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 James Pond 3: Operation Starfish logo  AGA  CU Super Star

James Pond is back, an he's bigger and better than ever. Tony Dillon can't swim, but we stuck him in the fish tank anyway. And surprise, surprise. He floats!

James Pond 3: Operation Starfish A sk anyone to name one of the most influential Amiga platform games ever, and they'll invariably mention James Pond in one of his previous incarnations. Taking what made certain console games the huge sellers what they are and making them better is what made Robocod the smash hit it was, and I'm pleased to be able to announce that in the sequel to the sequel, Millennium have gone even further. If you only ever buy two platform games for your A1200, this is one of them. (Bubble 'N' Squeak is the other, but you don't need me to tell you that).

If you're expecting another Robocod, however, then prepare to be shocked. Operation Starfish couldn't be further from that original smash. Robocod was far more in tune with Mario than this game, which features more than a tip of the hat to Sonic the Hedgehog, if only down to the intense speed this runs at. However, before I get you all excited over the game itself, how about a bit of the plot to get you really moving?

Doctor Maybe, the ever present enemy of F.I.5.H, has been keeping quite a low profile lately, ever since being defeated at the end of Robocod. Agents were put on his tail after the battle at the Toy Factory, but he soon slipped surveillance. The next thing of any importance to happen was the disappearance of a NASA Space shuttle. Maybe held a secret meeting in the desert, from which a large flash was seen streaking heavenward.

James Pond 3: Operation Starfish Only one conclusion can be drawn Maybe has taken the shuttle and set up a base on the moon! What else can F.I.5.H doe but send their top undercover agent to that large ball of cheese in the sky to track down Maybe and close down his operations for good.

In true secret intelligence style, Pond has been decked out with all the latest equipment, such as boots that allow him to move without the discomfort of reduced gravity and micro-sized breathing apparatus that let him run around freely in an airless environment.

As always there are dozens of items left lying around for him to pick up and use to his advantage, provided you can figure out where to use them.

James Pond 3: Operation Starfish SHAKEN NOT SHSTIRRED
You don't need me to tell you that Operation Starfish is a platform game, but what a platform game it is! Easily the biggest seen on the Amiga, there are over a 110 levels to play around with, and each one is absolutely huge, easily 20 to 30 screens long and who knows how many high. You'll find almost no similarity between them either. It's not as if you can work out a strategy for completing levels like you could with Robocod. The only thing that remains the same about each level is the fact that you start at one end and somewhere near the other end is a transmitter that needs to be activated by collecting a secret number of teacups, and then destroyed with a single punch.

The whole thing is held together with an enormous map which, in true console fashion, grows as you work through it. At the beginning, there is only a small selection and a single level displayed. Complete the level and the path to the next one is shown. Interestingly enough, only part of the 111 levels in the game need to be completed to reach the end. Depending on how much of a level you complete when you reach the end for example, if you only collect the bare minimum of teacups to activate the transmitter, instead of all the teacups on the level then more than one path can be displayed. Depending on how you play, there are literally dozens of ways to work through the game, and the only levels you need see twice are the very early ones.

James Pond 3: Operation Starfish As I've already said, this game takes a lot more from, say, Sonic than it does Mario. Sure, there are still lots of hidden blocks to headbang against, and there are plenty of enemy sprites to leap upon and destroy with your feet, but the whole thing is considerably faster than the last game. In Robocod he rolled along at a leisurely pace most of the time, occasionally building up speed when he came down a slope. In Operation Starfish, James has a gearbox. You start the game in 'walk' mode, where he moves around at a controllable rate but can't climb the sides of mountains. Pressing the space bar takes him into 'run' mode, where no surface is too sheer, even hanging upside down.

Yes, Pond's boots recreate a field of gravity, but they do it on any surface, not necessarily the one that forms the crust of the moon. Remember, this time Pond isn't racing inside a conveniently-designed building. This is the moon we are talking about, and you couldn't hope for a more uneven surface to run around on. Still, unless you actually jump, Pond sticks firmly to the ground he's walking on, and as a result can often end up running upside down, up the side of a wall and even round and round a single block if you aren't careful.

