Squelchy Pursuits

Aquatic Games logo

£25.99 * MILLENIUM * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

It's nice to see a company that has thought of a different way to produce a sequel to a game instead of adding the usual IIIs after the name of the old game. Millenium have done a bit of lateral thinking and produced Aquatic Gmes, the sequel to the classic James pond.

Old James is a bit knackered after doing this spy lark, so he decides to go get a bit of relaxation in. But there will be none of this namby-pamby lying around on a beach rubbish. Old James wants some good wholesome exercise - sad but true. So where better to get the exercise he's after than at the Aquatic Games?

For some reason you don't play James in all of these events. It isn't stressed who you are but it's not really that important - all I know is that all of the competitors are supposed to be friends of James.

The first event is just a sprint, which entails the usual obscene waggling of the joystick, but you are not running on a track - that's much too easy.
For the most part of the race you are running on water so if you slow down you will sink. You are racing against a frog who is pretty speedy.

Event two - Feeding time. You play a tubby character standing on a bridge, and you have to fill up your bucket and feed the fish that poke their head out of the water.

Next up is the Grass Race. A friend of old Jimmy's is a uni-cycling shark - everybody should have a uni-cycling shark for a friend, but alas we don't.
You have to pedal his unicycle along the course and jump over all the different obstacles that stand in your way. The course runs from left to right, like the sprint but it has lots of hills and things that you've got to pedal up.

I found the control method on this a bit tricky. It's like trying to rub your stomach while patting your head. You have to pull the joystick round in a clockwise fashion - that's fine until you have to jump over an obstacle, when it's a bit tricky to keep the momentum going.

Reading the list of the various events will make you think that they're pretty weird - you'd be right. After the Grass Race you have Kipper Watching which is almost as bizarre as it sounds. You are in charge of six seals who are having a kip (a nap to our southern friends).

The rowdy beach people keep throwing beach balls at your comatose friends so to stop them waking you have to jump up and deflect the balls away with your head in true seal stye.

Along with the 100-metre splash there are a couple of adaptations to normal events like Leapfrog which is just a version of the 110-metre hurdle. There is also a trampoline (sea sponge) section of the games, the first I have ever seen. You have to go through all the set pieces like a proper trampolinist. Once you have done the set moves in the time given any extra somersaults you do give you extra points.

By far the trickiest game in the tournament is the shell shooting section. Odd looking crabs come at you from either side of the screen, and you score points by flipping and catching them, flipping them into vats of hot oil of shopping them to burst the overhead balloons. I always seem to get electrocuted by the electric eel-type things.

I liked the Aquatic Games a lot - graphically they're sound and the FX are quite amusing in places. It's a nice change from run-of-the-mill sports games.

I also thought that the practice options were a hell of a lot better than normal. Instead of the usual one practice mode there are three on different levels, so fi you're a real slowly like me you can go on the thicky level first. Well thought out and good fun.

Aquatic Games logo

The secret agent with the golden crispy coating, the stiff upper flip' and no end of other sad puns returns in an eight-event, multi-player, joystick-pummeling sports game.

Surely everyone knows who James Pond is? Well, just in case there are a few of you out there yet to be introduced to the F.I.5.H. Agent, here are the facts. James Pond is (there's no getting away from the fact) a cod; his arch enemy is the infamous Dr Maybe (think about that one) and this is James' third adventure.

James is to Millennium what Sonic is to Sega, Mario to Nintendo or Cliff Richard is to the record-buying public - you just know that you're going to get another dose of the nauseating little superstar at least once a year (normally around Christmas).

But just like Mario, Sonic and Cliff, the product is always of an exceptional high quality, if somewhat lacking in cutting-edge butchness. Although The Aquatic Games marks James's third appearance, it would be wrong to think of his latest outing as James Pond 3: The Aquatic Games is a departure from his usual style of game - both the original James Pond game and the truly excellent James Pond 2: Codename Robocod were through-and-through platformers. No, James Pond 3 has yet to be unveiled.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let's see what The Aquatic Games is all about. Disk in, power-on and let's start swimming.

Some events require forethought, some need fast reflexes

Ready for wrist action?
Here's the framework: the Games comprise eight (plus two bonus) separate events. Some require timing and forethought, some require lightning-fast reflexes and some merely require an embarrassingly quick wrist action.

