Genre: Platformer Developer: Millennium Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1 Released: 1993
For me, there are some games that I really like to play year after year, and one of those is James Pond 3: Operation Starfish. I don’t think an introduction is needed, because most people have at least played one game in the James Pond series already, as his games have been released for almost every gaming machine since the early ’90s, even the newer ones. In this final chapter of the saga, publisher Electronic Arts and developer Millennium decided to send their fishy hero off with a bang.
The story is pretty thin, but it’s not what makes Operation Starfish so much fun. Some people have found the game to be so enjoyable that there are even whispers that it’s better than Super Mario World! However lame the plot may be, it deals with Pond nemesis Dr. Maybe, who has escaped and built a stronghold on the Moon. He intends to mine it for its cheese, which in turn would allow him to take over Earth’s dairy industry. Why he would think there is actually cheese on the moon and how that would relate to cows I don’t now, but I guess that’s why he’s a mad scientist. That’s also why so it’s up to Pond to once again save the day (and the Moon).
There are more then a hundred levels to explore, including secret ones that are quite difficult to find. Pond must scour each level to find a communications beacon and destroy it. Some of these beacons need to be activated by collecting four teacups before they can be destroyed. As in the previous game, Pond can’t stretch himself anymore, but this time he’s armed with a gun and can pick up all kinds of foods, which he can use as ammo. There are also items scattered around the levels, like haunted computers, dynamite bombs, umbrellas, jet packs, x-ray goggles, spring shoes and more. There really is a lot to do in this game, and you can basically go everywhere. Some levels even have secret paths to take you to new areas, which means that there’s a great reason to go back and replay them. Some of these areas are really hard to find, but that’s where the fun is! Not all levels as massive though, and some are short, like the mine level, for example, which only took me about twenty minutes to get through.
During his mission, Pond can find another secret agent who in turn becomes a playable character, namely his loyal sidekick Finnius the Frog. Pond’s sidekick can be used if you find certain rocks with his face on them. To get the good ending, you’ll need to find all the satellite pieces and much more. Operation Starfish plays just like Super Mario World, but to me there’s more humor in this game, like the bosses and the cheesy (pardon the pun) names that the levels have.
Controlling our fishy hero is simple and fluid. Things do get a little challenging when you’re upside down, as the directions change. Other than that, anyone who has ever played any type of platformer before should feel at ease with Operation Starfish’s control scheme. Pond’s jumping is a bit heavier than in other games of this type, but perhaps that’s just a product of being on the Moon? Whatever the case, it doesn’t really affect the gameplay.
The audio isn’t anything to write home about, but that’s mostly been the case with this series. The sound effects do their job adequately, and I guess nothing more could really be expected. Suffice it to say that everything does what it needs to do, so while you won’t be cranking up the speakers, you won’t be turning them down either.
My only real complaint with James Pond’s third outing is the horrible password system. It’s a shame that Electronic Arts made such a big mess with it. There is no save at all, only a password that’s ridiculous and hard to write down. It’s like thirty figures in four different colors. Why Electronic Arts? Why mess this up? Operation Starfish is a great game, but they do bring it down a bit with a difficult password system.
Overall, I really liked this game. There’s much to do here and a lot exploring to be done. There are also plenty of secrets to be found. This is not a game that you’ll play out in a day or two. Give it a week or maybe three to find and collect everything that’s available. Operation Starfish is easy to find and is pretty cheap, so if you’ve got nothing to do grab a copy and have fun with the famous fish spy.
SCORE: 8 out of 10