"Don't remember James Pond? If you came to gaming with the 32-bit machines then that's understandable, although in the 16 bit era Pond was a real gaming icon. In the days before Lara Croft or the big orange marsupial our Jimmy was one of the most recognisable game characters, not in the same league as Mario, Luigi and co., Sonic and his friends or Ecco The Dolphin, but not acres behind (especially in his Robocod guise). For the uninitiated, Pond is an agent of F.I.5.H, a kinda sub-aqua MI5, if yo..."
Don't remember James Pond? If you came to gaming with the 32-bit machines then that's understandable, although in the 16 bit era Pond was a real gaming icon. In the days before Lara Croft or the big orange marsupial our Jimmy was one of the most recognisable game characters, not in the same league as Mario, Luigi and co., Sonic and his friends or Ecco The Dolphin, but not acres behind (especially in his Robocod guise). For the uninitiated, Pond is an agent of F.I.5.H, a kinda sub-aqua MI5, if you will. For his second (and most well known) adventure Pond tracked his nemesis Dr. Maybe above the surface, surviving by using a suit that transformed him into Robocod. Well the suit is gone for this, the third of Pond's platform excursions, although Pond still has not returned to the depths. Nope, instead he's gone to the Moon. Now that's ambition!
The plot is very typical of the sheer wackiness that is Pond's world. After his failed attempt to take over Santa's grotto, Maybe has stolen a rocket and recruited a rodent work-force in order to plunder the cheese supplies on the Moon. Aided by a pair of shoes that allow him to survive the Moon's atmosphere (?) Pond sets out to put a halt to Maybe's latest nefarious scheme and put his cheese mines out of action. Go, Jimmer!
If Robocod had a large selection of levels (and for your information, it did), then Operation: Starfish has loads of them! Pretty much all of the levels are given excruciatingly terrible cheese puns for names (think the tag line for this review, only much, much worse), such as Caerphilly Downs, although this actually helps the light-hearted atmosphere of the game. The levels are accessed from an overhead view of a world map. This allows for some instances of taking alternative routes through the game, giving it much more replay value than Pond's other games. The levels themselves start out easily enough, although by the time you reach the halfway point of the game you'll be tearing your hair out at the difficulty of some of the sections (not that this is a bad thing - quite the opposite, in fact). It's the usual platform fare, in all honesty, although it's handled with such flair that only the most emotionally stunted gamers out there will find it possible not to love it. There are lots of neat little touches that set this apart from other games in the genre, too. Pond's incredible magic shoes allow him to walk on the ceiling of caves too, in certain levels, which makes the controls reversed, adding to the challenge, and on occasion you will find yourself dressing up as a giant piece of fruit (as Pond, that is, not in real life, unless you're just downright barmy) and rolling like a snowball in an avalanche into the hapless rodent enemies. Sheer brilliance. Unless difficulty is not a good thing in your eyes, then it is really hard to fault the gameplay in Operation: Starfish.
The presentation in the game matches up to the gameplay very well: the levels are nice and colourful, and the game can cope with a large number of enemies on screen at one time with hardly any noticeable slowdown. The music suits the mood admirably, although the sound effects are pretty much standard.
The controls, too, are responsive enough and fairly intuitive, although they can be really tricky when it gets to the upside-down sections (although I imagine that this was intended - why else reverse the controls?). All in all the controls match the high quality mapped out in the rest of the game.
The only complain that can be levelled at the game is the frankly abysmal password system. Instead of a random jumble of numbers and letters (which is bad enough) the developers have taken the bizarre step of making the passwords consist of various different pictures, all of which come in different colours. Writing the passwords down is an arduous task, and this rather detracts from the convenience of including a password feature. Why couldn't they have just included battery back-up????? If they had then this game would have been virtually flawless....
That aside however, what we have here is a game that improves over Robocod in almost every way, with the added bonus of not being tied to a single time of the year. Unlike many game series', which tend to get tired and repetitive by the time the third offering is served up, Pond's games only ever seemed to get better, and that is why they will always hold a fond place in the heart of older gamers. In fact, this is one of the games that made me want a Mega Drive in the first place, and you can't give much higher praise than that.
Community review by tomclark (March 06, 2004)
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