James Pond 3: Operation Starfi5h

Title           James Pond 3: Operation Starfi5h
Category        Platform
Company         Vectordean/Millennium, 1994
Compatibility   A1200/A4000 or CD32 only
HD Installable  Yes (With WHDLoad Patch)
Players         1
Submission      Joona Palaste (palaste@cc.helsinki.fi) Profiled Reviewer

The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the
morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by... Oh sorry, wrong James. What
we have here is the third (or fourth, depending on how you want to look at
it) and final game in Millennium's immensely popular James Pond series of
Amiga games.

The James Pond series, as you very well know, began in the early 1990's
with James Pond: Underwater Agent, quite an unusual platformer. First of
all, your character, an orange fish called James Pond, did not walk and
jump like a regular platform character. With the game taking place mostly
underwater, James had full two-dimensional freedom to move horizontally or
vertically as he pleased, killing bad guys by imprisoning them in bubbles
and then bursting them. Second, the whole plot of the game was based on an
ecological "end the pollution and save the world" idea.

In the second game, James Pond 2: Codename Robocod, both of these features
had vanished. James Pond 2, more affectionally known as Robocod, was a
straight Super Mario Brothers clone, with the clever twist that James had
swapped his stylish tuxedo for a heavy-duty cybernetic armour, enabling
him to extend his torso into incredible lengths. This allowed him to grab
hold of level ceilings, no matter how high they were, and drop down when
its best suited him.

The plot was a simple affair: A super villain known as Dr. Maybe had
kidnapped Santa Claus and was turning all the toys in Santa's factory into
horrible monsters. James Pond was called to the North Pole to find Dr.
Maybe and put a stop to his evil plans, freeing Santa Claus.

After Robocod came a brief interlude in the form of The Aquatic Games, the
only non-platformer in the series. This game, starring James Pond and a
host of other aquatic animals, was a humorous sporting competition game.
However, it is also the only game in the series that I have never played,
so enough of that.

Now finally for the last game, the subject of this review, James Pond 3:
Operation Starfi5h. First off, if you only have an OCS/ECS Amiga, sorry,
you're out of luck. Unlike the previous games, this game was only released
for AGA Amigas, including the CD32. I am reviewing the CD32 version.

The plot of Operation Starfi5h continues directly from Robocod, without
paying much heed to the first game. Dr. Maybe is back, and this time he's
travelled to the Moon, threatening the world with a spy satellite. James
Pond, his assistant Finnius the Frog and girlfriend Angel Fish, travel to
the Moon to find and defeat him.

Right from the start, it becomes obvious that this too is a Super Mario
Brothers clone. The whole game plays like Super Mario 3 or 4, which is
understandable, as the CD32 competed directly with the Nintendo SNES and
the Sega MegaDrive. You have your scrolling map with levels marked as dots
connected with pathways, you have your head-butt blocks, you have your
enemies that you jump on to kill.

For all its supposed "secret agent" image, the whole game has a humorous
style. The Moon, as you all know, is made of cheese. Right. So the basic
element of the landscape of every element is cheese, and all the levels
are named after cheese varieties. Enemies come in the form of cute and
cuddly animals, such as rats and birds. You can either jump on them or
shoot them with a fruit gun, provided you find one first.

Initially, only James Pond is available for play. Later on, you find
Finnius the Frog and Angel Fish, and can assume control of them.
Unfortunately I have so far not found either of them and thus can't tell
what it is like to play them. James Pond, however, functions pretty much
the same way as in Robocod. Only this time he doesn't have an extending
torso feature, but instead has magnetic boots. These enable him to scale
the Moon's cheesy surface in any direction whatsoever, horizontally,
inclined, vertically, or even upside down. It took me a while to realise
that when James is upside down, pressing left on the joypad moves him
right and vice versa. Once you realise it, though, it becomes second
nature. There are numerous bonus items to be found, and each of these will
allow James to use different features.

In each level, James Pond's goal is to find one of Dr. Maybe's
communicator beacons and destroy it, allowing him to move onward. On some
levels, you face an end-of-level guardian, and finally Dr. Maybe himself.
Unfortunately, I have only played the first couple of levels, and don't
know what the rest of the game is like.

One thing I found irritating, though, is the complete lack of a "quit"
key. If you decide to quit your current game, you must either use up all
your lives or turn the computer (or console) off. Especially in the
beginning this can be irritating, as you start out with quite a lot of
lives and the first couple of levels are really easy.

The presentation in James Pond 3 is quite good, but hardly spectacular. If
you have played Robocod, you know what to expect. The graphics are
wonderfully cartoony and colourful, and the music is also worthwhile.
There seem to be two in-game tunes: a jolly Mario Brothers style melody
and the James Pond theme tune. The Pond theme, in my opinion, is much
better. I would have liked more tunes, perhaps three or four. Maybe there
are more later, I'll have to see. The sound effects are your typical
Mario Brothers fare.

The CD32 version includes a brilliant animated intro, with cartoony
graphics and sampled speech. I don't know for sure, but I think
A1200/A4000 owners will miss out on this.

Overall, this game is a worthy successor to Robocod, and certainly one of
the best Super Mario Brothers clones for the Amiga. If you want to play
such platformers but don't have a Nintendo and Sega console, this game is
worth buying. However, it's certainly not the greatest platformer to have
graced the Amiga, and unless you're a die-hard platformer fanatic, you
don't really need to have it in your collection.

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