm glad you have something nice to play after this one.

    I'm trying to analyses what makes a good game to read about: So far it seems that parser issues make it less fun, odd logic however CAN make it more fun (They demanded WHAT for the solution? You are kidding, right?)

    I think it is the difference between a couple playthroughs of bad games I've seen: Dante's Inferno and Cursed Crusade were both fun to watch, despite being horrible games, as you kept doing new things, there were cutscenes to make fun of and so on. X-Men origins was rather boring, as not much changed, so they kinda ran out of new things to make fun of it about. ( is what I'm talking about)

    Game Informer did a similar thing; their replays always start good, then either stay good if the game keeps doing new things, or get boring as they run out of things to insult the game about.

    This seems to have the same problem: Uninvited was bad, but it wasn't that long, and you kept having odd puzzles to talk about. This game was bad, but it was bad in the same way. "Oh look, another unavoidable death" "Oh, look, another thing I need to know about submarine sequences", "Oh look, parser issues" and, "@#$%@#$^%@$#%# CONTROLS".

    Anyone agree/disagree with me?

    1. Perhaps the problems with Codename: Iceman can be attributed to the massive expansion of Sierra at this point. With a few successful series under their belt, they seemed to be letting people try different things, perhaps without the appropriate amount of pre-planning and testing/quality control that they should have.

      As for playthroughs in general, I agree with you. When a game is in such a rut that you can only complain about the same things repeatedly, it becomes less interesting to read/watch.

    2. I agree with Andy that Sierra was at this point emphasizing quantity, which was sometimes detrimental to the quality of the games. Still, they were still miles away from most of their competitors, Lucasfilm probably being the sole exception.

      Yes, I think also that repetition is a key for a boring read/watchthrough. This goes also for good games - if Trickster will have to begin three Hero's Quest posts in a row with the words "scrubbed the stables again", it will become old pretty fast.

    3. Ilmari: Good point. Magic Candle and Wasteland II were some of the least interesting blog posts on Chet's blog, despite the fact they were some of the best games. I think that is because they were pretty repetitive after the first bit (Magic Candle for sure, as Chet talked about that).

    4. I definitely find writing about a game is easier when there's new things to talk about. I don't expect to run into any terribly bad games, but with the type of game I play I feel I have to balance grinding levels and making progress. I hope there's entertaining things to write about every time I play, but there are times I can go 6 - 8 hours with barely enough to fill a post.

      With this game, I could definitely feel Trickster's frustration. I'm glad he's headed into what I fully expect to be the high point of 1989. I've heard good things about Indiana Jones as well.

    5. I'm looking forward to the next few games too (Apart from Emmanuelle, which I'm hoping is at least short)

      I've never gotten into the Quest for Glory games, so reading about them will fill a hole in my adventure game experiences and possibly motivate me to buy/play them myself.

      The good things you've heard about Indiana Jones are probably about the other one (Fate of Atlantis) but the Last Crusade is a decent game itself, if a bit short and easy.

  6. I completed this a while ago. At first I was really loving it, thinking it was a hidden gem that I had somehow missed. I thought the island sequence was great fun, and the first submarine sequence, where I plotted the route using the map that came with the game, was both satisfying and unusual.

    But then... oh man. The game would hit me with one cheap shot after another, and I kept going back to it because surely it couldn't get any worse and surely it would become fun again soon ... as if. It really made me feel that the first Police Quest-game was a complete fluke. Because Codename: Iceman is just so unbelievably dreadful that nobody involved in making this could have any sort of clue about game design at all.

    1. Well, Jim Walls wasn't originally a game designer... I'd actually like to know what was the actual role of Walls in making his games - did he write only a general scenario or did he have a say even in the minute details of the games?

  7. I seem to have a slightly more positive memories of the game than most around here - not that I thought it was great or truly memorable, but at least I felt it was OK. I disliked the simulation and the arcade bits and I truly hated the dice game, but the end game in Tunisia seemed like a nice surprise - perhaps I was just so happy to be back with traditional adventuring that I just ignored all the parser problems.

