James Pond 3: Operation Starfish
for Amiga (AGA)

James-Pond-3-Box-01.jpg
Mr Creosote:
Company: Millennium
Year: 1994
Genre: Action
Theme: Cartoon & Comic / Humour / Promotional / Science Fiction
Language: English, Francais, Deutsch, Italiano
Licence: Commercial
Views: 611
Review by Mr Creosote (2022-08-07)
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Robocod being one of the few home computer originals actually rivalling the console genre kings and queens, Operation Starfish shattered all expectations it may have raised. Not in the positive sense. What happened? The Mega Drive and its mascot infected the developers. A bad case of Sonic fever.

The predecessor had also already featured a few places where protagonist James Pond could go to high speed. Sonic had already built two complete games around this, and it seemed like the thing to do in jump'n'run games at the time. While reaching this speed was technically feasible, what this one's designers didn't understand (or maybe they were unable to replicate) is the highly tweaked level design optimized around such gameplay.

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Operation Starfish regularly expects its player to run, run, run, making James essentially uncontrollable as far as avoiding enemies or other dangers suddenly popping up is concerned. Maybe even worse, the levels depending on a lot of up and down movement demand to take pure leaps of faith into the unknown constantly. What will be below? Regular ground or a spike pit? No way to know. All this is truly shoddy game design.

The game's theoretical qualities, such as the abundance of levels, the interesting effect of walking on ceilings thanks to James' new futuristic shoes and (later in the game) the option to switch to his frog colleague with yet different special abilities, don't save anything. None of the special abilities are put to good use. On the contrary: the presence of a frog avatar just leads to further uncontrolled jumping into the unknown.

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On the technical side, not too much positive to say, either. Released several months after the Mega Drive original, the downport to the Amiga requires the AGA chipset, but there is no visible reason why it shouldn't work on lower end models. Compared to the original version, it even lost its parallax backgrounds, making the game look unnecessarily plain both in action and on static pictures. Music is completely forgettable.

Do not mistake the laziness of the port to be the main issue here, though. Even with technical brilliance, Operation Starfish would be an awful game, showing the worst of the genre. It is truly hard to imagine that the same people who made the previous part were also responsible for this one.

Comments (3) [Post comment]

Mr Creosote:
Originally posted by Poorchop at 06:52 on August 7th, 2022:
This series is insane. I got a friend to play one of the James Pond games once and it had the quality of a fever dream. I didn't realize that they had also attempted a Sonic clone with one of the installments. Nevertheless, it's a shame that the character has become a relic of the past but I guess that but I guess that a character conceived based on the similarity of the word "pond" to the surname of a fictional British spy couldn't be expected to have that much staying power.

Even if this third installment was a Mega Drive original, the series never really established itself on the much more commercially viable game console platforms. The death of the home computer market therefore took it down.

On a positive note, at least they did try something different each time. No two games are really alike. For better or worse.

Poorchop:
This series is insane. I got a friend to play one of the James Pond games once and it had the quality of a fever dream. I didn't realize that they had also attempted a Sonic clone with one of the installments. Nevertheless, it's a shame that the character has become a relic of the past but I guess that but I guess that a character conceived based on the similarity of the word "pond" to the surname of a fictional British spy couldn't be expected to have that much staying power.
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