Push The Button: ICBM Is A Free Nuke Launch Control Sim

The Cold War! A conflict immortalised in such action-packed movies as Rambo III, Red Dawn, Red Zone Cuba, and Rocky IV. But what about the real threat of the Cold War, the thousands of intercontinental ballistic missiles pointed at the USA and USSR? ICBM [official site] is a free game which puts you – yes, you! – at the heart of the action.

Across four missions, you’ll be the one sat at the desk with the big red button, waiting patiently for orders to turn the key and unleash the end of the world. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

You have the awfully important and dull job of sitting behind a desk for eight hours at a time (thankfully, minutes flick by in seconds) waiting for the call to come in. You have a huge bank of clicking, whirring, and crackling equipment to stare at and investigate, rapping your fingernails on your desk waiting for anything to do.

It’s all wrapped up in a bombastic package, with the menus full of explosions, missiles, fire, rousing music, and provocative level titles. And you wait. And wait.

The joke, of course, is that nothing happens. Or does it? The DEFCON level slowly decreases, drawing closer to Armageddon. It can be tiresome, but if you pop your headphones on it does have a beautiful soundscape of machinery and those rapping nails. Perhaps you might enjoy it with a cup of coffee and a croissant, as I did this morning.

You can download ICBM for free from Game Jolt. It’s made by Repvblic.


  1. BobbyDylan says:

    The only way to win is to not play at all.

  2. Atomic Playboy says:

    Talk about vaporware.

  3. Atomic Playboy says:

    ICBM looks amazing, it reminds me a lot of Introversion’s DEFCON. I will play both games tonight.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      It’s first person Defcon.

      Also, I too got the urge to play Defcon. Need to hustle up some people to play with.

      • Michael Davis says:

        I know it probably wasn’t your intention to completely make my day (as if being mentioned on RPS wasn’t enough) when you said “It’s first person Defcon”, but, none-the-less, that was the end result all the same.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          Hey, if I made someones day I’m thrilled.

          And I’d like to say that your game also kinda made mine. I’ve had the day off so I’ve been lazing about mostly but playing your game… kinda did something to me. I’ve been thinking about it on and off. I think it’s a great experience. And one that you can’t have in any other medium but games.

          I adore the sound design, art and the, dare I say it, boredom of it. Boredom that was intertwined with paranoia at every weird sound. Not knowing if that sound indicated the end of the world.

          To keep the comparisons up: it also reminded me of Papers, Please with higher stakes. :)

  4. peterako1989 says:

    why isn’t it a freeware garden?

  5. Tkrens says:

    I wish you could actually press some of those buttons though. They looks so press-able :( I can only imagine the satisfying ‘click’ as you press one of those buttons, or the little noises when you turn a dial.

    • LionsPhil says:

      They’re not? Aw. Interest deflated.

      I mean, let’s face it. The first thing I did upon digging up Shadow President was start WW3.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Cute trailer, though.

      • Michael Davis says:

        Something I’m learning about myself lately is that I’m the type of dork that can’t help himself but to reply to literally every single comment about his game on the Internet. I’ve never made a game before, so I never knew that about myself until just recently.

        But that’s neither here nor there.

        “I can only imagine the satisfying ‘click’ as you press one of those buttons, or the little noises when you turn a dial.” Tkrens, as an experience designer, you are making my freaking month by saying that. There’s a term for that I learned in film school that I have of course forgotten, but when you can use the limited resources you have to calibrate an audience member’s expectations of your “gestalt” (the “total picture” of your product; I don’t know a better term to use in English), and their subconscious automatically fills in the missing pieces with the same level of fidelity as what actually is on the page/screen/television/monitor, that’s the first step to a successful suspension of disbelief that can allow for a real emotional connection with a piece of media to occur. (I’m not saying I pulled off the second part, but it at least sounds like I cleared the first hurdle!)

        LionsPhil, if you do give it a shot (even if it’s to quit after 30 seconds, which is a completely valid reaction :), I would really like to hear your thoughts!

        • Stellar Duck says:

          This is also why using the stamp in Papers, Please is so bloody satisfying. It’s a low fidelity game but it sketches things just enough that I fill in the rest myself.

          And why I love flipping switches, pressing buttons and rotating dials in DCS A-10c.

          So I agree: I’d love to press buttons in this one as well. Though it took me a while to actually even attempt it as I was afraid to end the world by being clumsy.

        • April March says:

          Is the term you’re thinking of ‘affordance’?

          • Michael Davis says:

            Not quite, this was more in regards to world building and an affordance is simply what an object naturally allows you to do with it (door knobs afford turning, the straps on a backpack afford lifting, carrying, and wearing, etc.).

  6. airmikee says:

    It kind of reminds me of ‘Countermeasure’ on the Atari 5200.

  7. Stellar Duck says:

    Pedants gonna pedant, but shouldn’t the DEFCON level increase towards doom and the end of all things instead of decrease?

    • jrodman says:

      Think of it as a countdown to liftoff.

    • Harlander says:

      And of course, the UK has managed to contrive a much more boring-sounding version, with rankings ‘low’ to ‘critical’.

      The thing I really want to know about UK security response levels is how long the status can remain at ‘heightened’ before that heightened state in itself becomes the new ‘normal’…

  8. Windypundit says:

    Wow, Michael, some of the lusers at the Game Jolt page are saying ICBM has no gameplay! Clearly they never found the secret messages!!!!11!!

    • Michael Davis says:

      So, funny story about those… the game engine (link to adventuregamestudio.co.uk) has a known bug where if you hit Ctrl or Alt, it wants a letter key to follow (it’s expecting, for instance, Ctrl-C, or Alt-X). So if you Alt-Tab away from the game (something almost everyone is likely to do, whether out of boredom or to go online to Google what to do), when you return to the game it will still be waiting for you to “complete” an Alt-[?] key combination. Since Alt-Esc isn’t a key combination it understands, the Escape key stops working!

      Anyway, long story short those messages are a way to hopefully force the player to hit their Enter key, which un-confuses the engine and allows the Escape key to work properly again. (Clicking also dismisses the text pop-up, and doesn’t fix the Esc problem, so hopefully not too many people are trying that, and they’re following the order to HIT ENTER in all caps :P )

      • Windypundit says:

        Oh man, now you’ve given it away!

        Heh, that’s an interesting use of player interaction to solve a technical problem.