    1. I didn't hate the game; I'll take it many times over, say, Mortville Manor, Captain Blood or Uninvited. I didn't even disliked the submarine sections as much as many people did. I do have a problem with the "pure" adventure segments being poorly executed, though. Timing issues, characters coming and going for no reason, etc. As a whole, I think my main problem with the game -if we leave aside bugs and parser irritations- is that it fails to engage the player. The plot never really gels and feels like it was trying to be too many things at the same time.

      The game also fails to provide a single memorable character. Johnny Westland remains a cypher throughout, and he doesn't even have a clear antagonist. Contrast this with the PQ games, where Sonny Bonds is defined through his interactions with his cop pals, his girlfriend, and he also has a strong villain to go against. I have to laugh looking at the ICEMAN box cover: you see Stacy in Tunisian attire, and a sinister looking guy with a bottle... the old man with the dice!! That's about all they could offer in terms of characters: a shot of a woman who appears only at the end, and a completely secondary guy that stars in one of the most annoying sequences in the game to leave forever afterwards, only to end up looking evil in the box cover.

    2. Stacy doesn't appear only at the end. She's also on the island at the beginning, where her sole purpose is to have a one night stand with John and provide him vital information.. oh wait.. she doesn't do that last part.. to casually mention to the person she's just having a one night stand with that she's lost an earring and it would be awesome if someone she never expects to see again finds it! I would love so have heard what Stacy's CIA briefing was for her mission.

      'Stacy! We're sending you to this island to make contact with a Naval officer on his vacation, but only in the off chance that some ambassador gets kidnapped. If that does happen then you need to give the officer the cypher for decrypting CIA codes'

      'How will I get the codes to him? Can I just tell him?'

      'No no! That'll ruin the surprise later on when you run into each other again! We'll put them on microfilm in an earring instead'

      'So I can casually slip the earring to him? Like put in his pocket when he's not looking? That way he'll never know it was me who gave him the codes?'

      'No no! You lose the earring on the beach. Then sleep with him, and make sure you mention the earring! And that you've left it somewhere it'll glint in the sun!'

      'What if he doesn't find it? Or bother to even look!?'

      'That's alright, we probably won't even tell him anything vital to the mission anyways! At least nothing he couldn't probably figure out for himself. Vital stuff info will be encrypted with standard Naval codes!'


      'Then, assuming this is all necessary and someone does in fact get kidnapped, which is our entire purpose in having you already in place on the island to meet this officer, you'll immediately fly off after making contact to where ever the ambassador's being held, gather information and wait around for the officer to take a long roundabout way into the country via sub and then give him everything he needs to get in and save the ambassador!'

      'Err.. couldn't we just sneak into the country together? I mean we're already sneaking me in! What's one more person?'

      'No! Then how would he earn his Gold Dolphins?'

      '... Can I just rescue the ambassador myself? I'm a CIA field agent! I'll have all the information to get to the ambassador by this point!'

      'Shhh.. you're ruining it!'

    3. This had me laughing very hard Jarikith. I'm definitely giving you CAPs for this.

      You did forget one thing though:

      "wait around for the officer to take a long roundabout way into the country via sub and then give him everything he needs to get in and save the ambassador! Actually, on second thoughts, don't just hand it all over. Play harder to get this time and make him ask for it politely!"

    4. Lol Jarikith, I didn't even get to have that one-night stand in my playthrough. All work and no play made Johnny a dull boy...

      Oh, and speaking of missed content. What was in the second compartment inside the briefcase, and how were you supposed to learn the code for the safe?????

    5. You should have asked the captain about the combination at the very moment, when he had just opened the safe. Inside the second compartment would have been a microfilm reader that you could have used to read the microfilm in the earring dropped by Stacy. The microfilm would have contained CIA offset codes for various organisations, one of them being "N = 3", where you should have recognized that N obviously means navy.

    6. At least she's the one saving people's lives at the end!

  8. One positive about the game: for all its design flaws, there seem to be few dead ends, and they're not nearly as unfair as I expected. It's not that Sierra learned the lesson; wait for King's Quest V to dispel that notion. I feel I should also commend ICEMAN for the amount of optional scored actions it allows the player. I never went back to the island and still could have solved the game.

    1. Even Jim Walls didn't learn it: Police Quest 3 has a nasty dead end waiting at the very end of the game.

  9. Another Kickstarter Alert:

    I just stumbled over this:

    Shadowgate - Reimagined!

    Only 7 days left - looks promising ;-)