Icebreaker: The Text Adventure

You are in a pleasant grassy meadow. To the north, south, east, northeast, southeast, and southwest is a meadow; to the west and northwest is seething lava.
A red pyramid stands to the north.
A green pyramid stands to the south.
A blue pyramid stands to the east.

Since people have expressed interest in the IF adaptation of Icebreaker included on the CD, I suppose I should say a few words about it. In a way, it’s similar to the IF adaptation of Doom: when something is about to kill you, you simply type in a command beginning with the word “shoot” and that’s that, with no possibility of missing. Unless, that is, two seekers happen to come on you simultaneously from different directions, which can happen, but isn’t likely as long as you stay in the region where the pyramids and the natural obstacles are. This seems to be a 6×6 region, much smaller than in a normal Icebreaker level, and there are only 14 pyramids to destroy in it. It’s just as well that it doesn’t try to create a full Icebreaker level, if you ask me. The whole thing is basically a curiosity, and is just large enough to make its point.

The most interesting part is also the chief way it differs from the game it’s based on: the point of view. In the original game, you see a broad area around you — not the full playfield, but enough for you to make plans based on where everything is, and to see the Seekers coming. In the text version, all you can see is the square you’re on and the squares adjacent to it. Information about what’s going on elsewhere is conveyed through sound — which, actually, happens to some extent in the original game too: you can always tell when a Seeker offscreen has crushed a green pyramid from the distinctive “kssh”. But in the text game, “offscreen” means almost everywhere, so the noises play a larger role. Apart from that, the fact that you can see only one square around you means that it’s possible to forget where you are relative to other things — in other words, to get lost. Which means that, in grand adventure-game tradition, there’s motivation to draw a map.

The mechanics aren’t completely faithful to the original. You can’t edge between a pair of adjacent pyramids here; any attempt at movement sends you straight at the center of the square in the specified compass direction. You can shoot stuff by specifying a compass direction, but your shots seem to only have a range of one square: shooting at a red pyramid from two squares away does nothing. I have no idea if the pathing algorithm for the Seekers bears any resemblance to that in the original — it’s hard to tell, when you can’t see beyond one square — but I suspect not, because it has to happen on the level of grid-squares here, not on the pixel level. Still, you expect changes when going from one format to another. Icebreaker: The Text Adventure does a reasonably good job of aping the experience of the game it was based on, and that’s all we can really ask of it.

1 Comment so far

  1. Michael on 9 Nov 2010

    I’m an IF enthusiast who picked up Icebreaker on eBay specifically so that I could try Plotkin’s text adventure adaptation. But, um, where exactly is this file lurking on the CD? The most likely culprit seemed to be “Ice.z” but none of my z-machine interpreters can open it.

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