Well done, Gameware Development. No, I mean it. Congratulations on developing an awful re-make of one of my favourite games originating from my home country. Congratulations on changing every level, and making them all totally non-fun. Congratulations on not simply porting the game, but instead leaving your mark (and dare I say “skid mark”) on this game.
This re-make (although I prefer the term “de-make”) annoys me because it gets “just enough” stuff wrong to make a game I’ve fallen in love with multiple times feel like a complete stranger. It was published under the Play It label (which isn’t exactly known for its quality titles), on the PlayStation AND PlayStation 2, as well as the DS and Game Boy Advance.
Four releases of what is effectively shovelware obviously wasn’t enough, as James Pond: Codename RoboCod was added to the PlayStation Network as a downloadable title in 2008.
It takes a long time to get over it, but there’s one big flaw with this version, and I already mentioned it: all the levels are different from the original. Not a single one is kept intact, even the hub-level got a makeover (or rather a “take-off” now that the hidden bonus levels are gone).
While I may agree with you that no auto-scrolling levels (such as the train levels) is a plus, the whole game remains tainted; the levels are too uniform.
The feeling you get while playing the game has also been altered. It doesn’t feel as charming as the Genesis version still does. I still play the Genesis version occasionally, mainly to see how far I can get without dying (I did manage up to Boss #3 once).
The progression has changed, as has the way the game is played, with levels no longer containing any originality. Almost every charming feature has been stripped, and the extra changes (some of which may not annoy you, but vastly irritate me) render this game upsettingly bad.
The proof is in the pudding; don’t touch that dial.
The toys at Santa’s Toy Factory are crying out for help. Who will save them? James Pond will, of course!
The goal in James Pond: Codename RoboCod is to save the elves and the toys at Santa’s Toy Factory from the evil Doctor Maybe.
Why “Doctor Maybe”? C’mon, it’s a pun on “Doctor No” from the James Bond films! James Bond—James Pond. Bingo, you’re learning.
After Doctor Maybe’s plans were foiled in the original James Pond (something to do with polluting the Earth’s oceans and generally being fiendishly wicked), he hatched his next evil plan: to reprogram Santa’s toys to be evil and get him to deliver them to kids all over the world, spreading Dr. Maybe’s evil empire.
Naturally, the eponymous hero is sent to save the day. In order to survive the chilly cold of the South Pole, and to reach new places, James Pond’s equipment has been upgraded. He drops the tuxedo from the first game and swaps it for a high-tech robotic suit that allows him stretch his body indefinitely.
James has been given the codename “RoboCod” because of his new armory, which is (obviously) a pun on RoboCop. Nice to see there are people in the games industry who make worse puns than I do.
To save Santa’s helpers, you have to disarm the bombs that have been tied to them, and cannot advance to the next level until you do so. Saving them all, destroying Doctor Maybe’s minions, and defeating Maybe himself indeed results in the end of the game.
Doctor Maybe escapes, leading the game towards an inevitable sequel (which turned out to be the best platformer on the Genesis, ever).
Sadly, Gameware Development must have not played the original RoboCod. Well, either that or they deliberately set out to make the worst remake ever.
Not taking into account the hideous FMV opening that looks like it was animated using Google SketchUp, Gameware added many unnecessary things and took away what worked, leaving it riddled with holes, moth-eaten, and torn.
I love how the boss battles are a “little” difficult in the original RoboCod. Thanks to the code being entirely re-written, if you die during a boss battle in this remake, your progress towards killing them carries over onto your next life. That makes things all too easy now.
The boss arenas are less complicated, and the bosses easier. The health bar for bosses also evens out the difficulty, unlike the original game, where you are unaware how much health they actually have.
So far, not so bad, just easened up. The easiness doesn’t last, as there is a massive difficulty spike after the second boss.
The game itself is buggier than the Genesis version (granted that the version I constantly praise does have a few bugs). It’s clear from the get-go that this is a remake, not a port, because the general control feels wrong, and the way James seems to “snap to” the exit beacon is strange behavior compared the original.
Of course, a remake for the PlayStation meant that Gameware Development felt it was their duty to update the game’s visuals. Whereas the new sprite-work here and there is brilliant, the ugly visual additions, such as beacon lighting and darkness, do not add anything to the game.
The soundtrack has been changed, too. True, it was not entirely changed, but if you compare the soundtracks from each game to one another, you’ll note a shocking lack of quality in the remake.
Most of the original tunes are still here and as bouncy as ever—plus some new ones I don’t particularly go for. There is also a track from James Pond 3 included in the game, which is completely out of place. It’s not bad music, but it doesn’t belong!
If the terrible instrumentation for the tracks that originate from Robocod were not enough to upset me, the fact that the music doesn’t loop, but just fades out, does.
The Christmas-themed music track (which I already hate because they use it for non-Christmas-y levels) causes the screen to flicker blue when it starts over. That’s a sign of amateur work.
The music resets between levels, even if the level uses the same audio track as the last; whereas in the original, it continues playing without interruption.
To me, the most offending of all the changes is that every single level requires saving elves before you can go to the next beacon. This heavily damages the progression speed of the game.
In the original version, you only have to do this for a few levels, not every single one.
That said, over 30 levels, I came across one where I didn’t have to save any elves. However, in the previous level, I had to save 14 of them, so yeah, too much of it.
Also, the McVities Penguin license is one of my favourite features of the original game, because penguins are awesome! The penguins you save are missing in this version; as a result, you’re saving elves, not penguins.
That’s probably a licensing issue—but I’d have thought James could maybe, y’know, still save penguins? I don’t really care much for elves. Personally, I just want to leave them there to die.
For a remake, this does nothing but damage the original. I know I keep saying this as if James Pond 2 on the Genesis is some kind of miracle-game, but trust me, this remake does an Ed Gein with the original, cutting out the best parts (I think that was a nice analogy, even if a tad misogynistic).
Let’s not get too head-up-arse here, though; it’s a good re-make, but it’s missing a lot of the zing and zazz. I’m sure this remake would just about manage to stand on its own. It does add a saving feature between themes, which is a nice touch, as the original game does not have save slots or passwords.
But also, from the viewpoint of being able to download this quickly and painlessly from the PlayStation Network (if you’re a PS3 owner), it’s good. I can’t get enough of how easy it is to download a game and play it on both the PS3 and PSP.
If RoboCod had remained at its special offer price (dropping to £1.59) rather than climbing back up to £3.99, then I’d say “give it a shot; it isn’t too bad.” But RoboCod was only on sale for a short time, and I would never recommend the game to you at its full price, ever. James Pond 2 for PlayStation 3 is currently only available in Europe, and with a bit of luck, it will stay that way. This PlayStation version remains a rarity, as the limited number of copies show, and it was never released outside of Europe.
If you’ve played the Genesis, Master System, or Super Nintendo version you’ll know—the second you lay your finger on this—that it’s quite a ways out from feeling the same. I know it’s wrong to compare them like this, but if you can’t review a remake by comparing it to the original, then how should it be done?
That was a rhetorical question.
Linear levels and removal of the secret bonus levels results in far less exploration than there was before. The silly things, such as the upside-down levels, underwater sections, hidden beacons, and auto-scrolling levels, are completely missing. Like Green Day sang, “it all keeps adding up.”
Procure the Genesis cartridge instead. Oodles and oodles more fun, and you can also P…P…Pick Up A Penguin for me while you’re out and about.