Either one, two, three or four players can play at any one time, although there's no actual head-to-head option (each player takes it in turn to have a bash at each event, the scores and/or times are compared and then it's on to the next).

In a multi-player game, each player gets to control one of four teams, they are The Swamp Bay Splasher (coached by Steve Clam), The Hilly Island Hoppers, Flappy's Flyers and the Deep Sea Dippers. Each team comprises a selection of wacky characters suited to each particular event.

So is this game as good as Robocod, James' last game? Well it wouldn't be right to compare them - they're both excellent examples of two completely different genres. The only connection between the two games is Pond himself and the appalling puns that litter the instruction manual and game presentation.

Robocod was a classic, expansive platform-'em-up; The Aquatic Games is a completely different kettle of fish (sorry). But each event is well designed, the graphcis are truly excellent, the multi-player element is always a welcome insertion (although it's a shame there's no real head-to-head dual-player mode) and there are records to be broken and high-score tables to be nurchered.

So yes, The Aquatic Games comes almost as highly recommended as Robocod did in Amiga Format's December Issue last year, but for completely different reasons. If you are a sociable type of person who likes to play games with your friends, then you really shouldn't miss out on the chance to try test you sk-gills with James and friends.

...err. Quite remarkable, etc. There are eight events to have a bash at, all have decidedly 'fishy' feel and here they come:

1. The 100m Splash
This is a standard right-left joystick destroyer that sees James race against F-Fortesque frog across land and water. It will probably be made illegal in the year 2020 once it is realised how many games-player's wrists were knackered in the 1990s.

2. Kipper Watching
This is a lovely game. You play the part of Ceceelia the seal. She must protect her sleeping seal friends from the balls that are carelessly flung around the beach. The longer she can bounce the balls away from her chums, the more she scores.

3. Hop, Skip and Jump
Another joystick extravaganza complete with the tried and trusted 'hold-fire-until-you-reach-the-optimum-angle-of-45' sting in its tail. Work that power-meter up to max and then pump on the fire button to make F-fortesque jump.

4. The Bouncy Castle
In multi-event sports games there's always one that is hard to get the hang of, and this is it. James has to bounce from sponge to sponge (easy), to earn points, spin (easy), somersault (hard), double-backward somersault (!?) for two minutes.

5. Feeding Time
Freddie Starfish must scuttle up and down the pier feeding his fishy friends with all sorts of tasty goodies in a bid to prevent them being tempted by the bait at the end of the fisherman's lines. Starts slowly, gets fast and furious very quickly.

6. Shell Shooting
If there are only supposed to be seven original novels ever written, it doesn't bode well for the possible number of original, fish-related sports games. In this game James has to flick limpets, catch them then throw them at the balloons above his head.

7. Tour de Grass
Yes, it's Mark the shark on a unicycle (told you things were getting ridiculous) in another joystick pummeling (this time you must move your joystick round and round, up, up-right, right, down-right, etc) race to a finish line. Make the shark - excellent stuff.

8. Leap Frog
F-Fortesque frog again in an event that resembles the high-hurdles more than any leap frog I've ever played. Keep the speed up and hit jump to clear the obstacles. If your hands aren't about to fall off after that, you must be Robocop or something.


Aquatic Games logo Summer Olympix logo

Die Sommerspiele von Barcelona und ihre durch die Bank eher Mäßigen Versoftungen sind Schnee von gestern - im Schnee von heute liegen nämlich zwei witzige Digi-Olympiaden, die goldene Spaß-Medaille verdient haben!

Anna Bolika hin, Katrin Krabbe her; bei Millenium und Linel ist man der Überzeugung, daß Sport nicht unbedingt eine bierernste Angelegenheit sein muß. Na, und wenn Bier im Spiel ist, dann sind Joker-Redakteure meist nicht weit! Also haben wir uns in den Trainungsanzug geworfen, das Schweißband überstülpt, die Knabberschüssel vor den Monitor gestellt und an den diversen Disziplinen der beiden brandneuen Comic-Olympiaden teilgenommen...

