Spy/Tom Clancy-esque submarine adventure designed by Jim Walls (of Police Quest fame), published by Sierra On-Line in 1990. One of the last games to use the increasingly clunky SCI engine, as just about everyone else in the entire world now had VGA and a mouse.
The game stars Commander Johnny Westland, a suitably macho submarine officer and special operative. Opening on Tahiti in the year 200X (don't forget, this was 1990 and the Cold War still loomed somewhat), Johnny is on holiday. News of a hostage crisis in Tunisia fills the headlines. Johnny, meanwhile, has no interest in such things, and instead does what you're meant to do on vacation (sleep with lots of beautiful women).
Unluckily for Johnny, he sleeps with a woman who turns out to be a spy. Before he can investigate further, he's recalled to Washington. There, he is briefed on a new mission: to travel by nuclear submarine to Tunisia - whilst avoiding Russian attention - and then infiltrate the American Embassy and rescue the hostages.
The plot sadly becomes a bit ridiculous when Johnny is told he must travel to Tunisia from Pearl Harbour, taking the most circuituous route possible (through the Arctic Sea). This is because the only submarine capable of avoiding detection, the Seawolf, is anchored in Pearl Harbour. Never mind all the Naval bases in Maryland and Virginia, then.
Johnny heads out to Hawaii and sets out in the submarine. As their ludicrous route takes them through the Bering Strait, a Russian destroyer attacks and the captain is incapacitated. Johnny takes the helm, and evades a Russian submarine before rendezvousing with an American destroyer in the Mediterranean.
Blowing up an offshore oil rig to create a diversion, Johnny uses a diving vehicle to sneak into the harbour and meet his contact - the mysterious beautiful woman from Tahiti. Together, they pose as caterers, infiltrate the embassy, and rescue the hostage, concluding with a 'thrilling' chase up a mountain road to the waiting helicopter.
This has to be one of the most difficult, unforgiving, impossible adventure games ever. Death, notorious in Sierra games, is literally at every corner here. Don't tell the limo driver you're Commander Westland? DEATH! Swim too much in the ocean? DEATH!
Here are some things you might not realize you're meant to do (to avoid DEATH, of course):
- After you're under way, you're meant to go to the torpedo bay and cycle the loading equipment. That way it'll fail and you can then replace it (by going through an extremely tedious process manufacturing new parts in the machine shop!) lest it fail when you encounter the Russian destroyer.
- You're also meant to test the diving vehicle before you use it... again, it's faulty (bless the Pentagon and their $500 wrenches). Fail to discover this and you'll be out in the ocean when the propellor suddenly falls off.
- You're ALSO meant to beat Old Salt at the dice game, winning a magnetic field nullifier (like all enlisted men in the Navy carry around with them) so you can later pass through a magnetic field in the harbour. But of course.
- After you sleep with the woman, you're meant to spot her lost earring on the ground (it is ONE PIXEL), pick it up, and discover the microfilm inside. And then later remember to read the microfilm.
- Access to the briefcase is vital, but it's in the captain's safe and you're only given one opportunity to ask him what the combination is before he's knocked out.
- This one is what forced me to get the hintbook: to successfully dive, the captain keeps saying 'Acknowledge Green Board', meaning ensure the hatches are all shut. Parroting 'Acknowledge Green Board' didn't work. The hint book had a question specifically asking how the hell to do this, the actual answer being 'green board confirmed'.
- The second security guard in the Pentagon takes your ID card before you enter the briefing room. When you emerge, he gives you the wrong one back. You might not realize this until you need the card again, over an hour later.
The game is filled with lovely little 'gotchas' like this.
Another claim to fame of Codename: Iceman was the submarine simulator. At the time, I loved submarine games and so coming from Silent Service 2, Red Storm Rising and 688 Attack Sub to this grossly oversimplified simulator with its garish control panel and hordes of unlabeled controls was a nightmare. The fact that you have to use it far too often only made matters worse. And despite Jim Walls' claims of realism, the game was anything but. The interior of the submarine was huge. And the Russian destroyer bombarded you with dozens of torpedos but you had no chance of hitting it with a Harpoon missile until it was practically on top of you.
Other amusing ways to die included:
- Going into the rear escape hatch and pushing the button (which floods it with water a la The World is Not Enough).
- Drive the catering truck off the cliff.
- Drive the catering truck INTO the cliff.
- Go into the reactor room of the submarine (which is located RIGHT NEXT to the food storage room... told you it wasn't realistic).
- Dive with the hatches open.
- Ram into the USS Coontz during your rendezvous in the Med.
- Swim out to sea and get attacked by marauding mutant sea gulls (which seem to be vacationing from their people-attacking duties in Cardiff).
- Get cunted in the bar by consuming far too much booze. Actually, why should this mean death? Just a hangover, surely?
By all means I recommend you try this game out, but I also recommend you get a hintbook or FAQ from somewhere and have it to hand at all times - the game is enough of a challenge even if you know exactly what you're doing.