A Complete History Of James Bond Video Games - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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A Complete History Of James Bond Video Games

Licence to kill, in the 8-bit era...

James Bond has a long history of video games. The high-point, at least for me personally, came in 1997 with the Nintendo 64 release of GoldenEye 007, but the story of 007's venture into the gaming world began 15 years earlier when Parker Brothers got a licence. Not to kill, but to develop a James Bond video game for home entertainment systems.

The first idea reached the demo stage. It was to be based on the final scene in Moonraker, but it failed to impress so the idea was scraped. Work began anew on what was now titled James Bond 007 As Seen in Octopussy, and a scheduled release date of summer 1983 was announced. The game would have included a train sequence from the film Octopussy, but the programmers hired to develop the game, Western Technologies, failed to complete it, and Parker Brothers subsequently hired On Time Software to create an entirely new game.

BUT, whilst Parker Brothers were working on that official title, a totally non-official cheeky release arrived on the ZX Spectrum in late 1982 in the form of a simple text adventure...

In Shaken but Not Stirred, you play as James Bond and must prevent a plot by Dr. Death, who threatens to destroy London with a nuclear warhead unless he receives a ransom. As well as featuring James Bond, M and Q, there are sort-of Bond type enemies like Paws (Jaws), Dr. Death (Dr. No) and Tic-Tac (Odd Job). The limited UK release, presumably, kept it a little under the radar whilst Parker Brothers continued work on the first official James Bond video game...

Finally, arriving on a variety of systems from late 1983, including the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Commodore 64, and ColecoVision, the first James Bond video game was simply titled "James Bond 007" and was a side-scroller with a multi-purpose vehicle that acts as an automobile, a plane, and a submarine.

The game's four levels are loosely based on missions from James Bond films:
  • Diamonds are Forever (1971): The player rescues Tiffany Case from an oil rig.
  • The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): The player destroys an underwater laboratory.
  • Moonraker (1979): The player destroys satellites.
  • For Your Eyes Only (1981): The player retrieves radio equipment from a sunken boat.

I had this title on both the ColecoVision and later the Commodore 64. I remember spending quite sometime playing it back in the day. It's clearly very basic now, and the gameplay is quite repetitive, but it held up well against other releases of the time.

Two years later, with a new Bond film in cinemas, the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum computers received a game based on A View To A Kill.

There are three missions in A View To A Kill. The first sees the player racing around Paris in a taxi to try and catch a parachuting May Day. The second revolves around rescuing Stacey Sutton from a burning city hall, and plays like a point-and-click adventure. The final mission is a platformer type level where the player must jump around a dangerous mine to defuse a bomb.

Although the variety between missions is very good, the controls for each one could be frustrating, leading to many a negative review for its playability. Personally I enjoyed the first level a lot, although I'd often crash when trying to turn the corners around those Paris streets. The music was good too. Pushing the little Speccy's speaker to its limit.

The same year saw a second James Bond game released, also called A View To A Kill. But this title was a simple DOS text-adventure game for IMB and Macintosh computers.

A follow up in exactly the same vane arrived in 1986, this one titled and based on Goldfinger. Both games were designed by future Bond continuation author Raymond Benson so featured good storylines, but I cant' say those text adventures were ever really my thing. Roger Moore looked like he'd been de-aged by about three decades for the box artwork (above), and that for me was the only thing I ever remembered about this title.

The next proper video game came in 1987, and again to coincide with the release of the latest James Bond film. James Bond: The Living Daylights was released on the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and the newly released Amiga. The graphics are pretty impressive for the time, especially the C64 version (above) and the gameplay is pretty good too. A side-scrolling shooter with a crosshair for firing, it was designed by Domark, the same team responsible for A View To A Kill - clearly they'd learned a thing or two since that game came out, and they continued the success with a, rather belated, 1988 release for James Bond: Live And Let Die...

Fifteen years since the film it was based on arrived in cinemas, this fun title arrived on the Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amiga computers. This title actually started out life as an entirely unrelated video game called Aquablast. Sales of their adaptation of The Living Daylights gave Domark an idea. As the missions in Aquablast were similar to the boat chase in Live and Let Die they decided to rebrand it as a 007 game to increase sales. It worked too!

Closing out the 1980s, we have the tie-in for Timothy Dalton's second and final outing as James Bond arriving on all the usual systems. Titled 007: Licence To Kill, once again Domark outdid themselves, releasing easily the best Bond title of the decade...

Nowadays it's obviously not aged that well, but what I found so impressive at the time was the much freer movement the player is given. Each of the four main levels has a different gameplay style, so it brought some variety not seen since A View To A Kill, but with far better graphics and controls.

The first level is a vertical-scrolling shooter with Bond in a helicopter. The second is on foot with 8-directional shooting and limited ammo. The third level has Bond scuba diving, shooting enemies and going underwater to dodge enemy fire. Finally there is a driving level where Bond must smash his truck into other vehicles.

We close out the 1980s on a high, but, as they say, James Bond will return... so make the jump to continue our journey through the history of James Bond video games with the 1990s.

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