So… James Pond. That was a thing. That actually existed. There were, in fact, three of the bloody games so they really did intend for him to be an actual thing. See, I have my issues with him as a character because it’s REALLY only the second game that makes use of the HILARIOUS pun in his name. I mean, if you’re going to call your character James Pond, wouldn’t it better to, y’know, TRY to base it on that pun? An underwater James Bond. How can you get that wrong? Well… I say that but in the first game, at the very least, they showed James in full Bond-like regalia but the game itself? It’s a massive series of platform-based fetch quests.
Ugh. It’s like they forgot to try. Yeah, he’s an agent and you’re doing the whole “your mission is…” vibe and “good luck, Pond!” whatnots but what an absolutely wasted opportunity. And everyone seems to have good memories about the sequel. Not the third one. That one was a travesty. It’s like they couldn’t decide whether to be more like Sonic or Mario and went for a combination of the two.
And then, amidst the trio of completely unconnected what-the-fuckery-series of games, we were given this.
And it makes little to no sense.
It’s also sponsored by Penguin biscuits. They’re like the UK equivalent of an Australian Tim Tam or an American… actually is there an American equivalent? Jeez. You guys are missing out. Penguins are lovely. In the biscuit form. Penguins are lovely in animal form too but that’s beside the point and why are you even talking about that? Stop putting me off. Rude.
So the Aquatic Games. The obvious next gaming after platforming, as I’ve mentioned before with Acme All Stars and Tiny Toons, is to go the sporting route. 1992 was a good year to do it. The Barcelona Olympics were happening. It makes perfect sense to then go and create a rival to Track and Field that will basically be the best thing since grating your own face onto toast and eating it.
I know. That was the point. You should have worked that out from the title of the review. I can’t believe I wanted this game as a youngster. Slightly ashamed of myself for that. All I can say that my brother was definitely right in this game was NOT worth it. Fair play, bruv. You knew best. I mean… I did have SOME fun with it at the time. I do remember that. I’m not going to deny that when I did eventually convince my parents to buy this for me, I did have fun with it; it was a fun little title that I remember actually spending a fair bit of time on.
And yet adult me cannot for the life of me work out why.
Here’s the basic set-up: eight events, all WACKY and NOT-AT-ALL-SERIOUS, aaaaaaaand that’s your lot. Basically, do well, get medals (sort of) beat your rivals and WIN, WIN, WIN. QUACK, QUACK, QUACK, QUACK etc MIGHTY DUCKS REFERENCE. There are no ducks in this game. Wasted reference. Boo.
Here’s a brief rundown (ALMOST AN ATHLETICS PUN THERE HO HO HO) of each of these events – term used as loosely as possible there.
There’s a running event. It’s you versus the frog character in what can only be described as running on the surface of the water by mashing the buttons as fast as possible a la EVERY athletics game… apart from Mario and Sonic (which involved waggling the Wiimotes as fast as possible; a very subtle difference there). Major problem? It sucks. It’s you versus ONE other competitor who finishes in 17 seconds. Every time. Can’t beat him? You lose. It’s either first or nothing.
Suffice to say that is the game’s MAJOR weakness. That and the godawful multiplayer mode but we’ll get onto that later…
Next up: Kipper Watching. No really. That’s what they call it. There are no kippers involved (apart from the seal named Kipper… but that sorta suggests that all of the seals in this event are named Kipper as well because you’re watching them… watching them sleep. And someone is throwing beach balls at them to wake them up… and yeah this is a fucking ridiculous as it sounds. You’re saving seals (YAY!) by shielding them from inflatable balls that will wake them up from their slumber if they’re hit by one twice.
Wait… what? Who the fuck… Major problem? To win gold, you have to do it for 4 minutes.
4 minutes or jumping about hitting beach balls. Look, Fun House managed to do that for, what 10 years? They knew that anything more than a minute was NOT FUN, what makes you think I want to pretend to be a seal, albeit a cute-ish one, and flail about on the screen bopping beach balls off the screen for FOUR FUCKING MINUTES?
Hop, Skip and Jump is up next and if you want an example of how to be disqualified from any event, this would be it. Basically this is a HILARIOUS version of the triple jump. Problem is it contravenes pretty much every rule in book. Rule number one: ONE HOP. It’s not HOPS, skip and jump. Ruke number two: NO SKIPPING ROPES ALLOWED – also where did you pull that thing out from mid-hop, you cheating bastard? Rule number three… well, actually… the jump part is fine but the top of the screen actually STOPS you from going further than you COULD do. You basically press a button to hop and skip and then you press a button again to jump at a specific angle.
