maanantai 10. joulukuuta 2012

REVIEW - James Bond Jr | NES | 1992

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
DEVELOPER(S): Eurocom Developments

The James Bond franchise has suffered through a lot of lows, but nothing quite as low as James Bond Jr, a syndicated cartoon that ran for a glorious six months until its much-expected (and -anticipated) cancellation. One of the most horrible cartoons ever made starred 007's nephew James Bond Jr, a high school student, and his friends - graced with supposedly clever names like IQ and Gordo Leiter - fighting against a criminal organization named SCUM, led by who else but a guy called "Scumlord". What makes the whole abomination slightly interesting nowadays is its cavalcade of voice actors, who have since made lasting marks in the video game scene, including Corey Burton and Simon Templeman. While I'm at it, there were actually two different games carved off the back of that cartoon - one for the NES, and one for the SNES. Both games were published by THQ - who were also responsible for the release of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. An 8-bit game based on one of the worst cartoons in history, versus another game of the exact same description, one that has held the #1 spot in the VGMania Bottom 40 for ages. It's on - which game will emerge as the less nauseating experience? Here's James Bond Jr - the NES version.

"Why My Childhood Sucked", Chapter I

Several renowned scientists have gone missing, and official reports from the government mention Scumlord's possible involvement. Time for Bond, James Bond, Junior, to rise up to his mysterious arch nemesis, and time for me to put a bullet in my head.

"...and falls straight into a volcano. Problems
of the world solved. Thank you for playing."

Unlike all the times before that I've done a number on the source of a licensed game, I won't bore you with lots of details on James Bond Jr, 'cause I'm simply not interested. I don't want to return to "that place". I have often thought of the series, even played with the thought of watching one episode for the sake of masochism, but I found just watching the intro to the show on YouTube quite enough, so I won't go there ever again. It was a horrible, horrible show, and it didn't run too far from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, another show that went on to give me nightmares. More than ever in the last couple of years, that one. Last year I reviewed Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, the NES video game, and slaughtered it, as it well deserved, and because the game was so bad, not just because of my personal disgust with the source material. With James Bond Jr, I'm going to have to push any personal beefs aside for two whole reviews, and view these two games as just games. I was pretty sure I was not going to like what I was about to see - hell, I was positive of that - and I certainly didn't. James Bond Jr for the NES is a ridiculously bad game. As bad as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes? Sadly, not quite - "sadly" meaning that I actually have to talk sensically about it. Oh well, it was me who took a shit on a plate by starting this marathon, now I have to eat it. Let's see what specific type of manure we have here. Can I have some fries with this...?

Let's start with the graphics, as per usual. I'm picturing Nick Nack's naked ass here, and actually considering which is more of a sight to behold. From afar, this game looks a lot like the NES game The Terminator - to make a "positive" statement, closer up it looks a whole lot better than The Terminator, which is weird considering the nearly parallel releases of the two titles. You should remember, though, that The Terminator is one of the ugliest NES games ever made, so calling James Bond Jr's graphics "a whole lot better" doesn't mean much. It also kind of reminds me of Bram Stoker's Dracula, but in turn, that game looked the best out of the three. It was also the best game in the bunch. Horrible, but notably better than The Terminator or James Bond Jr. The music's stock - I guess. If the lead tune was indeed an adaptation of the James Bond Jr theme song, it's completely unrecognizable. Ironically, the tune's quite all right - and I hated the original theme song as much as I hated the cartoon, so I don't find myself missing it. Rest of it could be worse, I guess, but the alert accompanying the so-called puzzles are loud and forcible, and will drive you insane if you don't have a mute button handy.

This is supposed to be an entertaining, somewhat innovative puzzle platformer. There's a total of four levels, each with a time limit measured in minutes instead of seconds, ranging from 25 to a whopping 45 minutes. Your ammo replenishes automatically, and all the enemies are easy enough to kill once you find the right spot to blast at 'em, albeit extremely enduring - each enemy seriously takes a million hits before going down. Sounds easy, right? I thought so too, but I knew what to expect. Enter the invisible, but all the more sensible enemy: horrible gameplay. Whew-ee, have we got a story to tell.

