Saturday, 29 November 2014

Game 48: Operation Stealth - Welcome to My Underwater Lair

Written by Joe Pranevich

James Bond's Mission Log #5: The secret and evil (secretly evil?) organization, Spyder, has a plan for world domination! And I am the only agent who can stop their evil schemes. But first, I had to penetrate their hidden lair deep under the ocean near Santa Paragua, survive a piranha-filled death trap, a maze of air vents filled with rats, and a poor user interface to emerge into Spyder’s employee bathroom. Using my ninja-skills, I have knocked out an unsuspecting soldier and disguised myself in his uniform. I’m ready to take on the evil Dr. Why and destroy the STEALTH-- now all I have to do is find him.

Step on Spyder!

Last week, I had successfully infiltrated the palace of General Manigua, tracked down the secret documents that the CIA had been looking for, and capped it off with a jet ski race against a group of Russian spies. As I ended the post, I had arrived at a US submarine and was awaiting further orders.

I am summoned into my boss’s office on the submarine for a briefing. Spyder has the STEALTH and are threatening to bomb many of the world’s capitals to oblivion if they do not get a ransom. But thanks to the capture of the documents from the palace, we now know where the STEALTH is being hidden: in a base 300 feet under the sea. This would be a problem except we a) have a submarine and b) I am an expert swimmer. Once the briefing is done, I am also given the last of my spy equipment including a wetsuit, a case filled with spy cigarettes (rocket launchers and fingerprint readers), as well as a CD-ROM containing a computer virus that will be able to cripple the plane’s land-based control equipment. Time is of the essence; I put on my wetsuit and start on my mission.

Well, this looks promising.

I exit the sub and find myself swimming. This game really enjoys swimming sequences, but this one is different from the others. As John is wearing scuba equipment, there is no need for an oxygen meter, so I can explore at leisure. Instead, I am completely surrounded by sharks that move faster than I can swim and kill me, sometimes at the rate of several times before I can cross the screen. Even though they only travel horizontally across the screen, they pop out so fast it is frequently impossible to get out of their way. Why did I not get shark repellent in my latest cache of spy equipment? I end up needing to save and restore constantly to stay alive-- let alone do any exploring-- but fortunately the area is pretty empty overall.

If this message were true, you’d have fewer minigames.

What I find is a region two screens high and four or five screens wide. The upper screens appear to be empty except for a message in a bottle. I immediately think it is important, but then I open it and realize it is an in-joke from the developers. Thanks guys! The lower screens contain patches of seaweed, the occasional palm tree (!!), and on the far lower-right a rock formation that clearly has an “entrance”, but no obvious way to open it. I search around on that screen and find that one of the palm trees has an opening in its trunk which contains a button. When I push the button, I get a nasty electric shock… but also the entrance opens up and I can swim into a small cave. I hope that I was not supposed to do something about that electrical shock, but I and my inventory do not seem worse for wear.

Palm trees underwater? Are they plastic?

Inside the cave, I emerge into a pressurized area and can remove my wetsuit. I must be in some sort of service entrance into the base as I see one of those screw-in hatches like you have on submarines. Behind that hatch is a ladder which I climb up. I pop out the top and I am finally in Spyder’s base! The STEALTH is here! My mission is nearly at an end! Regretfully, I am also surrounded and captured again. Seriously, am I the worst spy ever because it seems that I am getting captured all the time? Has anyone else noticed this? Maybe if I wore camouflage instead of a suit, do you think that would help? Does the real James Bond get captured this much?

What use are an airplane and helicopters in an underwater base?

The best thing about being captured when you are a spy is that you get plenty of chances to escape. Unlike the relatively quick death that Spyder offered me the last time, this one was a real gem: I get suspended in a cage above a pool of hungry piranhas! Even better, I am also introduced to the madman behind this scheme, Dr. Why, and he has a chance to tell me his entire plan before throwing the switch and causing the cage to descend. Apparently the ransom bit is a diversion because he plans nothing short of the destruction of the “rampant and stupid vermin” of the world. Honestly, I do not know if he’s planning to kill everyone or just the people he does not like, but he seems to be quite fixated on it. As my cage descends into the deadly water, Dr. Why and his guards leave so that I can try to escape in peace.

So, the clock is ticking-- time to search! I find that I can manipulate the cage, the door, and the lock on the door. Is that a good use for my spy pen? Yes! I am able to use the spy pen to dissolve the look and open the door. On the other hand, I did not think this plan through completely because I am still descending into piranhas, but now I also have an open cage door. If I had ninja skills, I could jump out of the cage to safety but that is not the way cool John Glames needs to solve this problem.

When not used to kill spies, this room doubles as a disco.

As the cage descends further, I keep exploring. I can see the winch control on the far right of the screen and a door on my left. I look for ways to rock the cage first, but that does not seem to do any good. Running out of ideas, I consult my inventory. I am carrying a cigarette case which I suspect contains both my fingerprint cigarettes as well as the ones which are secretly a mini-rocket launcher. Neither of those seem pertinent right now. I have my watch which I was expecting to use to travel between buildings, as described in the manual, but it does say that it can fire a cable at a wall. Is there a “wall” here? Yes! In each corner of the room there is something labeled “wall”. I use my watch and it fires a line to the wall, connecting it. I am still descending, so I fire at the other wall and it creates a tight line that I am able to grab onto. I move hand over hand to the left and jump down and stroll out the door… right into the waiting hands of some guards. Unlike their boss, they do not mess around and just throw me into the piranha tank. I die.

Best death scene of the game so far!

