Is a game starring a fish with a telescopic torso trying to foil a villain called Dr. Maybe any fun?
James Pond: Codename Robocod (actually the second game in a series) first appeared on the Amiga way back in 1991. Soon after, it appeared for a number of different platforms, including the Commodore 64, Genesis and the SNES. The decision to re-release it was made by Swing!, who were planning to release the game in 2003, but went bankrupt the same year. As a result, the GBA version of Robocod (as well as a number of other games) disappeared into publisher limbo. Robocod has finally managed to resurface this year.
The game involves a fish called James Pond, who has been given a robotic suit that allows him to breathe out of water as well as stretch to great heights. Pond must rescue elves from Santa's Toy Factory in the North Pole, who have been tied up and had bombs strapped to them by the villainous Dr. Maybe.
In each level, Pond must rescue a set number of elves before he can exit via the barbershop pole at the end of the stage. As mentioned, he can stretch until he reaches a roof, which he will grab onto. Once you let go of the B Button, Pond will unstretch and you can shimmy along across the ceiling, which becomes the game's twist. Pond can defeat enemies by jumping on their heads a few times to destroy them, in a similar fashion to Super Mario Bros. There are also a couple of vehicles for Pond to use -- the car, which moves faster than Pond does, the plane, which is controlled by using the D-Pad in any direction, and the bathtub, which controls exactly the same as the plane. Except that it's a bathtub!
However, because the game is a remake of a 1991 game, there are some problems that shouldn't really be there. The HUD is cute, with a picture of James Pond, but it's not very clear at showing your lives (represented by how many fingers he's holding up) and your health (shown by how many bars he's holding in his other hand). It's difficult to glance at it and know how many lives you have or how much health is left. There also is nothing to tell you how many elves are remaining in the level, or even something to help you locate them, like a radar or arrow. Pond also moves incredibly fast. I'm not sure if this is intentional or not, but his default running speed is set to "Road Runner". This makes it very easy to accidentally plough into enemies due to the character's quick pace.
The graphics are very clear, with plenty of bright colours and large objects strewn throughout the levels. And, in true British developer fashion, nearly everything has mad staring googly eyes, from the various toys in the background to the killer clowns and flying playing card birds.
Sound doesn't fare as well, however, with irritating, happy ditties being the theme of choice for the soundtrack. Sounds are wacky boings and pops which sound similar to a Saturday-morning cartoon, with possibly the most annoying item pickup sound EVER to grace a video game. This wouldn't be so much of a problem if it wasn't for the fact that pickups are strewn EVERYWHERE throughout the levels, because the game is one of those old-school games where the focus is to get a high score. Even though there is no high score table.
While James Pond: Robocod isn't fantastic, it's certainly not terrible. If you can get used to the very fast running speed (and you can find the game for a cheap price), then you'll probably have some fun with it. Just remember to keep the sound down.