lauantai 1. joulukuuta 2012

REVIEW - Operation Stealth | PC | 1990

GENRE(S): Adventure
DEVELOPER(S): Delphine Software International
PUBLISHER(S): Delphine Software International, Interplay Productions, U.S. Gold

Operation Stealth was the second point 'n' click adventure by Delphine Software International - after Future Wars: Adventures in Time - released at a time LucasArts pretty much had the monopoly on the genre, and it showed in the game's sales. What's it got to do with the James Bond franchise, exactly? Well, to boost the game's sales in the United States, local publisher Interplay Productions renamed the game James Bond: The Stealth Affair, and changed the main character from CIA agent John Glames to the familiar James Bond - actually changing nothing but his name. Obviously, the game's developmental history makes for an interesting game to review, and it's of a genre I'm very fond of. What's surprising is that beyond all its technical hickups and laughable presentation, the game is actually worth a try for a point 'n' click fanatic.

One awkward operation

CIA agent John Glames travels to Santa Paragua, South America, to investigate the theft of an ultra-modern aircraft named STEALTH.

Neither does your grammar.
I started this game a few weeks ago before the start of the marathon, heeding the risk that I might actually enjoy it and knowing that a point 'n' click will probably take me some time to complete and review. The risk was pretty small, after all it's utterly ridiculous in every exterior aspect, all the way to its U.S. localization (not present here), and back in the golden days of SCUMM, very few developers managed to create an user interface that would come even close to the master engine. Operation Stealth is a very clumsy game - the Cinématique engine is just very slightly improved from Future Wars - and there are parts of puzzles that I sincerely believe could not be figured out without the help of luck or a walkthrough, or both. I had to utilize both to finish the game, and I was amazed at how short it actually was. If you know exactly what to do, you'll be done in well under an hour. If you don't, you can safely expect to get stuck on the most dumb and obscure individual steps, and even ultimately fail on a few occasions - a true holler back to the most frustrating moments in any Sierra On-Line game from the 80's. Just one of the things that granted LucasArts their monopoly in the point 'n' click genre was that they removed death and irreversible failure from most of their games.

Some technical issues. First up to greet me after I started the game up was a stupid copy protection program, which luckily just required a quick Google image search to be dealt with. The next thing I figured out was this was not going to be an easy game to read. Is "congraultration" a word?

The graphics and sound are very good. The "graphic" part of graphic adventure is taken very seriously and while the game is nearly not up to par with LucasArts' game of the year, The Secret of Monkey Island, it's at least on par with what Sierra was letting out at the time, and operable hotspots are highlighted just fine. There are some navigational issues in control and graphics both - you can't really see all the possible routes you can take from a room or outdoor area, and taking another route instead of the local obvious one is made frustratingly hard. It seriously took me hours to find everything I needed from the opening level, the airport, and 50% of that stemmed from not finding an obscured route. The other 50% stemmed from the fact that the game could've at least HINTED how to use my briefcase properly. The music is indeed very groovy, surprisingly awesome! I found myself humming the theme song while writing the prologue to the review - if a "new", much less than perfect game does that to me, it's at least accomplished something.

Those not familiar with the Cinématique engine might enjoy a little history lesson. The Cinématique engine was Delphine's answer to LucasArts' SCUMM. It was first introduced in Future Wars, then this game, and finally, Cruise for a Corpse - which is the most obscure game of 'em all, a murder mystery somewhat inspired by Hercule Poirot. The French... anyway, each of these three games had a slightly modified interface, but the common rule was that there was a basic command, and under that, a target for that command. For example, you chose "OPERATE" and then clicked on whatever you wanted to "operate", for example a control panel in the vicinity. Sounds pretty much like SCUMM, but the commands aren't on constant show on the screen, and there's another twist. By clicking the right mouse button on a basic command meant that you were searching for a target in your inventory. For a great example from this specific game, let's operate your own briefcase.

One of the things Leisure Suit Larry taught my
10-year old self: never walk past the taxi post.
Operate briefcase. John opens it without second thought, but then the problems start to pour. It's full of stuff, but there are just a few items you can remove from the briefcase. OK, I took all I could, I can't make progress beyond the first room. A customs officer is raping me up the ass with demands of a passport. I show him my passport, over and over again, but can't get through. Well, back to the briefcase to see what's wrong. OK, so I have to OPERATE the calculator inside of the briefcase to get the secret compartment open. There's another passport, a fake one, on which I have to print a false German identity my using some sort of a high-tech thingamabob bolted to the bottom of the case. There are millions of choices for hotspots, and each time I fail, I have to start up the command sequence again. The engine's starting to bore me. Well, when I finally have this puzzle done, I move on to the next room, to find the route-finding mayhem I mentioned earlier, and a little later, I find out I'm still missing something from the briefcase - a "bench of notes". What the fuck is a "bench of notes"? For your information, it's a BUNCH of notes. Making more sense now? Well, I can't find it anywhere in the briefcase. Turns out it's tucked within the first passport. Funny that John doesn't mention a "BENCH of notes" when he unfolds the passport. I couldn't see it the first time around, or the second one. My bad? Could be. But on the other hand, I've played a lot of point 'n' clicks that at least inform me about what could easily be unseen (like "There is a BENCH of notes inside."), and do not expect me to open up the tedious command menu simply to examine the whole still image to accidentally stumble on the one, obscured thing that might get me out of any mess I happen to be in.

Here's a heads-up the game won't give: you're
about to fail the game in ten seconds.
Operation Stealth is sometimes a very illogical, dumb game, which adds to its difficulty alongside the subpar interface itself, as well as the few sudden deaths that are frankly traps for casual players who never played one Sierra game in their lives. I was a Sierra fan as a kid, and since this is a non-LucasArts game, I found myself terrified in many situations that would've resulted in certain death in any Sierra title. Ironically, I ended up not expecting my first sudden death at all. It came as a surprise even to me, and while I approve of the reasoning behind it, I think the developers should've given players at least five seconds to react to the events.

Even after all of this, I indeed found Operation Stealth a surprisingly entertaining point 'n' click game, recommendable to any true fanatic, and up for quick grabs from Abandonia. It's short, but it's difficult - not for all the right reasons, but some. And, its many inconsistencies are quite amusing at their best.

+ Good graphics and music
+ Some details appear to change a little on each playthrough
+ Not all the puzzles are bad, once you get the hang of Cinématique...

- ...Which is hard, and even after you do get the hang of it, you'll most likely find the whole thing incoherent and tedious; the commands are confusing, and easily misplaced, which makes complex graphic-based puzzles much harder than they actually are
- Mere navigation in complex areas is nerve wracking
- Typos all around, both amusing and misleading
- Sudden deaths in adventure games should've disappeared in the turn of the decade

< 6.8 >

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti