Operation Starfi5h logo AGA Amiga Computing Gold Award

Good Cod! Perch on your seats and plaice yourself in Jonathan Maddock's position as he has a whale of a time playing Millennium's platform spectacular...

INTRODUCTION

Mario and Sonic have dominated the world console scene for the last few years and anyone who thinks good platform games can only be found on the Sega or Nintendo machine is either stupid or na´ve, or even both.

One of the world's biggest gaming stars is James Pond and although this fishy super hero has made an appearance on no less than 14 formats, his first starring role was on the Amiga.
As well as being a terrific game character, James Pond has had the added advantage of starring in games of superb quality. Both of Pond's adventures have had ab incredibly high level of addiction making it impossible for gamers to put their joysticks down.

Robocod, the second Pond adventure, was perhaps one of, if not the best looking platformer of its era. Millennium have now got a third dose of secret agent platform antics on the way and it's been claimed that this Pond extravaganza is bigger and better than the previous two games together.

STORYLINE

Dr Maybe, following his defeat in Robocod, left the North Pole in search of revenge. Within the hour the evil Dcotor has hatched a brand new scheming and devastating plan for world domination.

The idea is to take over the moon which is, of course, made of cheese. A well placed ad in the local Rat City newspaper gave maybe a new band of vermin to control.
Shooting off to the moon with his army of rats, Dr Maybe was soon transporting the freshly mined cheese back to earth and dominating the world cheese markets.

With the world once again at the Doctors mercy, there was nothing else to do but call in the world's fishiest secret agent to defeat his evil adversary and restore peace back to the galaxy.


 

FLASHBACK

The first game that immediately springs to mind is, in fact, Pond 3's predecessor, Robocod. This brilliant platformer had some of the best graphics and sound of that gaming era and more importantly, had an absolute wealth of playability and addiction contained within it.

There are about a billion other platformers I could mention when asked for comparisons to Pond 3 and words like Zool, Rainbow Islands, Woody's World, Superfrog, Soccer Kid, Chuck Rock, Magic Pockets and New Zealand Story just roll of the tongue, proving that Millennium's game might be a good platform romp, but in terms of originality it's nothing special.


 

SOUND

The tunes found in Pound 3 are very similar to those found in Robocod. For those first-time Pond users, the music in Robocod basically ripped off the James Bond theme, but was a lot more bouncy. On the sound-effects front, there are a few select noises here and there, but nothing to scream and shout about. You do get a small snippet of a sound sample before you start each level, when Pond's boss, F, tells Pond to "Get ready" or announces that "We're depending on you Pond".

I, for one, was a bit disappointed that there weren't more sound effects, but thanks to the superb tunes you forget all about this little discrepancy.

75%

 

GRAPHICS

The adventures of James Pond have always had a cartoon feel to them, but in this third instalment this style has been emphasised even more. The graphic artists have concentrated a lot more on the animation and look of the characters. The backgrounds in Robocod were bright and colourful, but for the third part of the Pond series they've been toned down to a simple black background with a few stars dotted around the screen for good measure..

The simple look makes the characters a lot more prominent and is now capable of doing a lot more. The enemies look better than they did in the two previous Pond games and it's obvious that a lot of work has gone into designing them.

Each section in Pond 3 has a different theme and the background graphics change accordingly as you go from level to level. One minute you're running around Custardy plains and the next you're stuck in a swamp, but no matter what section you're in the graphics look absolutely superb.

Millennium's fishy adventure is one of the best looking platformers I've seen since the stylised beauty of Flashback and it could easily compete with, and possibly beat, its console counterparts.

85%

 

OPINION85%

Highly original it might not be, but fans of the previous games and platform lovers will be absolutely besotted with the third installment of James Pond.
The game contains over 111 massive levels, it's one of the harder platforms I've had the pleasure of playing and I guarantee that it will take even the most experienced gamer a long time to complete.

The major difference with Robocod and its successor is that Pond 3 contains a high puzzle element to it and it's not a case of simply getting to the other side of the screen to the exit anymore.

