Following his defeat in Robocod, the evil Dr. Maybe learns of the high quality cheese that lies on the moon. Hiring a workforce of rats, Dr. Maybe begins mining the moon for cheese so he can conquer the global markets and fund his operations. In order to stop Dr. Maybe, James Pond, along with his new sidekick, Finnius Frog, journey to the moon in order to put a stop to Dr. Maybe’s mining operations. Pond has to navigate his way from his starting point to the exit beacon, which is hidden somewhere on the level, avoiding enemies and obstacles on the way. Each time he messes up, he loses one of the initially three energy stars, and finally one of his lives. Since “Codename: Robocod,” the second part of the James Pond saga, our hero has lost his flexible body suit. Instead, he has now fancy magnetic moon boots which enable him to scale walls or walk on the ceiling. His jumping abilities haven’t diminished, and he can still take out his opponents by a well-aimed drop on their head. If putting the boot in doesn’t work, Pond can also resort to using one of the collectible extras like a rock, a gun, or explosives, if he happens to carry that particular item. The big problem is that he can only carry one item at a time, so that you can’t create the all-powerful super-hero by just collecting everything that’s to be found. Actually, carrying some items around can be quite dangerous: the dynamite for example ignites whenever Pond picks it up. After a few seconds, it just explodes. Too bad for James Pond if he still happens to be holding it.

Actually, the collectibles in the game can be divided into three classes. First, there are the bonus objects which give extra points when collected. The most obvious of these are rings, which can be found almost everywhere. Collecting 1000 of these gives Pond an extra life. The others like coins, trophies and crowns are usually hidden from sight in remote locations, to make exploring worthwhile. The second class are the power-ups, which increase Pond’s abilities like extra life, extra energy, temporary invincibility or weapon powerup. Usually, collecting more than what is feasible gives you bonus points. The last class have to be the genuine extras, of which Pond can only carry one at a time. These include a fruit gun, various fruit to throw at your enemies, an umbrella to float, a rocket glider, and last but not least, the powerful fruit suits that serve as additional armour. Most of the collectibles can be found only by bumping into bonus blocks, which are marked with an exclamation mark when visible. The pity is that most of them are invisible to start with, so that you have to bump into them to make them visible in the first place. A good place to look for them is in locations where you seem to be stuck without a way out or without the extra you need. If you don’t get the extra you need, you can try and use the bonus block as a stepping stone to previously inaccessible regions.

“How do I get out” puzzles like the one described above are one of the main challenges in Operation Starfish – besides surviving the environment and its inhabitants, that is. The key to solving these is usually the understanding of what you can do with your extras – like the knowledge that some objects can be stepped upon, and that an umbrella isn’t just good for floating down below it. The game also offers most of the standard jump ‘n run building blocks like moving platforms, switches to create and destroy objects or just your plain lethal scenery. Probably due to the limitations of the game engine, Operation Starfish is heavy on the switch stuff, and rather light on the moving objects side. The sound effects are digitized well, while the soundtrack consists of a set of jolly ditties which change for the various types of landscapes. All in all, you get what you would expect in a high-quality game. Playing Operation Starfish can be a hazard for jump ‘n run addicts. Once you have started playing, you just have to beat just the next level before you can stop, no matter what your schedule says you have to be doing. Luckily, there is a save feature. James Pond 3 is a very cool and addictive jump ‘n run for Amiga 1200/4000 and AmigaCD32 series.

More news: Generation Amiga magazine