Ice World War (1981)   Leave a comment

Kit Domenico has two adventure games to his credit, the first being Gargoyle Castle from last year which was good enough to make my recommended-from-adventures-up-to-1980 list.

Ice World War was a little quicker to finish — it’s got a fairly short and punchy plot and no treasure collection. I’m not sure if there was some manual to find out the backstory, but since I had none I just caught on to things while playing. (It’s quite possible this is intentional — I’ll touch upon why later.)

There’s seven variations of the BASIC file for TRS-80. Of the original versions I did find this one seemed to play fine on-line (just click “DEFAULT TYPE (BASIC)” for it to load) so you’re welcome to poke around on your own before I start spoiling everything.

Jakobshavn Fjord. Picture from NASA.

Just a word of warning about comma weirdness. This is what the game shows in the starting location:

I AM IN THE COCKPIT OF A GROUNDED SHIP. THE PANEL IS BLINKING DIMLY.
I CAN SEE A SURVIVAL KIT, A SHUTTLE ENGINE IGNITER,
THE EXITS ARE NORTH,

I will be “normalizing” the weird non-endings into period marks for the excerpts in this post.

I AM CARRYING NOTHING AT ALL.
I AM WEARING NOTHING BUT MY UNIFORM.
I AM CUT AND BLEEDING.

The major appeal of Gargoyle Castle was the feeling that all items were important (via the “trash” mechanic) and more especially the use of object transformation, like melting something frozen or turning something mundane into a treasure. This added a layer of depth as any current object might secretly be a second object.

Ice World War pulls something of the same trick, kind of. It’s *not* a treasure hunt — the goals are to retrieve a treaty you were transporting, rescue an ambassador, and escape — so it’s not quite as tightly wound, and there are elements which seem to serve no real purpose.

I AM IN A CITY OF SQUALID ICE HUTS ON AN ALIEN WORLD. THERE’S A SHOT UP SHIP TO THE SOUTH & DEBRIS ALL OVER.
I CAN SEE A HEAVY PARKA, A FULLY CHARGED BLASTER, A SEALED PORTFOLIO.
THE EXITS ARE: NORTH, EAST, SOUTH, WEST.

The treaty you are delivering is in the portfolio, so no hunting for that is required. The parka (and a bandage from the survival kit inside the ship) are needed to keep from dying of cold and injury, respectively. The blaster provides “object transformation” of sorts.

I AM IN A GLARING ICE FIELD WITH A CRUMPLED CITY TO THE NORTH.
I CAN SEE A WILD, MEAN SNOWBEAST.
THE EXITS ARE: NORTH.

WHAT SHOULD I DO? SHOOT SNOWBEAST

I AM IN A GLARING ICE FIELD WITH A CRUMPLED CITY TO THE NORTH.
I CAN SEE A PILE OF RUBBLE.
THE EXITS ARE: NORTH.

(You don’t have to shoot the beast — you can feed it some nearby moss and make friends with it.)

Poking around, there’s a OPEN GATE WITH A TRIANGULAR KEYHOLE and a nearby SQUARE ROD. Wrong shape! However, you can also find a RUSTY FILE hanging around and fix that problem; FILE ROD leaves a PILE OF BRASS POWDER and changes the SQUARE ROD into a triangular one. (The brass powder is “useless” but still a nice verisimilitude touch.)

Crossing an ice field, there’s yet another gate, this time with a ROUND KEYHOLE. You can file the rod again to turn the triangle into a circle and get through the second gate.

But wait, there’s more! A third gate has a HEXAGONAL KEYHOLE … except if you try to file the rod down a third time, it turns into a CRUMPLED NEEDLE OF METAL. Whoops. (Somehow, this reminded me of Hadean Lands.) But no problem! You can just use the blaster to reduce the third gate into a pile of rubble instead, nicely sidestepping that problem.

It’s not clear who the ambassador is upon first meeting them

I AM IN THE COCKPIT OF AN ALIEN LANDER. THE PANEL LIGHTS ARE GLOWING DIMLY.
I CAN SEE A MENACING, WOUNDED ALIEN, A PAIR OF RUSTY CUTTERS.
THE EXITS ARE: NORTH.

If you’ve taken a second bandage from the survival kit at your opening crash, you can apply it here.

WHAT SHOULD I DO? BANDAGE ALIEN

This transforms the alien into a A GAUDILY DRESSED, FRIENDLY ALIEN who now follows you around. (I admit, the first time I blasted the poor thing into rubble, and it dawned on me later the “wounded” bit was probably a hint and there was likely a second bandage.)

There’s not much more to the game other than that. You need to make sure the RUSTY CUTTERS from the alien lander get applied to disable a ground laser, but otherwise the puzzles are pretty straightforward. Past the third gate (the one you have to blast) there’s an intact ship:

I AM IN AN ICE FIELD WITH AN UNDAMAGED SHIP.
I CAN SEE A GAUDILY DRESSED, FRIENDLY ALIEN, A SET OF SEALED ORDERS.
THE EXITS ARE: WEST, UP.

The ship still needs an “autopilot” and “igniter” which are lying around elsewhere, and then you and the ambassador can go to safety.

I HAVE DOCKED WITH THE ORBITING SHIP.
CONGRATULATIONS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

YOU HAVE SAVED TWO PLANETS AND BILLIONS OF LIVES.
THANK YOU.

The last interesting element of all this — and without knowing if there was a manual I just have to speculate — is the possibility that the backstory I mentioned is not given, and intentionally so. You might notice the undamaged ship is next to some orders, and it is only here that it’s spelled what the mission is:

RETURN THE HASLAN AMBASSADOR AND THE TREATY TO THE ORBITOR

This suggests the game was up to some trickery (akin to a certain Adam Cadre game, which I won’t name due to spoilers) where the plot appears to be something along the lines of

You have crash landed on an alien planet, with your trusty blaster nearby. Can you survive the ICE WORLD WAR???

and essentially tricks the player along what is originally the wrong path. See: me blasting the poor ambassador originally into smithereens. It is only upon later reflection that the venture is turned into a peaceful mission. The plot is instead:

You are carrying a vital peace treaty, and need to find the alien ambassador lost somewhere on the snowy world of ice so you can deliver both and bring peace to the universe. But as you try to land, hostile lasers shoot your ship and you crash land! The planet is due soon to be destroyed in the incoming struggle: can you find the ambassador and a way off the planet in time to stop the ICE WORLD WAR???

So, despite this game being a little less “meaty” than Gargoyle Castle, it makes for a nice addition to the Kit Domenico library of sadly only two games. Jim Gerrie mentions in a review that

Kit Domenico is surely one of the greats of the early 8-bit Basic game phenomenon

and while there’s nothing spectacular here, I can’t disagree with that statement either.

Posted January 22, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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