Was die Eidgenossen von Linel hier an einzelnen Wettbewerben zusammengetragen haben, kennt man zwar prinzipiell schon aus einer Reihe anderer Sportspiele, allerdings kaum in einer derart humoristischen Verpackung.

So kann es etwas beim Bogenschießen passieren, daß man einen unbeteiligten Schwammerlsucher in den Hintern trifft, während schlechte Tontaubenschützen durchaus Gefahr laufen, von eigenen Sprite aufs Korn genommen zu werden.

Weniger spektakulär, dafür umso schweißtreibender wird der 100m-Sprint bewältigt, während beim Speerwerfen bzw. dem Weitsprung zusätzlich etwas Timing vonnöten ist. Beim Boxen ist wiederum eher Reaktionsfähigkeit gefragt, ehe es abschließend nochmal in kühle Naß geht, nämlich zum Kajakfahren bzw. Schwimmen.

Im Grundsatzfragen stimmt die humorige Multi-Disziplinen-Packung also durchaus mit ihren quasi-seriösen Kollegen wie der "Carl Lewis Challenge" überein, aber während die jüngste Konkurrenz ihr Pulver zumeist schon mit dem imageträchtigen Namen verschossen hatte, haben sich die Programmierer hier wirklich Gedanken über das Gameplay gemacht: Die durchdachte Steuerung klappt in allen Wettbewerben auf Anhieb, eine flotte Runde Körpertüchtigung im Freundeskreis ist also jederzeit drin. Immerhin können bis zu vier Spieler teilnehmen, bei manchen Ausscheidungen sogar zwei gleichzeitig. Wer sich da nicht blamieren mag, darf vorher auch ein wenig üben, schade bloß, daß die erzielten Ergebnisse dann nicht gespeichert werden.

In Sachen Präsentation wird dem Olympioniken gleich zur Eröffnunf ein beeindruckender Flug durch die Arena geboten, beendet werden die Spiele mit einer netten Schlußzeremonie.

Die Grafik dazwischen kann sich durchaus sehen lassen; so wird die Umgebung beim Bogenschießen in einem Affentempo gezoomt, und das Scrolling in den übrigen Disziplinen ist nicht minder flott. Mit den gebotenen Musikstücken bzw. Sound-FX kann man ebenfalls zufrieden sein, mit den haarigen Wartezeiten zwischen den Übungen schon weniger - da werden ja womöglich die Muskeln wieder kalt...

Millenium konnte für seine Strand- und Funspiele eine der wohl prominentesten Plattformhelden zwischen Fuhlsbüttel und Tokio verpflichten: "James Pond", den schuppigen Geheimagenten aus den zwei gleichnamigen Topgames (James Pond & Robocod). Diesmal hat er seine Freunde mitgebracht, allesamt gesellige Meeresbewohner - dementsprechend feucht-fröhlich geht es auch in den acht Wttbewerben zu!

Gestartet wird mit dem 100m-Wettplantschen, aus dem nur flotte Joystick-Rüttler siegreich hervorgehen, anschließend müssen Bälle möglichst geschickt mit dem Kopf zum Screen hinausgestoßen werden. Beim folgenden Wettspringen wird erneut hauptsächlich gerüttelt, während das Schwammhüpfen eher nach geschicktem Stick-Handlung verlangt, denn allzu leicht landet Pond beim fliegenden Wechsel zwischen den Trampolinen klatschend am Boden.

Anschließend werden Fische im Wettlauf gegen die Zeit mit Süßigkeiten versorgt, danach Ballons mit Hilfe von Muscheln zerstochen. Bei der vorletzten Disziplin darf man per Einrad über Berg und Tal düsen, und zum Schluß gilt es, einen Hinderlislauf über Schlangen und Pfützen siegreich zu überstehen.

Das alles sieht nicht bloß witzig aus, es spielt sich auch so! Wie sich es gehört, lassen sich die einzelnen Disziplinen (in drei Schwierigkeitsgraden) üben, bevor, bevor bis zu vier Spieler gegeneinander antreten. Die Steuerung bekommt man auch hier schnell in die Flosse bzw. den Griff, auch hier macht die Sache in der Gruppe am meisten Spaß.