The game also has a brand new character in Finneus Frog, one of Pond's fellow secret agents. This adds a while new dimension to the Pond series and you literally get two games for the price of one.

Graphics wise, I can't fault James Pond 3 as it looks exquisite. Although the graphics are brilliant, the game really shines in the playability and addiction stakes. I, for one, haven't been able to put it down since it came into the office. Don't forget that James Pond 3 is for the A1200 and CD32 only, and that's simply because the game is far too big to fit onto the A500/A600.

For sheer enjoyment and lastability you'd have to go far to find a better platform game than Millennium's tasty third fishy adventure. If you're yearning for some fast, frenetic platform jumping fun then I suggest you splash your cash on James Pond 3. You will not regret it.



Operation Starfi5h logo AGA

Intrepid hero Pond learns to moonwalk in his third piscine platform adventure. But can our fishy friend win again, or will he lose it in his lunar travels?

The 'tench' ion is mounting. Oof! Fiendishly fiendish fiend Dr Maybe has hired a gang of mercenary rodents and they've hijacked one of NASA's space shuttles. Why? Well, not only is it a dream to fly - fabulous velcro interior - you can also use the spacecraft to get to the moon where there is an inordinate amount of cheese just waiting to be mined.

The 'tench' ion is mounting. Oof! Fiendishly fiendish fiend Dr Maybe has hired a gang of mercenary rodents and they've hijacked one of NASA's space shuttles. Why? Well, not only is it a dream to fly - fabulous velcro interior - you can also use the spacecraft to get to the moon where there is an inordinate amount of cheese just waiting to be mined.

And, of course, the flourishing fromage market is a path to world domination - cream the cheese trade and the world is your oyster.

Forget Cheddar and Brie; Moon Cheese is the modern mouse-about-town's favourite dairy dish and he'll happily pay through the whiskers for its pungent delights. Quite why the cunning medic roped in rodents remains a mystery. It's like asking a gang of kids to go strawberry 'picking'. "Now, no eating along the way children, please."

Countering this unlikely scenario is our old friend, James Pond - 00Fish, or something. Well, he is very offish in this adventure, anyway. Not only does our fishular friend have to save the world from an epidemic of poor, cheese-based snacks, he must also attempt a daring rescue of his toadular chum Fillius Frog who is then free to give JP a hand.

This is one huge platform adventure. Over a hundred levels to wade through - secret ones too, a plethora of enemies to counteract and some of the toughest gameplay this die of one of those RPGs you can never be bothered learning how to master. But despite the size and complexity of the task, there is something fundamentally unsatisfying about much of Pond 3.

This isn't just a bad platform game. It's just, well, the whole thing is a bit dark. Most of the backgrounds are black with the odd purple pixel thrown in, and even though the parallax scrolling is smooth, and yes, I know the whole shebang is taking place on the moon, JP deserves better.

As you progress through the levels, the game map extends and you can travel to all manner of bizarre worlds. Worlds with ice, cherries, custard and cows. And yet, upon arriving in these new worlds, at times you get the feeling you've been there before; Pond might be huge in terms of gaming area but much of the gameplay is rather 'samey'. And darned tricky at times too - not that this is a bad thing, of course.

It's not as if there isn't enough to do. Pick-ups abound - dynamite, jetpacks, cheese and gateaux guns - and there are enough baddies to satisfy even the most fanatical of extrminators. And sure, Pond's as pacey as a certain spikey hedgehog, yet Operation Starfi5h lacks character. Yes, one of the Amiga's most endearing platform heroes is in an adventure that you just cannot be bothered trying to win. That's sad.



Frischer Fisch

Operation Starfi5h logo AGA A1200 Speziell

James Pond ist für den amiganischen Plattformdienst das, was James Bond für den englischen Geheimdienst ist: Top-Agent in Sachen Unterhaltung. Und auch in seiner neuen Mission macht Millenniums schuppiger Qualitätsgarant wieder eine gute Figur!

Wir wissen nicht, was die merkwürdige Schreibweise des Untertitels bedeuten mag, aber wir wissen, daß die Coder von Vectordean auch mit Ponds drittem Geheimauftrag (sein Auftritt in den sportlichen "Aquatic Games" war ja eher ein Gastspiel) wieder ein gut spielbares Jump & Run an Land gezogen haben.