Who's that supposed to be, Blofeld with a jet pack?
First of all, the level design is by retards, for retards. Secondly, the controls are extremely floaty. Thirdly, there are all sorts of problems which ultimately lead to one single conclusion, that being the reset button. As a light example, your lives are very easily drained by simply falling into any type of liquid, and that happens often when you're up in the air balancing between some slim, bouncy platforms. Once you fall in, there's no way to get out. There's no invincibility window for you to benefit from, or anything like that - you're just forced to watch as your dorky James BLAND suffers a slow death from... yeah, what? From getting his sneakers wet? Even if the water/etc. level is parallel to solid ground, James' idiotic bouncing around never leads him to it - as a matter of fact, it seems like he's avoiding the safety of solid ground at all costs. The bottom line is, he doesn't die instantly - it's like the game is telling you there's a way out for you to find. There isn't. As another light example, you can get stuck in narrow hallways with enemies or mines with no way to escape but a harmful breakaway - the jumps are so out of control and completely inadjustable from a Super Mario Bros. 2 Luigi mode, and just one enemy is sure to cap your ass multiple times before you empty enough clips into 'em. To present a very heavy example of the unavoidable reset call, the levels branch quite a lot, and you can actually get completely stuck in bogus pathways or rooms. Usually, this happens when there's no way for you to drop dead, and even if there was, you always respawn at the very same spot as long as you have lives left for the game to drain.

You have other weapons besides your pistol, and using them's a blur. How about equipment change in the pause menu? The dynamic Castlevania trick for secondary weapons which should be familiar to all NES players, Up + B? Pressing Select? No? Well, what's left? Degrees of stupidity are what's left. Instead of just assigning changing equipment to the otherwise useless Select button, the shitters of this heap decided to assign changing equipment to Select, AND the Down button on the D-Pad, pressed simultaneously (just imagine how it feels with an NES controller). Also, what you might fail to notice is that you can actually enter some doors in the background by pressing Down. The funny thing is, James turns towards the door if you press the more obvious Up, but does not enter, making believe the doors are just for show.

If you've the interest enough to clash through one level of the game - which I highly doubt - I'm sure you'll hit a brick wall sooner or later. The first time's when the puzzles kick in. The puzzles in the game are extremely confusing and disorienting slide puzzles, and I guess they're exactly why the time limits are so long - I'm not entirely sure if the developers actually aimed at pissing players off this much. I can't really describe them in a way that would give an idea of why I hate them so much; you have to organize eight separate columns of different-coloured blocks into the order which is pictured on the margin. Doesn't sound that awful, I know. Some of the most twisted puzzle fanatics might actually enjoy these bits of the game - but if someone came up to me and said this game's generally as much as all right, I think I'd laugh my fucking balls off. I understand some people's need to be different, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.

Now here's a true challenge: bear the game to the end to witness one of the most stupifying prompts I've ever heard in any game. Remember games like Ghosts 'n Goblins, or The Legend of Zelda? Games that didn't actually end once you "finished" them - there was a second quest, and only by conquering that quest you could claim to have beaten the game. After you've finished with the four levels, Scumlord - who, for some odd reason, looks like a jazz upstart straight from Harlem - escapes, and the Colonel tells you that you've done well, but failed to capture Scumlord. Before even catching a glimpse of what comes next, the voices in my head are telling me to shut the system down, NOW. "If you want to bring him to justice, you must complete all the missions again!" .......Really? I mean, REALLY?! A second playthrough with the exact same puzzles, at the exact same difficulty level, with the exact same tight bundle of butt pudding they call this game's design and gameplay? The exact SAME GAME? Uh, no thanks. Let that scum run free!

I'd be so delighted to announce being done with this dark period in the history of the James Bond franchise, but there was indeed also a 16-bit adaptation of this horrible spin-off. Although this game was not quite horrible enough to beat Attack of the Killer Tomatoes in the clash for the title of the worst game I've ever touched (not by a long shot), I'm still reserving the spot for another rotten apple from the same rotten tree; next up, James Bond Jr for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

+ The music is surprisingly all right

- TONS of issues with the gameplay, ranging from the obvious (bad controls, idiotic level design) to more unique problems (inescapable and often unavoidable water hazards, other miscellaneous traps to which the only working solution is pressing the reset button, an "interesting" control scheme)
- A horrible license, with inevitably horrible presentation
- Some extremely twisted minds might get off on the puzzles, but I find them simply confusing and frustrating

< 3.0 >

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