Doch auch Solo-Plantscher werden sich prächtig unterhalten, dafür sorgt schon das tolle Drumherum: Die Grafik ist schön bunt und abwechslungsreich, die Sprites sind allerliebst animiert, und das Scrolling flutscht wie geschmiert. Ständig wechselt die Musikbegleitung, die FX sind passend gewählt, und viele Gags sorgen für immer neue Überraschungen - ja, wer genügend Punkte sammelt, darf sogar an zwei zusätzlichen Wttbewerben, nämlich Jonglieren und Weitsprung, teilnehmen!

... dürfen sich die beiden Games daher brüderlich teilen, beide zählen sie zur derzeitigen Sport-Elite. Dennoch, die Goldmedaille gebührt nunmal dem Team um Mr. Pond, hier sind die Wettbewerbe einfach eine Ecke spritziger ausgefallen. Andererseits sorgt auch die originelle Schweizer Olympiade durch ihr tolles Gameplay für frischen Wind in der Sportspiel-Szene.

Und so eine Brise kann dem Genre ja nur gut tun, immerhin ist seit den Klassikern "California Games" und "Summer Edition" nur wenig wirklich Interessantes nachgekommen. (rl)

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The latest James Pond outing invites you to the Sole olympics. (That's fintastic - Ed.)

The latest (and hopefully last) of this year's multi-event joystick-waggling sports sims is one that takes a bit of a different approach to the previous efforts.

Unlike Carl Lewis Challenge and Espana - The Games '92 (both reviewed in issue 17, with 56 and 38 percent respectively), The Aquatic Games isn't an o-fish-ial licence (Hold it right there! One more piscine pun in this review and you're fired. - Ed)
Ah. Er...

The liquorice allsorts are getting closer


As James Pond, waggle that joystick like crazy (you're actually running across water, so go too slowly and you'll sink!) and, er, that's it. If you can avoid knocking the seagull out of his boat early on, he'll fly along and give you a speedy lift towards the finish line. You're in competition with F-fortescue Frog, but he's useless so don't worry about it.

You can also headbutt the toucans which perch (Right, that's it, youre fired - Ed) on the bunting along the course a few times for bonus points, and getting all three brings the seagull back even if you sank it earlier.
Fishy Fun Factor: * * *

You play Ceceelia the seal, and you have to avoid having your sleepy seal friends woken up by the beach balls which some unfriendly swine's chuckling at them (you can just see it, can't you? Some callow youth wandering along a tropical beach, spots a load of seals sleeping, thinks 'Hey, wouldn't it be a great laugh if I scared them all off? Bloody other species, should all go back where they came from anyway', and starts lobbing a convenient nearby infinite supply of large beach balls at them. I love plots, me).

You do this by leaping around and nutting the balls before they hit your mammalian pals and wake them up, at which point another hit before they drop off again will send them scurrying off the beach in fear.

Occasionally some swine will set off an alarm clock which wakes all the seals up and makes things really hard for you, so you should stop him (by jumping on the clock) if you possibly can. Lose two seals and it's all over and you win medals by surviving for as long as possible before it happens. You can also grab bonus points by leaping into the angle fish which appear at the edge of the screen occasionally, yielding increasing scores from 100 points up to 10,000.

The toughest thing about this event is trying to avoid failing asleep by about halfway through, especially in multi-player mode when it can take over quarter of an hour to play to the end.
Fishy Fun Factor: * * *

This is a triple-jump contest straight out of the Hyper Sports coin op. Waggle the joystick like crazy, hit fire when you get to the 'Jump' sign, continue to waggle the joystick like crazy, hit fire again shortly afterwards to determine angle of jump (the game stops and a little graph moves up and down at the appropriate moment), and hope you've managed to propel F-fortescue Frog far enough to qualify.

Pretty easy, really, but it's nice to get back to a bit of good old honest frantic joystick destruction after the repetition and boredom of the last event.
Fishy Fun Factor: * * *

Time for a spot of gymnastics now. You (as James Pond himself) have to bounce up and down on the sponges (by way of a simple rhythmic combination of joystick moves) to gain enough height to execute various mid-air manoeuvres.

There are six different ones (including some tricky combination moves), each of which you have to do six times within an overall time limit to win a medal, preferably without falling off the trampolines and smashing your head in.