Die Feuerprobe hat das Game bereits vor ein paar Monaten am Mega Drive absolviert, jetzt geht es dem Erzschurken Dr. Maybe per 1200er an den Kragen:

Wie jedes Kind weiß, besteht der Mond aus Käse und Eis - indem er den Erdtrabanten mit einer teuflischen Maschinerie dieser Rohstoffe beraubt, fährt der Bösewicht schweres Geschütz gegen den Ernährungsplan der Menschheit auf. Tragischerweise kann Pond zur Rettung der Kalorien nicht auf den praktischen Streckanzug aus dem Vorgänger zurückgreifen, ja er muß auf technischen Hilfen zunächst sogar völlig verzichten.

Allein durch gekonnte Sprünge auf den Kopf der Gegner bzw. durch Fausthiebe kann sich der fischige Spion in den ersten Levels seiner Schuppen wehren. Doch später findet sich dann jede Menge Sammelgut, um den feindlichen Ratten, Schneemännern oder Mechano-Kühen etwa Zeitbomben und Felsblöcke entgegenzuschleudern; es gibt Fruchtpistolen mit passender Orangen- bzw. Erdbeer-Munition, Sprungfedern, ein Jetpack, eine Luftschraube sowie natürlich Punkte, Zusatzleben und frische Energie.

Durch Druck auf die Space-Taste oder (sofern ein Joypad bzw, ein entsprechender Stick vorhanden ist) den zweiten Feuerknopf aktiviert man darüber hinaus spezielle Turbo-schuhe, mit denen es sich aber auch ganz gemütlich an der Decke entlang oder Wände hinauf spazieren läßt.

Zusätzliche Hilfestellung bekommt James durch seinen Agenten-Spezi Admiral Nelson, der per Texteinblendung auf gefährliche oder interessante Stellen wie übergroße Monsterfrösche, Fliegenpilze und versteckte Bonushöhlen aufmerksam macht.

Und sobald man außerdem noch den Geheimdienstkollegen Fridolin Frosch ausfindig gemacht hat, kann der Held jederzeit in dessen Haut schlüpfen und so auch enge Passagen meistern oder mit den sprungstarken Froschschenkeln extraweite Sprünge absolvieren.

Doch so nett das alles auch ist, letztlich mangelt es den weit über 100 Levels dann doch ein wenig an Innovation und Abwechslung - von der frei begehbaren Weltkarte über die vielen Trampolin-Plattformen bis zu den unsichtbaren Bonusblöcken ist halt alles schon mal dagewesen.

Dazu kommen kleine Schwächen im Gamedesign: Nach Verlust eines der zunächst drei Agentenleben wird Pond rigoros zum Levelbeginn zurückversetzt; außerdem fehlen einige Spielelemente der Konsolen-Version; etwa die rotierenden Plattformen.

Ein langweiliges Spiel ist die Mond-Mission deshalb freilich noch lange nicht, denn es gibt witzige Gimmicks wie z.B. Staubwolken bei schnellen Richtungswechseln - so wie diese Version die Konsolenvariante grafisch überhaupt aussticht.

Lediglich die erste Welt sieht etwas blaß aus, bei den folgenden (recht treffend als "Dessert Desert" oder "Camembert Canyon" betitelten) Kristall-, Eis- oder Käselandschaften tropfen die 256 Farben dann förmlich aus dem Monitor. Auf Parallax-Effekte wurde zwar verzichtet, daf:ur klappt das turboschnelle und nur in oberhektischen Momenten dezent ruckelnde Scrolling sehr ordentlich.

Und die Gegner-Sprites möchte man am liebsten abknuddeln, so hübsch bunt und witzig sind sie gezeichnet bzw. animiert. Auch wenn man sich zwischen Sound-FX und Begleitmusik entscheiden muß, kann die Akustik hier ebenfalls voll überzeugen.

