perjantai 30. marraskuuta 2012

REVIEW - James Bond 007: A View to a Kill | PC | 1985

GENRE(S): Adventure
DEVELOPER(S): Angelsoft
PUBLISHER(S): Mindscape

A View to a Kill was the 14th James Bond film, and premiered in 1985. It starred Roger Moore trying to stop a psychopathic industrialist played by seemingly psychopathic thespian Christopher Walken - accompanied by his much more intimidating bodyguard played by Grace Jones - from flooding Silicon Valley. Two home computer games spawned off this critically debated piece of 007-branded celluloid. The first was an action game, aimed at the young, while the second was a plain old text adventure, aimed at the more mature who were still rallying for the cancer-ridden genre in the wake of graphic adventure. Guess which one's on the plate.

In the mood to a kill

NOTE: Due to the nature of the game, I uploaded the screenshots in their original size (and also left out the usual white photo frames). Just click on the screenshots for a closer look.

Max Zorin, a microchip industrialist in charge of Zorin Industries, is planning to bomb and flood Silicon Valley to gain exclusive control over the microchip market. Enter MI6 agent James Bond to the task of ruining Zorin's big day.

I'm thinking "n".
A View to a Kill isn't one of my favourite Bond movies, for numerous reasons. First and foremost, Grace Jones - the actress with the most ironic first name ever. I was actually terrified of her when I was a kid, more than Richard Kiel's Jaws - the way he was originally presented, not the comic sidekick he was in Moonraker. The term "Bond girl" doesn't really equal hotness when you've got this chick (?) on that distinguished list. Secondly, it was time for Metro-Goldwyn Mayer to retire the once great Roger Moore with some dignity - he was 57 years old at the time of the movie's release, and training regimes or general make-up effects were obviously not as impressive as they are in these days when they're making movies like The Expendables. In other words, I have found it very hard to not think how old or bald Bond looks whenever I've watched the movie in my adult years. I guess they got their hopes up when they cast the 53-year old, obviously balding Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again and thrived - but that movie was all about an aging Bond, and it wasn't even a part of the 007 canon, but a freeform remake of Thunderball. It had a different idea and that's why it worked - A View to a Kill was supposed to be a full-fledged, fun Bond adventure, not a tired last effort by the second-greatest Bond ever (who was 57) banging the hottest Charlie's Angel ever (who was 29 or 30). That was kinda nauseating. Christopher Walken made for a good villain, though - I'm stating the obvious, I know. He saved a great deal of the movie, and Duran Duran's classic theme song was a good start for it.

In 1975, Will Crowther published an independent game called Adventure (a.k.a. ADVENT), and this marked the birth of text adventure games, which were literally wholly based on text descriptions of the game's events and your surroundings. In 1980, Roberta and Ken Williams created the first GRAPHIC adventure game Mystery House, which still followed text commands and had those descriptions intact, but you could also see your surroundings, making the game much easier and more comfortable to play. As time went by, graphic adventures became more and more playable, and eventually evolved into point 'n' click, which produced us many golden classics of computer gaming history. The reason I'm giving you this little history lesson is, that for all intents and purposes, text adventures should've ended where graphic adventures began - but they didn't. There were still a few companies pushing out these frustrating bundles of desperate trial and constant error. One of them was Mindscape - very often on the spot when I find a game to be utterly useless, in its time and especially in the modern day. I don't think they paid much attention to what kind of a game Angelsoft had made out of A View to a Kill - they saw a franchise, a money-making one, and secured publishing rights. And here we are.

First, I thought I'd rather skip the game, and then played with the thought of not rating it at all, 'cause you know - it is what it is. How can I even expect to enjoy a clumsy, limited text adventure in this day and age? Then I thought: well, how could Mindscape expect people to enjoy a clumsy, limited text adventure that was licensed from a popular flick in 1985, five years after the break into graphic adventures? It's critical slaughter time. A View to a Kill is even amusing in its own clumsiness, but make no mistake about the fact that it reeks.

"You sound like a common guttersnipe"?
The text parser in the game is your most lethal opponent. While it does comply to some surprising verbs, it sometimes can't associate them with certain actions, and while it's relatively rare to get responses like "What ARE you doing, 007?" or "You're babbling!" once you figure out the basics of how to play the game, it sometimes takes a turn to the retard zone and accepts one single verb for a very basic action. "Look" or "Read", which have always worked in Sierra games, won't do. It has to be "Examine". Sometimes that isn't enough, and you have to look closer at your target. "Examine closely"? Won't work. "Examine carefully" is the only way to go. And there we have a command that would've driven Leisure Suit Larry nuts.

Also, the text parser seems to suffer from an identity crisis. For the most part, it seems we're giving orders to Bond as an unnamed third party or M. When we're supposed to ask a question or talk to another character, the inquiry needs to be typed in the form of a sentence like we said it ourselves. Typing "Ask about x" or "Talk about x" usually gets us nowhere. Once again, good luck figuring out what Bond needs to know, or better yet, GET, with a simple inquiry. Here's one who "forgot" to ask M to give him a clip to his gun before heading out of MI6. You can guess the rest, but do note that the rest took place about a hundred moves later.

The game follows the movie like an ass follows its owner. Some scenes are skipped altogether, but reading the descriptions feels like you're reading the movie's script. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say the script didn't have "Bond travels to direction x" or "Bond drops item x" in it as every other action. Since there's no character to control, you indeed have to type every single step. Get one step wrong, and you might be fucked - you'll either lose direction, or walk straight into a death trap. Keep on reading those long-ass, boring descriptions. As the game goes on, you might be able to pick up a certain template for all the texts and spot the important parts immediately. However, the dark side to that is that you'll start to lose sight of one of the most important elements of the game, which is the plot. Well, in that case - go see the movie. As a matter of fact, in every case: go see the movie. I'm starting to appreciate it a little more here.

What? It's what Bond would say.
You constantly have to drop stuff, too. In some cases, prancing around with some key item you "forgot" in your inventory might get your invisible agent capped, or simply prevent you from proceeding. You can bring up the inventory by simply typing "inventory", but good luck figuring out exactly which items you have to drop and where.

It's needless to say this game is a very difficult one, but not the most difficult text adventure there is due to the fact that it's so closely based on a movie. A surprising lot of the actions can be executed by following Roger Moore's every step and just figuring out the directions and item drops yourself. It's probably needless to point out how "fun" it is to play from any aspect, as well.

A View to a Kill was obsolete when it came out, and it definitely isn't fresh today. It's not even a fun retro trip to take; if I had to pick a game from this genre, I'd take one where sudden death isn't looming inches away at every possible step. One wrong or "mistyped" command and you're done, that's what the action scenes are all about. I have another apple from the same tree to slice to pieces, so I think I'll save a little for that. If you want to try your luck with this View to a Fuck, head to Abandonia for mental suicide.

+ If you're serious, and remember to save at each step, you can find ways to amuse yourself. The game won't do it for you.
+ Having no graphics means no pixelated Grace Jones

- Would someone tell me what was the point in releasing a licensed text adventure in 1985?
- Based on Moore's worst Bond movie (just an opinion...)
- The text parser is 10% clever and 90% retarded
- Navigation, item drops and inquiries make progress hard to manage; most of all other stuff can be deduced by watching the movie closely... sorry, EXAMINING the movie CAREFULLY

< 1.5 >

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