I restore back and run through the sequence again, this time I hand-over-hand my way to the right where there is an iron grate. I have some difficulty lining myself up, but eventually I am able to “operate” it and John Glames escapes into the ducts of the Spyder base.

Oh God, no. The same moron that designed General Manigua’s palace also designed the duct system for the Spyder base because this is a maze. But unlike at the palace, this maze is dark and all I can see are the red glowing eyes of some vicious-looking rats. Just like at the palace, I can move along the vent system and turn certain walls to open up or block off passages. This allows me to work through the hordes of rats and provides a few moments of respite. Unlike the palace, not being able to see very far ahead means that I have only a limited ability to plan a route and it takes many saves and restores to find paths that lead me to the “key” (a wrench) and the exit on each of the four levels.

I hate you. I hate you so much.

The most annoying part of this minigame is that the hallways that you have to traverse are much longer and more winding than the previous ones, meaning that you can be walking for quite a while before you realize you have a rat in front of you and have to run like hell back the way you came, figure out a way to block off or get in front of that rat, then try again. Dead ends are much more of a problem because you cannot see them coming and many lives of John Glames were lost before I was able to traverse all four levels and emerge once again into the light.
 
But I do have a question. The creatures that you are running from are clearly described as rats. So, how is it that they become spiders when they kill you?

Spider-rat?

Finally, I make it through the maze and emerge into a bathroom. A soldier is shaving and it looks like he just finished a shower-- his clothes are on a bench. I tiptoe over to his clothes, but he catches a glimpse of me in the mirror and attacks. A few moments later, I am again piranha food. Perhaps, he was also a ninja.
 
I restore and try again. This time I “operate” on the soldier to attack him. My ninja skills work and I emerge victorious! I put on the clothes and the interface gives me a zoomed in view of my boots and laces. Why? I have no idea, but I take the laces as well. I also search the room and find a “napkin” (their word for hand towel, clearly). When I examine the sink, it tells me that there is a glass in the “lavatory”, but no end of pixel hunting is causing it to appear. I will have to puzzle that out later. I confidently walk out into the hall in my enemy uniform… and my now-awake soldier friend cries out from inside the bathroom. Seconds later, I am again thrown to the fishes.

Lavatory, noun. “A room or compartment with a toilet and washbasin; a bathroom.” Not helpful

I restore again. This time I realize why I found the laces: I was supposed to tie him up! I do so and stick the “napkin” in his mouth as a gag for good measure. For the second time, I confidently stride out into the hallway and find it deserted. Finally, I can explore the Spyder base in peace. That seems like a great place to stop for this post. We are almost there!

What do you think of this new “Dr. Why” fellow? Do you think he is a take off of “Dr. No” or another Bond villain? Or is his name just a stupid take-off of Britain’s other 50-year old famous series, “Dr. Who”?

Session time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total time: 10 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 Kniggit.net and about religion at Coat of Many Colors.

10 comments:

  1. I'm assuming the "Dr. Why" is based on Dr. No, but I hadn't considered the Doctor Who possibility. Mind you, this is all about Bond films, so Dr. No seems more likely.

    I can only think that the spider image has something to do with the SPECTRE-like organisation that Dr Why works for (SPYDER), and isn't meant to indicate the rats, but rather SPYDER taking over the world.

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  2. The secret base has a similar feel as SPECTRE's secret volcano in You only live twice:
    http://www.imcdb.org/i189888.jpg

    And as for helicopters in an underwater base: there was one in Spy who loved me, but that base could rise above the sea level, so that makes more sense.

    There have been several watch gadgets in James Bond movies, but I think watches with cables didn't occur before World is not enough, which was made later than Operation Stealth. I wonder if the producers had played this game?

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  3. Looks more like a spider-rat-ant. I don't think spiders have antennae.

    Not sure if this is actually a James Bond reference, but in one of the movies I recall Bond being cut on the arm and then suspended over a shark tank, similar to the piranha tank here. I think it might have been Dr. No.

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    1. Definitely happens in Live and Let Die. Also, I think there was a pool of piranha in You Only Live Twice.

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  4. I think that this game's graphics are probably its defining feature. It looks good - not stunning, just good. Most of the things are pretty clear as to what they are - you don't really need the 'look' command for the majority of it. I can even live with the spider-rat-ant-things - they're weird, but there again they're supposed to be. (Clearly, the 'pyranhas' ripped straight from You Only Live Twice are proof of their fantastic writing abilities - I've looked all over, and can't find 'pyranha' as an acceptable spelling anywhere. Maybe in French.)

    However, those palm trees look like the regular artist fell asleep, and their three year old drew them in with the wicked skills learned via MS Paint. They remind me of Hugo's House of Horrors in their art 'style'. Bleeech!

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    1. You know, I saw that screen dozens of times and never noticed that misspelling. Piranha was spelled correctly most of the time...

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  5. "Does the real James Bond get captured this much?"

    As far as the films go, it's a resounding YES! It's surely a cliché by now, but the whole routine seems to be a way to get taken directly to the big bad guy and usually within an appropriate distance to foil his plans. All without requiring a scriptwriter to be able to write convincing stealth scenes, or perhaps just to make it seem like the henchmen are really good at their jobs (moments before Bond escapes and kills them all...).

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  6. I think Dr. Why is a rif on Dr. No, because whenever you tell a child no he/she always ask why...

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  7. Looks like the logo in the piranha tank room only has six legs? Definitely an ant.

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    Replies
    1. It's not a coincidence that the piranha tank is built in this area after the artist had painted the logo.

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