James Pond 3: Operation Starfish All this has made for some very clever level design, and Chris Sorrell stands to be heartily congratulated for this. A finer designer of platform games has never walked this earth, in my opinion. Even though the game is so large, you are very rarely left wondering where to go next. Every screen is packed with clues as to what to do, even if said clues aren't particularly blatant. A tree might extend above the top of the screen, or you might come across a blank wall with a considerable amount of open space in front of it. It doesn't give the game away, but it does add a very nice puzzle element to what is already a superb game.

Take the first level, for example. Right at the very start there is a block just hanging in mid air. Leaping off it accomplishes nothing, nor does hitting it. Yet running along a bit you find a bomb. Drop the bomb on the block and when it explodes, it takes the block with it, opening up a wormhole to a secret bonus room. There is a prize of five games of your choice to the first person to map out all the secret locations in this game!

James Pond 3: Operation Starfish O SOLE O MIO!
Visually, the game is wonderful. Although it is very different to Robocod and Aquatic Games in that it is nowhere near as colourful (but what do you expect in space?). It also doesn't seem as cute as the last two games. Instead, this is a tougher, meaner Pond we're seeing. He is a fish of action, not silly little dances and cute expressions. There's bags of character in the game, too, although some of the cuteness gets used against the player.

Take the sweet little chicks, for example, who rush to meet you when you walk near them. Happily they waddle across the landscape, until they reach your feet, at which point they explode taking some of your energy with them. Gits.

One thing this game is, though, is very, very tough. The size of it alone means that it will take some people weeks before they see half of it. There are enemies just as tough as Pond, and if you can get through level two without losing energy the first fifty times of playing the game, I'll be very surprised. It isn't frustratingly hard, though, and that is partly what makes the game so addictive.

Whenever you lose energy or a life, you know you could have avoided it. There are no hidden, nasty surprises, and the controls are good enough to allow you to fly through the early levels.

The ultimate follow up? I think so. Millennium have the Pond series down to a fine art now, and I should think so too considering the number of platforms that Robocod got put out on. If you have seen the incredible Megadrive version of this game, then you'll be happy to know that this is identical.

An amazing game it is just a crying shame that non-AGA owners will have to miss out.

CU Amiga, March 1994, pp.64-66

As you race around each of the levels, there are all sorts of goodies waiting to be discovered. Here is just a selection of the toys on offer.

Very handy for crossing large spaces, the umbrella slows Pond's descent to an almost standstill, allowing him to make far longer jumps than ever before.

One of the only real weapons in the game, this fires a selection of different fruit, depending on the number of power-ups you have collected for it. It starts off firing bouncing apples, but as you increase its

capabilities, you can work all the way up to homing cakes. This gun is handy for clearing a path along the ground, but needs a little practice to make good use of it when it the air.

Can be thrown at enemies, or especially at large boxes of TNT. A short fuse means that it will explode shortly after being thrown, so you best get out of the way as quickly as possible.

Ever fancied taking a piece of moon rock home with you. The cheese can be thrown at enemy sprites as a weapon, or can be used as a stepping stone to allow Pond to reach higher platforms.

Yep. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but James Pond 3 Operation Starfish will not be available on anything but the A1200/A4000 series.
The reason for this? The game is just far too big to fit on the typical A500 set-up. There is no way the levels would ever fit on a 1Mb machine, and rather than take a risk on ruining the game by cutting it down, Millennium have cancelled the A500 version. If you really want to see it on your non-AGA machine, then get your 2 Meg upgrades now, and start petitioning Millennium.

Join our Pond expert, Smokey McArel, as he takes a nostalgic look back at the history of this incredibly successful computer character:

It all started as a tiny little platform game, with a fish who swam around a lot and rescued other fishes. Erstwhile CU AMIGA Dep Ed Jon Sloan swore by this one, thinking it to be the best thing since sliced bread, while current Dep Ed Lisa Collins is right behind him on that one. Of course, looking at it now it does all seem quite primitive, with little of the charm and character that have made Pond such a leading character, but at the time, well, what can I say.