Was nun die Steuerung angeht, so ist man mit einem Pad besser beraten, weil per Stick pizelgenaue Diagonalsprünge etwas schwerer fallen. Direkt exotisch mutet im Plattform-Genre dann die Möglichkeit an, Spielstände abzuspeichern - bei der kommenden CD-Version wird man dieses Feature aber wohl zugunsten von Levelcodes wieder abschaffen.

Eine 500er-Umsetzung ist übrigens noch fraglich, obwohl dem technisch nicht viel im Wege stehen sollte. Zu gönnen wäre sie den Usern jedenfalls, denn auch wenn James Pond 3 nicht mehr ganz so frisch wie seine Vorgänger wirkt, hat das Programm doch viel Umfang und ein schweres, aber stets faires Gameplay zu bieten. Anders gesagt: Operation geglückt, der Patient lebt! (rl)


DIE JAMES POND-STORY

Mit seinem dreieinhalb Lenzen zählt Mr. Pond zu den Veteranen unter den Plattform-Helden: Nintendos "Mario" turnt zwar schon länger über den Screen, doch Segas "Sonic" bringt es nur auf drei Jahre. Bei seinem Einstand im Frühjahr 1991 tauchte der Fisch noch artgerecht ins Meer ab, um Umweltsündern die Flossen zu legen: ein Jahr späte begab er sich zum Nordpol, um die Spielzuegfabrik des Weihnachtsmannes zu retten - der Streckanzug aus diesem Spiel, mit dem sich der Held schier endlos dehnen konnte, schrieb seinerzeit Genregeschichte. "James Pond 2 - Codename Robocod" wurde nicht nur für viele Konsolen umgesetzt, sondern zählt zudem zu den ersten Games, die speziell für 1200 und CD32 konvertiert wurden. Seinen letzten Auftritt hatte Pond dann als Gaststar in der witzigen Comic-Olympiad "Aquatic Gams", doch wird man auch in Zukunft sicher noch von ihm hören!



Operation Starfi5h logo AGA

Now listen, Pond, there's something fishy going on at AMIGA POWER. We want you to infiltrate, disguised as an ordinary platform game, and report back to us.

[Scene: outside Nuff Respekt Gamez, a seedy and run-down computer games store in one of the less pleasant suburbs of Bolton, Lancashire. It's the middle of a too-hot and muggy summer afternoon, and there's a ruckus in progress]

PC Trouserpress (arriving on the scene and fingering his truncheon nervously): Alright, alright, break it up. What's going on here?
[The tussle continues unabated. It appears to involve two small, fat moustachioed men in dungarees, and a fish with boots on.]
PC Trouserpress: Right, I warned you.
[PC Trouserpress draws his truncheon and wades in, swinging indiscrimanately ton the left and right. In moments, the combatants lie dazed on the ground and PC Trouserpress takes command of the situation.]

PC Trouserpress: Now, would one of you gentlmen like to explain this unseemly commotion to me? You, the fat one in the red.
Mario: It wasn't our a-fault, officer. It was him, him-a-there.
[Mario points at the fish, who PC Trouserpress recognises as one-time big videogame star James Pond]

Jame Pond (suddenly): I didn't do nothin'.
Mario: Did a-too.
Pond (in a menacing low growl):You're dead, chubby,. You hear m? A dead man.

PC Trouserpress: Now then, that's quite enough of that, sir, or I'll run you down to the station right this minute.
Mario: You ask-a my brother, he'll a-tell you.
Luigi: That's a-right, officer. It was the fish's a-fault. He tried to steal the a-bread from our mouths.
PC Trouserpress (to Pond): Is this right, sir?
Pond: I wanna talk to my lawyer, filth.
PC Trouserpress: Right, that's it. You're all coming with me.

YOU'RE NICKED
[Scene: The station. Desk Sergeant Stepladders is taking a statement from Pond.]

Sgt Stepladders: So, you say these men accosted you in the street, accused you of trying to steal their jobs and ruin their reputation by stealing all their ideas and then doing them really badly, and then physically attacked you?
Pond (now heavily bandaged): Yeah, that's right.

Sgt Stepladders: And you deny these charges, do you?
Pond: Is my lawyer here yet?