It's pretty difficult to tell whether or not you're going to land safely on the sponge after you've done a move, and the mysterious jack-in-the-box which sometimes shows up in the middle of the screen and propels you miles into the air without having to bother with all that tricky joystick stuff seems to appear and disappear completely at random, which is a bit disconcerting. Some of the combination manoeuvres are a bit too awkward joystick-wise for my liking, too.
Fishy Fun Factor: * * *

The most manic event in the game, Feeding Time sees you playing Freddie Starfish as he tries to save some of his sweet-toothed aquatic buddies from the clutches of some nasty fishermen. Freddie's job is to tip tasty titbits from his bucket in order to stop his comrades from being tempted out of the water by the sugary confections lowered on the end of the bad guys' fishing rods.

As the bucket empties, he has to rush from side to side to fill it up at the dispensers at the edges of the screen, but while he's doing that, the liquorice allsorts are getting closer and closer... When two fish are caught, the event is over, so keep 'em out of trouble for as long as possible.
ishy Fun Factor: * * * *

This is the most coordination-testing and potentially frustrating event of the lot. Again, you play the part of sub-aqua superhero James Pond. You have to jump on the edge of limpet shells as they meander across the screen (slightly faster than in real life - limpets aren't generally known for their fleetness of foot or whatever it is they move about on) flip them up into the air, catch them as they come down and then throw them back up the screen to burst a series of balloons.

Tough enough, without the spiky limpets which you can't jump on, and the fact that if you let a limpet walk into you on the ground, it knocks you over and stuns you for a while (and which point another one runs into you, then another one, then etc etc). Quite tricky and very frustrating.
ishy Fun Factor: * * *

After the Shell Shooting, the next event is a bit of a relief. You play Mark The Shark (an ex-circus unicycling shark from Finland) (Of course he is, how foolish of me not to have thought of that myself - Ed), and your task is simply to get to the end of an obstacle-littered horizontally-scrolling course against a time limit.

The difficult stuff comes in when you realise that to keep him cycling, you have to keep rotating the joystick in a clockwise direction, which is trickier than it sounds when you have to co-ordinate fire-button presses to jump obstacles and collect bonus point objects as well. Still not all that tricky, though.
Fishy Fun Factor: * * *

The 100 Metres Splash with obstacles to jump. A bit of a doddle, and something of an anti-climax after everything else.
Fishy Fun Factor: * *


If you qualify for a silver medal or better in an event, you also get the option to take part in a bonus event. You have to sacrifice a few points for the chance to enter, but if you succeed in the bonus event you get a lot more points back, as well as a Shield Of Merit. The ultimate aim in The Aquatic Games is to complete the whole thing with eight gold medals and six (the maximum) Shields Of Merit.

The bonus events give F-fortescue Frog an encore appearance in a long-jump contest that's just a simpler version of the Hop, Skip And Jump, and bring the previously-unseen PJ Penguin into the action as a juggler in another time-survival event, and while they're a nice extra, they're both too easy to prove much interest after the first try.

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Who cod believe it? Millenium's fishy agent is entering the sports arena. Will there be a motorpike and sidecarp section, and will Millenium be squids in? Steve Merrett breams a happy smile and joins James Pond on the beach.

Cod almighty, just what is the world coming to? First of all we experience a marked revival in the old Decathlon-style game, and then someone goes and throws a fish into the works! Is this the time or, indeed, the pla(i)ce for such escapades? No, not really.

Because, brave as this unusual marriage of themes is, Aquatics is a tired and very shallow (no pun intended) variant on the sports game theme, and no number of fish-related jokes are going to save it. To be fair, the actual idea is rather a good one. After all, the James Pond character has proved his flexibility in a way neither Mario nor Sonic have achieved, by starring in an arcade/adventure (James Pond) and a console-style platformer (Robocod), so why shouldn't he be adapted to appear in a sports game? There is no real reason why not, but Aquatics is hardly going to enhance the fishy agent's popularity or bridge the gap until Millenium's forthcoming James Pond III: Splash Gordon.

As the game unveils its many options, the ever-present marine humour instantly comes to the fore. Taking a break from his exploits as a FI5H agent, Pond and his mates have started up a smaller version of the Olympics which consist of eight main events and two smaller sub-games. Thus, armed with a sturdy joystick and wrist muscles which would make Popeye weep, you step up to the starting line for the first of the events.

