Friday, 14 November 2014

Game 48: Operation Stealth - Just Keep Swimming

Written by Joe Pranevich

James Bond's Mission Log #3: Even master spies have bad days! The documents my contact had sent me to retrieve were a trap: I was captured and sentenced to an unnecessarily slow death in a collapsed mine shaft. Fortunately, I was able to break out and swim to safety. While investigating the local resort hotel, I was captured by a different group of thugs and taken out to sea. This time, the death was swifter: being thrown overload tied to a rock. Because I am a master spy, I escaped from that too (all while rescuing a beautiful woman)-- but I have had quite enough swimming for one day.

Spies have great handwriting!

In my previous post, my contact in Santa Paragua had been shot before my eyes and I barely escaped being captured by the local paramilitary thugs. All was not lost however as he had given me a key and a number, probably for a safe deposit box at the local bank. That sounds like a good next step.

In the bank, I show the card to the teller and he is kind enough to open the underground vault for me. The safe deposit boxes are numbered and it is easy to find the right one and open it. But rather than the documents that I was looking for, I find a briefcase. Not just any briefcase, but one identical to my own: it must belong to another spy. I file that thought away as something to check up on later, then open the case and its secret compartment. Inside the compartment is a “small box” which I recognize as being part of the safe-cracking kit from the manual. (The manual also mentions special cigarettes and I suspect that I will stumble on them in time-- if I haven’t missed something along the way.) At the very bottom of the case is an envelope. Is that the documents that my contact asked me to find? I am not sure because even before I could touch it, I found myself surrounded!

Wait? Aren’t you dead?

Well, that is unexpected: my contact that had just been shot before my eyes wasn’t dead after all! Or rather, my real contact was dead and that meet-up had been a charade to get me into the vault to open the secret compartment in the briefcase. The manual says that each case is boobytrapped, so having me open it must have been the safest approach. The Russians, led by this Colonel Karpov, have the documents now-- and I still do not know what secrets they contained.

In the game of spy vs. spy, there is only one rule: don’t kill your opponent without subjecting him to an overly complicated death trap and walking away. Colonel Karpov and his lovely assistant Comrade Ostrovich, tied me up and dumped me in an abandoned mine shaft before blowing up the entrance. If I do not suffocate, I’ll eventually starve. What a death for such a handsome spy!

Don’t forget the James Bond trivia contest!

I take stock of the environment. The tunnel is short with the collapsed section just ahead. The support beams holding this section seem to be doing their jobs, so I am not going to die of a cave-in quite yet. John is tied with ropes and sitting on the ground near the end of the tunnel. I sift through my inventory, but there are no obvious choices. The spy-pen I am carrying is supposed to be able to melt through metal, but it must not have a setting for “rope”. I search the screen for pixels to click on and there is a spot labeled “ground” right behind me. I “examine” then “operate” the ground to clear away some rocks. Voila! A bit of sharp metal appears. Thank goodness for plot-necessity because if I had been sitting just a few inches in any direction, I never would have found it. I use the metal to cut the rope and feel my way around the cave. I cannot dig my way out through the cave in, so I explore the back. There is some air flowing near the rear, suggesting a possible exit-- but I have no way to go. If only I had a shovel! I head back to that piece of metal and “operate” it again and see that it is a pick-axe. What did I say earlier about plot-necessity? Using the pick-axe is tricky as “using” it with the walls and beams has no effect-- but if I just “operate” it then John swings it Donkey Kong-style at whatever is just to his right. I do that in a bunch of random places near where I feel the air and a hole opens up. Freedom at last!

The hole leads to a submerged shaft and I find myself swimming. The regular controls do not work, it is more of an arcade-style minigame. The object appears to be to swim through the flooded tunnel without running out of oxygen. I can click where I want John to swim to and I have to make it from air pocket to air pocket before my breath runs out. The activity is not difficult, but each of the three screens gets harder and the real challenge is more the interface than anything else. If you could control John with arrow-keys instead of clicks, he’d get stuck a lot less and there would be fewer pointless deaths.

For the record, I did not know anything about this when I made the Ninja Turtles joke last week.

I counted fourteen reloads before I was able to make it back out into the open air. Eventually, I resurface by the florist shop, climbing those stairs which I had hoped would lead to a motor boat. Oh well, that dream is dashed but at least I survived.

Back in the open air, I take stock: most of my inventory is gone. I noticed in the cave, but there was not really time to think about it. But now I am back in the city with no money, no passport, and no spy briefcase. Even most of my collected incidentals are gone including the newspaper and telegram. On the bright side, my spy watch and spy pen are safely with me, as is my carnation, and safe cracking device. The carnation I understand: they wanted me to die handsome. But why would they leave me with the safe cracker? I have no idea. And of course I also have the pick-axe which I just picked up. Not having anything else to do, I resolve to re-explore all the screens to find anything that changed.