Sgt Stepladders: Hang on a minute, I'll check at reception.
[Sgt Stepladders leaves, only to return a few moments later accompanied by another man, a short, black-clade figure with a strange and unsightly hairstyle. He is carrying a briefcase, and has a Scottish accent.]

I WANT MY BRIEF
Sgt Stepladders: Here's your lawyer, he arrived a couple of minutes ago. Now, can we get to the bottom of this?
Lawyer: I need to consult with my client for a moment, Sergeant. The noo.

[Pond and the lawyer huddle around a monitor screen in a corner of the interview room. The monitor is attached to a computer of some sort, and their feverish but hushed discussion is punctuated by Pond urgently pointing at sections of the flickering image and gesticulating as expressively as it's possible to do with fins. The lawyer begins to exude an air of concern]
Lawyer: Er, could we possibly arrange of plea bargain, do you think?


Those men accosted you in the street?

DAY IN COURT
[Scene: A busy courtoom. Judge Fillingcabinet calls the assembly to order.]
Judge Fillingcabinet: The defendant is accused of being a dire attempt to clone the Super Mario games, except with incredibly dark graphics which try to suggest the cold, airless atmosphere of the moon, but actually end up suggesting nothing more than the incapability of the programmers to draw proper backgrounds even when given a 32-bit hardware platform.

Furthermore, it is claimed that even though the said backgrounds ar simly walls of black with a few single-pixel purple dots on them, they don't move at all, meaning that anyone playing the game can be subject to the disconcerting experience of flying through the air for the duration of about half a level without anything on the screen moving at all.

There is also an additional charge that the defendant actions are incompatible with the speed of the game's update, leading to unpleasant instances of slow-down and jerkiness when many sprites are moving on the screen at once, and that his control is irritatingly skittish, in as much as that it's very difficult to move him small amounts, and many of the platforms he must stand on are stupidly small.

Finally, it is alleged that the defendant contains areas I which the player's character can be damaged and killed simply by standing on completely innocuous-looking sections of ground, and also areas in which the player's character must leap blindly into an inky black void in the fervent hope that there shall not be some manner of danger beneath him. How does the defendant plead?

Lawyer: My client pleads guilty, but with extenuating circumstances, m'lud.
Judge Fillingcabinet: Extenuating circumstances? What might these be?

Lawyer: Well, m'lud, my client would like to point out the extreme profitability of games of the Super Mario 'genre', and the understandable desire on his own part to emulate this fiscal success. Also, my client feels that the court should take note of the substantial value for money offered by his large number of levels (in excess of 100!), save facility, recognition of two-button joypads and extra disk drives, and of the many hilarious cheese- and custard-related jokes contained herein.

And, erm, the slippery movement is, um, a deliberate gameplay device to, er, er, simulate my client's slippery fins. Yes, that's it. Fins.
Judge Fillingcabinet: Hmm. I'm not convinced.

BANGED UP
[Later. The jury have retired to consider their verdict and return, led by - oddly - PC Trouserpress.]
Judge Fillingcabinet: Have you reached a verdict upon which you are all agreed?
Foreman of the jury: We have, m'lud.
Judge Fillingcabinet: And what is your verdict?

Foreman of the jury: We find the defendant guilty on all charges, plus several other ones that weren't previously mentioned, such as having spiky pits in the custard worlds, suggesting some kind of dangerous spiky custard which is demonstrably ludicrous.

Furthermore, the defendant suffers from severally flawed collision detection, a dull and largely yellow colour scheme, unpleasant music, incredible frustrating sections at a very early stage, levels that all look the same, a lack of interesting enemies, and some really crap puns. There was even a (dramatic pause) slippy-slidey ice world near the end, m'lud! (Court gasps).

The members of the jury expressed a unanimous desire to stop playing the game by approximately the middle of the second stage (some five and a half minutes in, including loading time), and on being forced to continue ended up in extremely bad tempers.

