On the off-chance that I haven't made it obvious on this little hovel I call my internet home, I'm a denizen of the fair isle of England. As well as conjuring up the image of a top-hat-wearing, tea-drinking limey who eats crumpets, this fact neatly explains all the weird words and expressions on the site like 'bobbins' and 'strike a light', and the way I spell words like 'colour' and 'paedophile' (a word that crops up far too often here). As such, you might be asking why I haven't been representin' my home crew; almost all my reviews are for games from Japan and America. This isn't because we aren't any good at making games- series like Grand Theft Auto, Lemmings, Tomb Raider and Worms all came from British development houses- it's just that a lot of the 'classic' British games were released on the Amiga, and I was always a Mega Drive kid.
What's that you say?
Half of the good Amiga titles were released on the Mega Drive anyway?
... Uh, well, of course I knew that...
Unfortunately, a lot of the Amiga games that made the jump to the Mega Drive were a little bit lacking- Zool springs to mind- so let's focus on something that's actually, you know, good. Today, I've decided to cover a British Amiga game, one that goes by the rather farcical name of James Pond II - Codename: Robocod, that's particularly close to my heart. Developed by Chris Sorrell for Millennium, the team behind the PS1 hit Medieval, we're looking at the Mega Drive version of the sequel to the less-than-stellar James Pond: Underwater Agent- a game that came across as a weird cross between Bubble Bobble and every swimming level in every platform game ever made. Although a moderate success (and the first European-developed Mega Drive game), Sorrell decided to do something different for the sequel- give his fish legs and parody Robocop instead.
So, the basic plot- and bear with me on this one- is that the nefarious Dr. Maybe has taken over a certain toy factory in the North Pole that belongs to a certain S. Claus, kidnapping some nearby penguins and holding them hostage, and letting his minions (referred to as Maybe's Meanies- I won't be adopting this turn of phrase, you'll be glad to know) run around the place. Naturally, this is something that the head honchos at the espionage agency F.I.5.H. (yes, that's their name) want to get sorted as quickly as possible, so they send in James Pond- a fishy secret agent with a license to gill and a new robotic shell, the Expandosuit, that allows him to walk on land and stretch his body (it's just as useful as it sounds). Pond only has two objectives: rescue Santa and the penguins, and stop Dr. Maybe!
Moving away from the single-screen shenanigans of his first game, James Pond II sees our poisson protagonist making his way through a bevy of stages, divided up into several themed worlds, like the Sporting Goods World, the Sweets World, and so on. Unlike other games at the time, though, you don't start in the first world and go through all the levels in a strict order; instead you start outside Santa's Toy Factory which acts as a level hub, with only 2 doors unlocked at the beginning. Each door has a multi-staged world behind it, and every 2 worlds you beat, you unlock a boss door. Beating the boss unlocks the next 2 worlds, and so on, which means you have a tiny bit of freedom regarding which order you do the levels in, until World 7, where all that goes out the window. Not much freedom, mind you, but it's still interesting to see ideas like this from such an old game.
Now, for this play-through, we're going to do things a little differently. Since, aside from his body-stretching gimmick, Pond controls almost the same as every platform game hero ever, there's no preamble about the items or controls this time. No, we're going to take each part of the game as we come to it- the items, the enemies, the levels, everything. It's going to mostly focus on the incredibly messed-up experience that is James Pond II. If I was a little more pretentious, you might say that this is a way of seeing the game as I saw it when I was a young child who constantly rented this game from the video shop just to get a little closer to beating it every time... What kept bringing me back was how wacky the game was.
Fortunately, for you lot, I'm not that pretentious. I'm just doing this for laughs.
Now, it's time to tell Dr. Maybe that, dead or alive, he's coming with us- let's play James Pond II - Codename: Robocod!
We're counting on you, Pond- your mission begins on the next page!