Prisoner of Ice
First posted on 22 April 2010. Last updated on 22 April 2010.
When it comes to modern horror fiction, authors such as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or even John Saul springs to mind. Yet, the true forefather of modern horror fiction is undoubtedly H.P. Lovecraft. His works have inspired many contemporary writers, including King, Koontz, and Saul, though most critics have considered him to be a writer whose talent has not been fully appreciated until after his death. Many videogames in the horror genre owe their themes to Lovecraft. In this sense, Lovecraft is also the forefather of the survival horror genre for videogames. Gamers familiar with Lovecraft's works will frequently see shades of his stories in their favorite horror videogames. Indeed, many of these games claim inspiration from the writings of Lovecraft.
Lovecraft's body of works has been called "The Cthulhu Mythos". The mythos features a series of godlike beings called "The Old Ones" arriving from outer space to rule Earth but have fallen asleep sometime in the distant past. The best known of these beings is Cthulhu, described by Lovecraft as a monster with a tentacle head, flabby claws, and wings.
Cthulhu has a role in Prisoner of Ice. In fact, the game is also called Call of Cthulhu: Prisoner of Ice (renamed later on) on and is based on Lovecraft's story "At the Mountains of Madness". The game's protagonist is Lt. Ryan, an American officer assigned to the British Royal Navy. The year is 1937. Ryan is on a British submarine in an Antarctic rescue mission. The objective is to rescue a scientific expedition that has uncovered something hideous and horrifying that is packed inside sealed crates. The British and Americans are in a race with the Nazis to reach this expedition, as the Nazis also want to uncover the secret of the expedition and keep it for their own.
Soon, it is revealed the "prisoners" are monsters who are in frozen hibernation inside the crates. Ryan and the others manage to rescue only a single member of the expedition, a man named Hamsun who is now delirious. Once underway, they are attacked by the Nazis. The submarine's system is damaged, the crates begin to thaw, and the "prisoners" are released to wreck havoc. When the submarine's captain is found dead, Ryan is left in charge. Using hypnotism, Ryan learns how to kill these monsters. He uses the spell that Hamsun knows about Cthulhu and uses it to stop the "prisoners". Along the way, Ryan also discovers that Nazi scientists are trying to bring back "The Old Ones" out of slumber and, with their help, to take over the world.
The graphics in this game are impressive. The backgrounds are detailed and colorful, and the animations are fluid (over 60,000 frames of animated used). Yet, by far, the audios in this game are why I like the game so much. The sounds are eerie and creepy, and the music (over 70 minutes of music composed) adds the frosting to the game's scary cake. Music is the key to make a game truly immersive, and this game provides plenty of it. In fact, not having the music takes much away from the game.
Despite being released on CD-ROM, the game does not copy itself onto the hard drive during installation, just the game saves and configuration files. For computers without a cavernous hard drive, this is a handy feature since the game takes up very little space.
As in all adventure games, Prisoner of Ice has puzzles. The puzzles are inventory based and not too difficult, though some are timed based so that the player must act quickly. The only drawback I have found is that when the player uncovers a number or word code, it does not go into the inventory to be stored for later use. Writing it down solves that problem.
The game is not that long, making up for less than 5 hours of play time (despite the developer claiming "70 plus hours of gameplay"). The characters are not as in depth as in other games that draw from the same mythos, though the game attempts to make a tenuous connection to Shadows of the Comet (also known as Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet) by introducing a few characters common to both titles. Despite that flaw, Prisoner of Ice is an above average game. It is not outstanding by any means, but it is an entertaining title. For fans of Lovecraft who want every game that is based on his works, Prisoner of Ice is an unavoidable pick. I also recommend this game to gamers, like myself, who collect old videogames to play for nostalgia. For them, Prisoner of Ice is a good title to add to the collection.