Is this supposed to be the guy sleeping by the bank? Or does everyone have these snazzy hats?

I find no changes in the garden, palace, or bank-- but now there is a man selling swimmers’ bracelets on the beach. They sound quite handy: they inflate with air if you need a floatation device while out on the water. They are “only” 20 cruserous, but that does not help me any. I barter him down to 18, but that is still 18 more then I have. Should I have bought one before my last swimming adventure? I restore back to just before the safe deposit vault just to check, but he is not on the beach yet. I guess this is a new problem for me to solve. At least I did not make the swimming minigame more difficult than it was supposed to be!

My reputation precedes me. Otherwise I’d be late for all my appointments. 

The hotel is the last screen to re-explore and circumstances have changed there as well. The bellhop seems to recognize me now instead of just informing me that there were no vacancies. Inside, the receptionist greets me and lets me know that my luggage has been taken up to “my” suite. I hope this is the rest of my spy stuff arriving! We have a good track record so far of gadgets arriving in luggage. Unfortunately, the receptionist does not tell me which room is mine and I am too crippled by a bad user-interface to ask him, so I will have to search the hotel again floor-by-floor. I start this time on the top floor, but cannot exit the elevator: a cleaning woman is blocking the way. I suspect that a master spy-ninja-chemist should be able to say “excuse me” in Spanish, but John Glames apparently does not speak any Spanish.

“Permiso, por favore.” Sorry, I don’t speak Spanish either.

Well, this puzzle is easy: I take the elevator down to the second floor and take the stairs up to the third. I was half-expecting something to happen on the stairs, some reason why the game needs you to go up that way, but nothing. I must just be the suspicious type.

I try each of the doors on the third floor one by one-- should the receptionist have given me a key?-- but the last one is unlocked. I head in, but my dreams of new spy equipment in my luggage is dashed immediately. There is a woman in “my” room, threatening me with a gun. Her dialog is a bit difficult to follow, but she claims to be Mrs. Manigua (the General’s wife?) and informs me that my crimes will not go unpunished. Frankly, I am not sure which crimes she is speaking of since I do have a “License to Kill” and all, but before she can clarify another well-dressed man and a group of paramilitaries storm the room and take us hostage. That is twice today.

I thought they said this was a suite? I want a refund

These guys do not follow the spy code for elaborate death traps. (Or perhaps the mine shaft they had intended to use had suffered an unexpected cave-in.) They take the woman and I out on a boat into ocean. Listening into their conversation-- good thing it wasn’t in Spanish-- I learn that the woman’s full name is Julia Manigua and she is a freedom fighter, apparently against General Manigua. Are they husband and wife? I am not sure, but that would make for some awkward dinner conversations. The well-dressed man is Otto. Mousing over the men on the boat tells me that they are “Spyder” agents, so I assume he is as well. He seems to think that I am a Russian spy, or at least suspects that I might be working with them-- so he does not know about my adventure earlier in the day. However, he does reveal that he has managed to recover the documents from them. I am a bit confused on the various groups all vying for the same secrets except that all of them enjoy kidnapping me.

Fish are friends, not food.

Once the exposition is over, Julia and I are tied up, strapped to some heavy rocks, and thrown into the ocean. We descend rapidly past three screens of blue ocean before coming to rest at the bottom. The oxygen bar appears and starts counting down so there is no time to lose. How am I going to get out of this one? I check my inventory and my pick-axe is gone. Well, not like they would have let me do that trick twice. I click around the screen and the only things to act on are “John” and “Girl”. Apparently the interface cannot be bothered to remember that I was just told her name thirty seconds ago. I struggle and click on things, but before I make any headway my oxygen runs out and we both die.

I replay the death scene a few more times, but there does not appear to be anything that I can do. I even try crazy item combinations, but no dice. The solution must involve those water bracelets that I was unable to buy earlier. There must be a way to have enough money to buy them. I restore all the way back to before I entered the bank vault and exchange some more money with the teller first. That gives me “change” and maybe the Russians cannot be bothered to steal my pocket change. I replay the whole sequence of the vault, the cave-in, and swimming to safety over again and check-- YES! I have some coins. I use them to buy the swim bracelets then head back to getting captured in the hotel and getting thrown overboard. When Julia and I make it to the bottom, I press the button on the bracelets expecting salvation and… nothing happens. Worse, nothing happens with a stupid error message. Damn. I restore again.