The game that made the fish. Millennium really hit the nail on the head with this one, taking the Mario fever that was sweeping the land and creating the perfect game with it. Dressed in a metallic body suit, Pond could extend his waist vertically to enormous proportions, allowing him to reach high platforms and other interesting things in the sky. He had a whole selection of vehicles and gadgets to play with, and one of the most whistle-able soundtracks ever heard in a computer game.

Bit of a no-no, this one. It looked great, played well, but there wasn't enough game in there to keep Joe public interested. Aquatic games featured all sorts of cute antics and cuddly characters, but the sight of Pond in shorts just didn't leave much for the imagination.



One of the best arcade games ever released for Amiga.

 James Pond 3: Operation Starfish CD32 logo  CD32  CU Amiga Screen Star

One of the most loved games of all time is Robocod. One of the most loved reviewers of all time is Tony Dillon. (Says who? Ed). Now James Pond is back, we just couldn't bear to keep them apart.

James Pond 3: Operation Starfish CD32 I f we have one thing to thank the consoles for in Amiga-land, it has to be the James Pond series of games. I was never really a fan of the original James Pond, but then that was before Mario fever really gripped the nation. Its successor, Robocod, was such a well 'borrowed' version, that it completely reshaped the Amiga platform game scene. Now we have the third in the series, the magnificent Operation Starfi5h, which shows Millennium 'adapting' another great game - Sonic The Hedgehog, and managing to do it even better.

In the last game of the Pond series, the infamous Doctor Maybe had kidnapped Santa Clause, and was threatening to take over the world with an army of killer toys. Since then he's been incredibly quiet, which is something that's been making the world very nervous indeed, until one day a stolen space shuttle was seen taking off from the middle of the desert and heading for the moon. The secret was out Doctor Maybe had taken all the rodents of the world to the place with more cheese than Switzerland, from which position he was going to try and take over the world again. Only one person could successfully get to the moon and stop Doctor Maybe in his tracks, and as you can probably guess, that person isn't Leonard Cohen.

As you can probably tell from the screenshots, Operation Starfi5h is a platform game, but it's a lot more besides. Admittedly, it has all the usual traits of a platform game you start at one end of the level and have to find your way to the other end, avoiding contact with other characters. The one thing that Pond 3 has that a lot of other games don't have, however, is a real puzzle element. It isn't enough to simply get to the end of the level there are a couple of tasks you need to do first.

James Pond 3: Operation Starfish CD32 Initially, your big concern is to find the transmitting device for the level and destroy it with a single Pond punch. However, there is no point destroying it until it has been activated, and to turn it on, you need to collect teacups. When you have enough, a number that is never disclosed, the transmitter will start emitting signals. If you blow it up before it has started to send, then you will be thrown back to the start of the level again.

Actually getting to the transmitter is quite easy. You always start on the left of the level and the transmitter is always on the right. That said, the levels are enormous, easily the biggest seen in an Amiga platform game, and the teacups are dotted all over the place. There are more secret areas and hard-to-reach places in this game than there are in Super Mario Worlds on the SNES, and that's saying something!

James Pond 3: Operation Starfish CD32 There is a logic to it all though, and this becomes apparent after you have solved a couple of levels. Although it might look like you have reached a dead end, or there is nothing more you can do on a level, chances are you just haven't looked closely enough. There is a reason for most things being where they are, and sometimes a lucky jump off a seemingly meaningless bump can uncover a previously invisible block, which will lead to something else, and so on.

The game is more or less identical to the A1200 version released a couple of months ago, with all the same sound effects and speech as the disk version. There is the obligatory Pond cartoon at the beginning of the game, as seen in Robocod, and that's really all that CD32 owners get in the way on enhancements. But then again, this is a great game, so there's no real reason to look for things to improve. Easily one of the best arcade games ever released.

CU Amiga, September 1994, p.49



A stunning platformer, but a little more sound would have made it even better.