James Bond's Mission Log #1: "The CIA has sent me on a mission to investigate the disappearance of one of our top secret projects: a stealth plane called STEALTH. For this mission, I am going to be going by the alias "John Glames". Arriving in Santa Paragua was easy enough, but getting past the customs agent turned into a bit of an adventure. I am now off to explore outside the airport. Wish me luck."
|That is not what I thought this game was called...|
Let me start by saying how much I appreciate the efforts of Trickster and others to document our shared computer heritage. Whether that is by playing every "adventure" game ever made-- in order-- as he was doing, or by doing more mundane things like scanning in manuals and supporting abandonware sites, we are ensuring that our history is preserved for future geeks and gamers. Our children may never quite understand what it was like to sneak off to play "Leisure Suit Larry" on a Tandy when we should have been doing homework, but at least this chapter of our lives will not be completely closed to them. That is what brought me to Trickster's blog and that is why I am so thrilled to pick up a post on the "user-driven" version of his site.
|I don’t know who this guy is, but he’s the first thing you see when you turn on the game.|
Before I get into "James Bond: A Stealth Affair", let me start with a confession: despite my geek credentials, I am not an expert in James Bond. I have not so lived under a rock that I do not know who he is: the sexy-and-suave secret agent created by Ian Fleming. Beyond that, I have only a smattering of information. I've seen the first film (1962's Dr. No starring Sean Connery), but from there I jump all the way to Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall (2012). I watched my friends play Goldeneye as a kid, but I never played it myself because it gave me motion sickness. I know that there are multiple Bond actors and that despite appearances, he is probably not a Time Lord. I also know that Moonraker was a bad version of Star Wars and one of the films had a guy dipped in gold. I probably missed most of the jokes in the Austin Powers films. If this game requires even a smattering of James Bond trivia, I may be up a creek and in need of assistance.
Fortunately, the manual gives you a basic background on who this "James Bond, 007" fellow is (thank you!) and a primer on our mission: A fellow agent, 006, has sent an urgent message from Santa Paragua saying something about the "Stealth Affair" and requesting assistance. The manual then helpfully lists two "Suspects", although I cannot say exactly what they are suspected of: General Manigua, a freedom-fighter turned tyrant of this Banana Republic; and the KGB. It also has some appendices with technical information about a stealth jet (is that what this game is about?) and about the spy gadgets which I will have available to me. These include a passport forger, a cassette recorder disguised as a razor, a cable hidden in a watch, pens that contain acid, and cigarettes that launch rockets or find fingerprints. The spy stuff looks pretty cool, but I hope I will not have to remember how all of the stuff works!
|Somehow, this doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.|
And the first problem is revealed! I am not playing the "James Bond" version of the game, but rather the European version which does not use the Bond characters. So I have a US manual with a European game and I hope that there is nothing specific to the version that will trip me up. For starters, the protagonist is named "John" not "James" and works for the CIA. As the game opens, John is receiving a briefing in the CIA headquarters. The “STEALTH” is a plane and, much like its name suggests, it has disappeared-- although not in the way that they had hoped. John is given a new briefcase of spy equipment and is put on a plane to Santa Paragua.
|Ring, ring, ring, ring… Aduana phone!|
On arriving at the airport, I can finally move my mouse! John is at an airport having just stepped off the plane. There is a newspaper vending machine and a customs agent behind a railing, as well as a door off to the left. I fumble against the newspaper machine because surely there will be some way to get a newspaper, right? The interface is clunky: you click the left mouse button to get James… er… John… to move someplace. The left mouse button brings up some actions: “Examine”, “Take”, “Use”, “Operate”, and “Speak”. Some trial and error suggests that they work mostly the way you expect. “Use” and “Operate” confuse me-- it seems that “Use” lets you select items in your inventory, while “Operate” lets you use items in the screen… But that is only if you left-click. If you right-click on “Operate” then you can use items in your inventory, too. I have no idea what the differences are and I suspect this will be a bit of trial and error.
Back to the newspaper machine: it has a coin slot, but I have no coins. I sift through my inventory. By “Operating” on my briefcase, I am able to open it and look around. It contains a pen, a calculator, a magazine, and an American passport. I pick up the pen, but the calculator will be used to open a secret compartment… when I am not in public. Good enough. Some more searching shows that the passport contains some folded up bills, but that doesn’t do me any good with the newspaper machine. None of the commands that I want to use have any effect and the error messages are quite difficult to understand. Am I going to have this problem the whole game?
|It’s like I understand nothing! What the hell does this mean?|
Before I head through customs, I head into the room on the left. Naturally, it’s a bathroom with three stalls, a sink, and a “napkin” instead of a hand towel. I cannot pick up any of the items, and I cannot seem to “use” any of the stall doors to open them. I search the waste bin and… nothing. I suck at this spy stuff.
At this point I noticed the next annoying control issue: to get to the “Save” screen, you have to press both mouse buttons at the same time. I am on a Mac playing with DosBox on a single-button mouse. I can control-click to right-click, but I have no way of pressing both buttons together. Fortunately, the manual helpfully says that you can also press F10 to get to the save screen. Still quite annoying.
Giving up on exploring the airport further, I head to the customs officer with my passport in hand. I know from the manual that I could use the passport forger to get a different one, but surely they won’t make you do that on the first screen. I hand the passport over and the official is glad to see me! No wait. It’s just a ruse and he takes me hostage. The game ends. Well, my first death screen in a half hour. Not too bad!
|I deny any knowledge of wanting to play this game.|
Okay. let’s try something else. Good thing I saved!
Time to look a little closer. The newspaper machine has a “Coin Return” slot which I did not notice before. I “Examine” it and find a quarter! Using the quarter gives me a newspaper and I discover that the UK has just re-opened the embassy with Santa Paragua. I bet that is my clue, but could the UK be behind the STEALTH disappearance? Probably not.
Accessing the secret compartment does not work in the main room or the bathroom, saying I am not in a discreet enough location. I poke around further and completely by accident manage to trigger the spot where the stall door opens and I can enter. Opening the doors doesn’t help but standing near them does? This may be a tricky game. No problem, I head for the toilet.
|Yes, I try the “Leisure Suit Larry” thing here. No, it does not work.|
Once in the stall, I can open the secret compartment in the briefcase. A passport forger! Just like in the manual. I can pick between French, English, and German passports and this time, I choose the UK. (Just as a lark, I also try German and get the same result as with my American passport.) I make the passport, take it, and head out of the stall. I hand it to my friend at the “customs” desk… and he takes it!
Finally! I can proceed. The woman at the “Welcome” desk seems to be the most promising and when I “speak” to her, she hands me a telegram: “Flight 714. Mr. Martinez. Stop.”
Who is Mr. Martinez? Is he my contact in this foreign country? Or someone behind the stealing of the STEALTH? I have no idea. But, this seems like a good place to “STOP” my first play session. Next time, I might even leave the airport.
Session time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour
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.)