I’m drowning, I have a rescue bracelet that I am trying to use, and you do not see the point? Aargh!

My first guess is that I need to use the bracelets earlier. Surely, the spies would notice if John Glames, master spy and red corsage-wearer, was also sporting a pair of water wings? I restore back to the hotel and push the button there, but that does not work either. I wait until we are on the boat and this time I notice that there is a brief period while Julia and Otto are talking that I can use items. I “operate” the bracelets and they make a whistling sound. That is a promising start. I get thrown overboard again and this time when I get to the bottom and “operate” the bracelets again, they “deflate” and the ropes loosen enough that I can get them off. I am not sure of the mechanics of all of this-- did my captors really not notice that I was wearing water wings?-- but since I am closer to not drowning, I can’t really complain. I expected that the bracelets would jet me to the surface, but that does not seem to be the case. I swim over to Julia, untie her ropes, and the two of us swim to safety.

Except we run out of air before we get to the surface and die.

I restore and try again. I find that I can operate the bracelets in the water before descending all the way to the ocean floor, giving me a couple more seconds to get to Julia and untie her. We repeat the process and swim to the surface, but freedom is again too far away and we drown before we get there. Did I miss another item? Is there more to do with the bracelets? I try again and again and it is slow going. Each time I have to watch a cinematic of our rock-laden bodies falling to the bottom of the sea. Each time, I use the bracelets and rescue Julia only to have to watch us slowly swim up three screens and die just before the tip. It is quite frustrating.

I won’t tell you that I found a strategy, but after doing the same routine over and over again, I eventually got lucky and was able to untie Julia in the first possible moment and just make it to the surface as our breath was running out.

John looks so casual after drowning almost two dozen times.

After we break the surface, there is a lifeboat there to rescue us. Friend or foe, I am not sure yet-- but it has to be better than drowning. As a wet and bedraggled John Glames climbs into the life raft, I am ending this play session. Thus far, I am not finding the puzzles particularly hard, but these arcade/timed sequences are a real pain.

Session time: 2 hours
Total time: 5 hours

Note regarding spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please... try not to spoil any part of the game for me... unless I really obviously need the help... or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

New Contest - James Bond References & Trivia

As I indicated in my review post, I am not a James Bond expert-- but you might be. As I play through the game each week, please post comments with all of the James Bond trivia and references that I am missing for the portion of the game that I have played. At the end of the postings on “Operation Stealth”, I will tally up the unique comments and the contributor that finds the most references will receive a “Dr. No” DVD provided by me (or an Amazon gift card equivalent if shipping or region locking is prohibitive.)

Joe Pranevich blogs about random geekiness at and about religion at Coat of Many Colors.


  1. “Permiso, por favor.” Almost right Joe, favore is more like italian. Although I would say "¿Me permite?". You will end learning some spanish with this game. I, like most non-english natives here, first learnt english while playing and fiddling with my first computer (MSX) in my childhood.

    1. Thanks! I do not think I will learn any Spanish in this game. I keep thinking that I should try to learn some Spanish because it would be very valuable, but I have not yet gotten around to it. I tried to pick up some French recently on Duolingo. Maybe I'll try to do some Spanish there as well, at least learn some basic verbs.

    2. All the spanish I know I learned from watching Dora the Explorer with the kids...

      Red = rojo!

    3. How do you say Dirty Sanchez in Spanish?

    4. Sánchez is already a spanish family name. I would say Sánchez el Sucio.

    5. Oh you Kenny, you big... you.

  2. The reason that 'Glames' looks so casual is that you're just on about the thirteenth actor set to play him. He's actually quite happy that the other twelve died to give him a chance.

    1. That must be it! I think I have died more in this game than in most adventure games I have played. I have to be over a hundred now...

  3. Oh, great. A safe key with a Captcha Code. What next?

  4. I was almost yelling at my screen "look for a sunken car!!" thinking that Glames would pull the infamous trick of sucking air from a tire that Bond used in "A View to a Kill". But I'm glad the game managed to provide an equally ludicrous solution XD

  5. John Glames, meet Otto the blatantly recycled sprite.

  6. Clearly the Delphine guys didn't play the LucasArts games that were made in the years surrounding their own releases. I wonder how long it will take for dead end puzzles, such as the water bracelets one, to finally be considered player unfriendly? Imagine if you'd not spoken to the guy on the beach prior to entering the hotel. How confused would you have been?

  7. So, I didn't see any James Bond references, but I did notice a Finding Nemo one. Is it too late to get CAPS for that?

    1. There was a "from Russia with love" somewhere in there. That's a Bond movie title.