There are several play modes available to the player, which include the ability to practice the events in any one of three difficulty modes, or play against up to three opponents. Once you have made your decision, you are assigned a trainer (amongst whom are Steve Clam, Billy The Squid and Mickey O'Shell) and the first of the events is loaded.

To ease you into the proceedings, the first event is your run-of-the-mill 'waggle-the-stick-to-run-fast' affair. As soon as the starting signal is given, you must assume the normal waggling position and give it all you've got so that your onscreen Sebastian Roe (I'm getting into fish speak!) pegs it to the finishing line in winning time. Just to add a little extra to the familiar mix, water must also be sped across (Messiah-style) until you pass the post.

Depending on your time, the medals will then be handed out and it's on to a bout of Kipper Watching. Contrary to the event's name, this does not in fact watching a smelly yellow fish, but sees one Ceceelia Seal protecting her friends from a rather nasty torrent of beach balls. As the inflatable spheres come raining down, Ceceelia must leg it left and right, deflecting the balls with her nose. If, however, two of her friends are awoken by missed balls, then it's game over.

This is where one of Aquatics more annoying points crop up. With the events split between waggling and skill-based ideas, the difference in time between levels is massive. Thus, whilst the running and jumping sections are over in a matter of seconds, up to four tedious minutes of Seal-saving action await you - and as much fun as the Seal section initially is, after a while the novelty soon wears off.

Another major problem is that the much-needed variety that sports games need is also missing. For instance, later on in the game, there is a section where a starfish must stop his friends from succumbing to the fishermen offering them sweets. Despite the change of graphics and slightly different slant to the gameplay, this is virtually identical to the Seal section and is inexcusable in a game that is already limited to eight sections.

Other ideas in the game include a triple jump variant, a cycling scene and a particularly tedious bouncy castle stage where James must perform a set number of special moves within a predetermined time-limit. Tedious is not the word for this stage, and bouncing between two trampettes whilst effecting a selection of moves proves about as much fun as eating ear wax. It is a real pity that what appears to be a lack of ideas has let Aquatics down as some of the events can indeed prove rather fun.

However, it is worth noting that it is the more skill-orientated stages, such as the triple jump and 'Leap Frog' hurdling events that prove enjoyable. Even these soon prove tiresome, though.

Admittedly, there are two bonus games thrown in for good measure, but even these don't add meat to an already stricken skeleton.

I really wanted to like Aquatics like Robocod which ranks as one of the best platformers I have played. Sadly, though, this undersea exercise program just doesn't cut the mustard and sadly wastes the character's potential.

Let's hope Pond's next outing offers more sustained gameplay, rather than a sad collection of poorly thought out sporting events. If he had an expanding midriff in Robocod, why not make it flexible and add some of Pole Vault-style event? I'm going to clam up now, but Aquatics can sadly be summed up in a similar vein to its seaside setting. Wet.


Placed alongside such coding veterans as Andrew Braybrook and Tony Crowther, Steve Bak is still relatively unknown. However, when you consider that Steve has broken down more than a few barriers in his time, this is almost unforgivable. For instance, starting with the humble Dragon 32, Steve virtually kept the ill-fated machine alive with his series of Cuthbert games. These were basically conversions of such coin-ops as Defender and Space Panic, but with the titular Cuthbert assuming the starring role. However, for a small army of Dragon owners, they were a lifeline.
Logically enough with the advent of the 16-bit ST, Steve then proved critics wrong by getting the machine to scroll vertically. After much hoo-hah from numerous developers saying it was impossible, Steve produced Goldrunner, a limited but very fast vertically-scrolling blast which then left the cynics to moan that nobody could do the same with a horizontally scrolling game on the ST. Oops. Then along came Steve again, this time with Return to Genesis for Firebird, to prove them wrong.
After a few lesser known titles (Leatherneck and Dogs Of War), Steve then embarked on the James Pond game for Millenium, teaming up with his (now) long-term partner of Chris Sorrell. However, Aquatics is a purely Steve Bak game, as Chris is currently busy on the fourth Pond game, which sees our hero launched into space.