Lawyer: Yeah, and it got me so annoyed I broke my favourite joypad throwing it at the floor in disgust. Git.
Pond: Hang on, you're supposed to be on my side!
Foreman of the jury: With respect, m'lud, lock 'im up and throw away the key. Judge Fillingcabinet: Make it so.
[Pond is led from the court to a waiting Black Maria, a bag over his head.]



Operation Starfi5h logo AGA CU Amiga 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!

Ask 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?

HELLO PUSSY-CATFISH
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.

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 do 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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

FLIPPER GREAT!
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.


THE FISH MENU

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.

UMBRELLA
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.

GATEAUX GUN
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.

DYNAMITE
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.

CHEESE
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.

JAMES POND - THIS IS YOUR LIFE

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

JAMES POND
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.

ROBOCOD
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.

AQUATIC GAMES
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.

AGA ONLY!?!

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.


Operation Starfi5h CD32 logo CD32

Everybody's favourite 'sea'-cret agent, James Pond is back. This time, like every other, he's brought with him an entire netful of poor to middling ocean-related puns. James Pond 3: Operation Starfi5h (Millenium 0223 844894, £34.99) follows the same formula as the others. It's a flexible large-levelled platformer designed, like its predecessors, to catch the eye with bright colours and tickle the funnybone with the aforesaid aquatic humour.

It's also rather a good game to settle down with if you fancy honing your reactions. The good news is that there are 110 levels of jumping, ducking, running and, er, timing things correctly. But they are let down by the fact that many of them are decked out with very dark backgrounds.

What should appear to be a moody, atmospheric sense of foreboding (presumably) actually feels more like the brightness is badly set-up on your monitor.

There are big splotches of colour, but compared to the other James Pond games, these are few and far between. In fact, although there's an awful lot of collecting and baddy-busting to do as you progress through the levels, the game feels a bit hollow and lifeless.

Operation Starfi5h will appeal to diehard platformers, if only because of the number and size of its levels. The rest of us might have hoped for something more.



Operation Starfi5h CD32 logo CD32

Am A1200 hat sich Millenniums schuppiger Plattform-Agent gerade erst freigeschwommen, da taucht auch schon sein Bruder mit den Schillerflossen auf - ein Schelm, wer sich da großartige Neuerungen erhofft.

Lange Gesichter gibt's bereits beim Filmintro, das exakt so schön den CD-Vorläufer "James Pond 2" eingeleitet hat. Auch seine Hoffnungen auf verbesserte Präsentation begräbt man am besten gleich wieder, denn es hat noch nicht mal für aufgebohrte Musik gereicht.

Aber ein temporeiches und toll spielbares Jump & Run gibt die gute Disk-Vorlage halt auch in einer schwachen Umsetzung aber: Immerhin wurde ja die Steuerung speziell auf den CD32-Knochen abgestimmt, so daß Pond nun sogar einen Tick handlicher durch die bekannt bunten Käse- Frucht- und Eiswelten springt, um sich mit knuddeligen Raupen, Bienen Mäusen oder extrdicken Fliegenpilzen anzulegen.

Das geschieht mittels Fausthieb oder Kopfsprung, später wirft man seine Gegner auch mit Geröll aus der Bahn. Der Hauptreiz des Spiels liegt freilich im Entdecken immer neuer Features und Extras wie z.B. Tarnschirme, Apfelpistolen, Fallschirme, Sprungfedern oder auch Teleporter in geheime Bonuslevels.

Das zwar zwar bereits am 1200er so, doch mußte man in unserem Testmuster nach einem Lebensverlust noch zum Levelbeginn zurück, während es nun praktische Wegmarkierungen gibt. Darüber hinaus sind hier sämtliche Features der Original-version vom Mega Drive enthalten, u.a. auf die wippenden Plattformen.

Und damit haben wir es mit einem der seltenen Fälle zu tun, wo zwar die Möglichkeiten der Hardware nicht ausgeschöpft wurden, aber trotzdem eine Aufwertung fällig ist - Pnd Numero drei ist ganz klar ein Elite-Hüpfer auf CD! (rl)



Operation Starfi5h 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.

If 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.

CHEESE
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.

CRACKERS
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.

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!

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.

KNIVES!
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.