Monday, 7 September 2015

The Iceman's Doneth

Codename Iceman is not an experience that I want to repeat again. I came very close to quitting the game in frustration on numerous occasions, but made myself struggle through to the end. And that was with a walkthrough! Without one, the obtuse puzzles would have driven me mad long ago. Actually, they're not really even puzzles as such, just horrible know-it-or-you-don't niggles. It really feels like the designer saw a James Bond film once and thought that it was completely wrong, missing all of the complexities and hardships that real spies face. So he set out to make a game that would tell the truth of a real espionage mission. The problem is that people don't really want the truth when they watch James Bond, they want the escapist fantasy. The truth is boring. If you're familiar with the designer's earlier games in the Police Quest series, then this is a concept that you'll be very familiar with. Like in that series, you have to go through the humdrum facets of the job in excruciating detail. For example, in one part of the game you have to fix a broken mechanism. A metal cylinder has become broken, and you need to replace it. James Bond would have just shoved a pen in there, or something and hey presto, it would have worked. No such suspension of disbelief here. Here you have to find your calipers and carefully measure the existing cylinder, then go to the machine shop, find the right size of cylinder, nut, drill bit, etc, mill the cylinder down to the required thickness, sand it smooth, drill the right sized hole in the end, find the right sized pin to go in, and then insert the whole thing back into the machine. And that's not the only incident of that kind of craziness. It takes all of the fun out of being a spy. If it was only those sorts of issues then I would have been fine with a walkthrough, but by far the worst parts of the game were the arcade sections in the submarine (and to a lesser extent in the van). As far as I can tell, the whole thing is just trial and error. Even if you know exactly what you're doing then success is still based on a random chance. That kind of thing is just inexcusable in an adventure game like this. And the submarine section isn't just a little bit, it's about half of the game. Oh, and the dice game, I can't believe I almost forgot that! Not only do they create a part of the game based entirely on chance, but they also limit the number of reloads you can make at that point in the game! Designers, if your players are spending ages reloading one particular section, then that should tell you that section is broken and needs fixing. You should not then go ahead and make it even more broken and frustrating. It's just a crazily annoying game. I don't know how people got anywhere with it back in the day. There was much more that I wanted to write here, but I completed the game a few days ago and wrote this on my phone back then. The draft's been sitting on Blogger for a while, and in that time I've completely wiped the game from my memory. That's how much I enjoyed it. And what did I miss to only score 257 out of 300!? Bah. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Air Duel: 80 Years of Dogfighting! Oh dear, if there's one thing I'm not in the mood for right now, it's an early '90s flight sim. Maybe I'll try and get a bit further with Tomb Raider. Maybe I'll go bang my head against the wall.

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