Prisoner of Ice
Review by Orb
Prisoner of Ice is a game based on the mythology created
by H.P. Lovecraft. I've often wondered what the likes of Lovecraft,
or Poe for that matter, would have thought of the lucrative licencing
rights that would have been available to him had he been alive
in the last portion of the twentieth century. This also makes
me wonder a bit in a sort of chicken-or-the-egg kind of musing
in relation to knock-off projects based on the works of these
sorts of authors. Is their stuff repeatedly used because of the
fact that these belles-lettres are brilliant classics, or because
there are no fees to pay rights-wise, and no one to complain about
the rewrites? One of the great mysteries of the universe, I suppose.
But I digress. Prisoner does an excellent job of taking
the basics of the Lovecraft Cthulhu mythos and weaving an entertaining
and engrossing story, on top of an all-around well-put-together
and fun game. What more could a gamer ask?
The story in a nutshell: You are Lieutenant Ryan, a young officer
working for the US Secret Service, assigned to serve with the
Royal Navy on the eve of World War II. A powerful European adversary
has discovered an ancient threat held trapped inside the ice of
the South Pole. Your mission is to prevent the Prisoners of Ice
from spreading across the world. And if you fail, the Old Ones
will return to Earth.
Graphics are fairly run-of-the-mill, mid-90s, third-person style.
The cool thing about Prisoner that gives it a really different
look (separating the men from the boys, so to speak) are the paintings
dispensed as graphics to accompany backstory bits given out by
various characters. These are some wonderfully creepy paintings
that anyone who has spent any time buried in the old horror comics
of the 60s and earlier, ala Creepy, EC's Vault of Horror, and
the venerable pre-Code Crypt of Terror, is going to recognize,
as well as the correlative relationship between the use of that
style and the mythos of Lovecraft's world (albeit sans the Mad
Arab in this instance).
The music is of an amazingly high quality for a game. This isn't
to say that there's not plenty of good game music around; I've
often found things I truly love in a number of games. It's just
that the music here is not only ambient, it has a fuller, more
noirish quality that heightens the tension considerably and gives
the player the feeling that she's got to hurry up right now,
or she may get jumped on.
The puzzles are everything an adventure gamer could ask for.
They fit into and forward the story. Things make sense and are
not a leap to understand. In other words, if there's a fire in
the wastebasket, here you put it out with a fire extinguisher,
not a fish. They are purely, with one exception, inventory-based.
There are some really nice, smooth design elements as well. There
is an automatic save feature built into the game, and dang it
if that sucker did not come in delightfully handy multiple times
for me. It saves just before any critical scenes occur. It also
has a satisfying endgame sequence, and two endings, both of which
are made available to the player by way of the auto save feature.
Additionally, inventory no longer needed is automatically removed.
This game is an excellent example of all the things that are
good about the adventure genre when a game has been built correctly.
There's an engrossing story, puzzles that are rational and keep
the player immersed in the story, not setting it aside to solve
them, and music and graphics that do the job of tying it together
in a cohesive package. This is a classicpick it up play
it if you'd like a game that gives you a good, old-fashioned,
third-person, story-driven injection.
Developer: I Motion
Release Date: 1995
Four Fat Chicks Links
68020 CPU minimum
6000K free RAM
2X or faster ROM drive
System 7.0 or higher
Sound Manager 3.1 or higher
486 DX 33 minimum
MS-DOS 5.0 or higher
Double speed CD-ROM drive
256 VGA graphics card
Sound Blaster and 100% compatibles
Where to Find It