Monday, 14 January 2013

The Aquatic Games (Amiga)

It's been ages since I've played an Amiga game! (Can't imagine why that would be.)

The Aquatic Games Starring James Pond and the Aquabats Amiga Title Screen
After all those 'orrible 3D Bond games last year, I'm sure you're dying to see a colourful, sprite-filled James Pond romp instead!

James Pond's had a hell of a life. First he was an ordinary(-ish) fish, an Underwater Agent for F.I.5.H. Then Dr. Maybe's goons blasted his body into a bloody pulp with shotguns (I assume) and F.I.5.H replaced his entire torso with an extending mechanical contraption, turning James into RoboCod and giving him the ability to breathe above water.

(Don't you think those penguins look like they're giving Pond some kind of psychiatric evaluation? Maybe we're seeing the world through the eyes of a crazy man who just thinks he's a fish?)

Unlike OCP, F.I.5.H probably felt a bit bad about the whole RoboCod thing and upgraded Pond's augmentations to Six Million Dollar Fish standard. Did you notice? Pond's got FEET now! And arms! And hands!

This game raises all manner of important philosophical questions. When does a fish cease to be a fish? When he can live outside of water? When he can run, jump and use tools? James seems pretty happy about it, with that awful, manic stare of his. What does he care! He's a world class athlete, able to compete on the same level as a... frog!

My twitchy pal there is new to James Pond world. The score screen simply refers to him as FROG, so that's what I'll call him.

And we're off! I think!

*boot*

Hey! Give it a rest! I'm trying to figure out the controls!

It's a joystick waggler. Whoop-de-doo.

Get that crate outta the way! We're trying to have a race here!

James just trampled all over that poor bird's boat. Do you know how hard it is for a bird to build a boat? That could have been his life's work!

Get back here, FROG! This is all your fault somehow!

Poor James.

Running 100 metres across the surface of deep water is definitely an achievement, especially for a bionic fish, but it doesn't let him qualify for a medal.

Because I didn't qualify, I get zero points. Great start!

As a navy seal, it's my duty to push these beachballs offscreen before they bounce off the heads of my kipping compadres. One hit and they wake up. A second hit and they walk away. Two seals walk away and it's game over.

And you run back and forwards, hitting the balls out the way. For 2 minutes.

It doesn't get any more interesting. Anybody remember Bad Cat?

When the 2 minutes are up, you win!

This game's got great music as far as James Pond-y music goes, but you wouldn't want to listen to it for any amount of time.

For a Gold medal, you need to do this for six minutes. Hooo-nope.

Somebody's gotta get that signal fixed.

This time I'm playing as FROG and I can take as long as I want.

Aaand... go!

JUMP!?

How do I-

FAILED.

But the game gives me three attempts at this one, which is kind.

Attempt 2 is FAILED also because I thought 'up' would be jump, but it's really the fire button.

I finally get the timing on the jump right while waggling like crazy and FROG goes into autopilot, skipping and leaping all over the place.

He stops. I hit fire in panic.

GOOOO FROOOOOOOOG!

And FROG jumped all the way to Mexico and the penguins were satisfied. The end.

Now the game's a platformer of sorts. You need to jump on the sponges, use 'up' to jump (yes, now it's UP) with the correct timing to get radical air. Once airborne, you hold fire and pull directions to do tricks.

I've... not quite got the hang of it yet.

The mystery box! The mystery box!

C'mon James, get your ass up! We're using the mystery box!

Wheee! It's the ceiling!

The penguin judges must've taken pity on me and given me the springy mystery box to get me started.

And they take it away after one use because they're funny like that.

Splat.

This starfish thing is creeping me out. He's got way too many frames in his walking animation as he waddles across the screen.

Engage gumball machines to get candy. Feed hungry creatures to save them from GOD'S TEMPTING DONUT.

It's another Game and Watch game. I've never been a fan of games where you need to last as long as possible. If you get hit and retry, you have to sit through the first few minutes of 'no challenge' before you get up to the part which gave you difficulty. That's boring!

Yes, I'm arguing for quick saves in endurance games. Forgive me, I've got a cold and this music is turning my brain to snot.

We're back to FROG again. The penguins got rid of the broken signal and replaced it with a cannon! I can't possibly miss the start of the race this time!

The cast all cringe in anticipation as the cannon slowly releases a feeble waft of smoke instead of a 'KABOOM' and I miss the start of the race.

Gaahhhh!

Now it's fire to jump!

Why do all these events have different jump controls!? There has to be a system... so far, FROG fires to jump, James jumps with up. Except in the first event, when James jumps with fire.

You're a failure, FROG!

Zero points! Get out!

Meanwhile...

It's another psuedo-platforming event starring James. He's got to jump on the little shells walking across the screen to flip them up in the air so he can catch them in a bucket. Once you've caught one, you can throw it upwards to pop the balloons at the top of the screen.

What usually happens is that you get got by one of these electric spiky bastards:

And then you get knocked unconscious by all of the critters:

OVER...

AND OVER...

AGAIN.

Quick, look over there!

Holy moly, it's a dolphin on a unicycle. You don't see that every day!

This isn't a waggling race, it's a whirling race, and I don't like it.

Let me tell you about Amiga joysticks. My favourite type of Amiga joystick is the Zipstick (external link), a hard-as-nails super-clickety microswitched marvel. It's an arcade style one button joystick, which is sturdy enough to be stuck to a surface and small enough to be held in the hand. It's got well-defined motion and responds to each change in position with a loud click. There's no better way to play arcade conversions like Volfied, Pang or Rod-Land.

When I play these mini-games, I can hear it crying. It sounds like a person being crushed to death.

Why am I still playing this game? Why would anyone ever want to play this game!?

Technically, it's great. It's full of large, well-animated sprites and only slightly painful backgrounds. It's got music and sound effects playing together. All the events were fun to see. Even the platformy bits worked as platformers in their own right, sort of.

It's just a damned party game, though. A very short party game at that. Is The Aquatic Games at all fun when you play it with friends?

Does each player get to pick an Aquabat to play as? No! Is there a simultaneous two-player mode to any of the events? Hell no!

Do you get to pick the events you want to play? No! Does it keep records? No!

You take each turns playing all the events with your own copy of the Aquabat team, each team distinguished by having its own trainer. Do you get to input your own name for your team? Don't be silly. Do you get to pick a flag? No! A colour? No!

Is it fun for anyone, ever? No!

There are few enough Amiga joysticks in the world already. Please, please, don't waste the last few on this.

And speaking of joysticks, I only found out recently that this game was on the SNES and Mega Drive too!

SNES
Here's the SNES one.

It looks better, has nicer music and doesn't spend ages loading between events. It still kills pads though, so you'd only ever buy the game as a present for somebody you didn't like.

SNES

The SNES version replaces the event Hop, Skip and Jump in the training list with the event Relay Race, where you play as all the different characters one after another!

The poor Amiga is a bit too feeble to handle multiple things on screen at once, never mind multiple different things.

Mega Drive / Genesis

And finally, here's the Genesis version. Basically the Amiga version except you have to suffer that ghastly, ridiculous, nearly-naked Pond in the corner staring at you. Always staring.

Ugh.

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