1. "Old School" Video Games

    By Luke Freeman on 2003-06-06

    Remember playing the video game 007 Racing? I didn’t think so. It’s the game that’s widely regarded by those in the 007 gaming community as the worst James Bond game in the history of James Bond games. No mean feat when you consider the Bond series also includes such ordinary titles as the linear and lackluster Agent Under Fire, and the totally abysmal Tomorrow Never Dies. For the uninitiated, take my word for it, swallowing a bowl of spark plugs is a preferable alternative to spending half an hour playing Tomorrow Never Dies on the Playstation. Actually, don’t take my word for, try both and decide for yourself, make sure you play Tomorrow Never Dies first though, it will make the spark plugs taste all the more better.

    Not here to discuss the merits (or lack of) of Tomorrow Never Dies or the other “EA” Bond titles however. Other than to say whoever was responsible for taking the Bond Licence from those God-like game developers at “Rare” (who made the brilliantly amazing and amazingly brilliant GoldenEye 64, all hail “Rare”) and giving it to the two-bit hacks at “EA” should be taken out and beaten (slowly, and painfully, very painfully). But like I said, I’m not here to discuss that.

    What I am here is to discuss is the original James Bond video games. No, not GoldenEye 64 (as brilliantly amazing and amazingly brilliant as it was), but rather the early James Bond video games. They weren’t the flashy first-person shooters today’s generation are spoiled with, they were a different type of game, the old-fashioned “classics” like birds-eye view car games and 2D platformers. There were the “Old School” James Bond video games that popped up in the 1980’s on home systems like the Commodore 64 and Amiga. Most of them were made by a development team known as “Domark”, whom I fear may have long since gone the way of the Dodo, but I could be mistaken.

    There were also those interesting “text adventure” PC games for Goldfinger and A View to A Kill written by future Bond novelist Raymond Benson, but today I’m focusing on “Domarks” long forgotten contribution to the world off 007 gaming. And as we cast as eye back over those classic titles from the infancy of video gaming, some of you will be in retro heaven, some of you will be in retro hell, and the rest of you won’t have a clue what I’m talking about. Sounds pretty much the same as with all these articles. Anyway, keep on reading, and check out the list below of “Old School” James Bond gaming titles, because you never know, you might just learn something….

    A View to a Kill – (Commodore 64, 1985): Don’t push any buttons when you turn this game on, otherwise you’ll miss the awesome retro gunbarrel, white dots, red blood, and all. This game is split into four levels, “Paris Chase”, “City Hall”, “Mines” and the “Finale”. Unfortunately, there is ofcourse no save feature. Fortunately, there is a password you are given as you pass each level. Unfortunately, it’s pretty bloody hard to pass the levels. First level, the “Paris Chase” is a clever split screen operation, the top half a drivers view, and the bottom have a birds eye view as you drive though the streets chasing May Day’s parachute. I’d talk about the other levels, but I couldn’t get past the first one. Maybe you can.

    The Living Daylights – (Commodore 64, 1987): The version I looked at was for the Commodore 64, but a friend has since informed me that this game was also available for the original Nintendo NES, but I’ve never seen or read anything to back that up, and quite frankly I wouldn’t take his word for it (if he should be reading this, I’m only kidding). The Living Daylights is more along the lines of the conventional old style 2D platformer (for the unfamiliar, think the old Super Mario Bros game and such) than A View to A Kill, which was more adventurous and innovative in it’s level design. The graphics have progressed a long way, but early stages, such as “The Pipeline” were a little drab and dreary compared to the more colorful A View to A Kill.

    The Spy Who Loved Me – (Commodore 64, 1990): Didn’t realize anyone was still making Commodore 64 games come 1990, but that’s the date on my copy of The Spy Who Loved Me. Anyway, of all the Commodore 64 James Bond games I’ve played, this one, a top-view driving game in the same vien as Super Spy Hunter was by far the best. You drive Bond Lotus Esprit, “Wet Nellie”, though various stages, shooting enemy vehicles while dodging civilians and oil slicks (the car can drive underwater but can’t withstand a little oil slick ? That’s life I suppose). There were also coins to collect but it was never made clear to me why one should bother with them. Still, not a bad game all in all.

    James Bond in The Duel – (Sega Genesis, 1992): To remind you of just how old and outdated this game is, the opening screen has a quite nice picture of Timothy Dalton in Licence to Kill pose. For those of us who weren’t yet Bond fans in 1992, I guess this could be put forward as some proof that Timothy Dalton was still considered to be 007 at the time. As for the game, it’s your typical 2D platformer from the time of the 16-bit consoles, although this one is a little more challenging than most platformers. Bond looks as good as ever, in his tux (unpractical attire, but cool) and jetpack from Thunderball. Old enemies in Odd Job, Jaws and Baron Samedi pop up, for no real better reason other than “just because”, but it’s nice to have them around.

    “Domark” (and other companies too) developed quite a number of James Bond video games from the mid-80s until the early 90’s. Apart from the aforementioned titles there was also James Bond in Octopussy, which is widely considered to be the very first 007 game, and The Stealth Affair, perhaps the most popular of early Bond outings. There were also games for Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, and Licence to Kill. While they vary in quality, and by no means paved the way for the James Bond games we have today, it is important that these “Old School” vide games aren’t forgotten. I’m petitioning for a re-release of each and every one of them. I hope you’ll all do the same.

    Until next time,