IT IS ABOUT AS SKILLFUL AS LOOKING AT DOGS.
Part of the skill comes from mashing the buttons as fast as you can because OF COURSE YOU DO and the final button press needs to come at the right time to actually go any sort of distance. Major problem? It sucks.
The Bouncy Castle is the game’s attempt at trampolining. B to jump, A to twist, C to somersault. Combinations of twists and somersaults will increase the numbers in the corner of the screen. When all of the combinations hit 6, the event is over. Major problem? Well… actually, this is the best event of the lot. I suppose the MAJOR problem is the fact that it’s not actually easy to work out what combinations work to increase the numbers to 6 but… well… actually, I like this one. It’s bizarre because the only other representation for trampolining might actually be Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. This actually allows you to take a bit more control of what you do… as limited at it is.
But actually… fun. Slightly frustrating. But fun.
Feeding Time. I… have no words for this ‘event’
Major problem? It just needs to fuck off. This isn’t even a thing. Feed fish. Avoid poachers. FEED SWEETS TO FISH. NO. FUCK IT. GO AWAY. FOUR MORE MINUTES OF THIS SHIT. I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE.
It’s also known as the ‘Keeping children quiet’ event.
You’ll get the joke in a moment.
Next up? Shell Shooting. Look, it’s at this point that I’m beginning to wonder what relevance these events have to any level of athleticism. This one involves jumping on the edge of… some things… some shelled creatures to flip them over into the air, catch them in a tin and then throw it into the air. These same creatures roaming around the floor can trip you up but the event itself, if you’re good enough, can be completed in about twenty seconds. If you keep hold of the shell you catch, you can throw it and catch it and BURST THE BALLOONS.
No, no. You heard that right. BURST. BALLOONS.
Wha… huh… WHO THOUGHT THAT WOULD… HOW IS THIS AQUATIC? HOW IS THIS ATHLETIC? I… NO. NO. FUCK IT.
Aquatic Games had the marvellous opportunity of creating a water-themed set of athletic events. Think of the Olympics and then let’s give them a watery makeover. The 100m dash is fine… perhaps it could have done with a 400m too. Where’s the high jump? FROGS DOING THE HIGH JUMP. Why isn’t there a SWIMMING event? DOLPHINS. SHARKS. ETC. OH MY GOD. Javelin throw using electric eels or swordfish? I MEAN…
You know how I feel about games that waste their chances. Eternal Champions, anyone? These types of games are just… a disappointment. Perhaps they wanted to be a bit more unusual and try something NON-sporting to grab the attention of people who don’t care too much for sport. But… er… don’t do a sports game if you want to attract people who don’t like sport… maybe?
Anyway, there’s also hurdles and UNICYCLING… and… what?
OH MY ACTUAL FUCKING WHAT EVEN… THEY SHOVED A DOLPHIN…
ON A UNICYCLE.
DID YOU JUST… WHAT?!
A dolphin on a unicycle doesn’t make sense in the grand scheme of things when it’s a dolphin. Why does the dolphin end up on a unicycle…? I DON’T GET IT. I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
OK, breathe. We’re good. It’s all fine. Breathe.
Multiplayer is an arduous affair because you can’t take part in events together. You have to play them all SEPERATELY. This is what makes other athletics games so much better because while there are one-at-a-time events (the field events for example), the track events do at least allow for players to play together. There’s NONE of that here. And when you’ve got events that could last 4 minutes at a time. You’re looking at fifteen minutes or so before you get to come back in to play again. THAT does not bode well in a video game. The thought of having to wait for fifteen minutes before you get another go is incredibly detrimental to the experience. It’s boring. A multiplayer game should not be boring. It’s so casual that you could basically do it in between making lunch or dinner or whatever… but… what is that? That’s not multiplayer fun. That’s a mess.
This whole thing comes across as a really hastily cobbled together mess. The design aspects are where this game falls down rather spectacularly. It could have been REALLY good. It could have been. The Bouncy Castle event works because there’s actually an element of skill behind it. The other events are just button mashing messes or so boring you’ll be lucky to even see them finish. Imagine 16 minutes in multiplayer mode of watching a seal headbutt beach balls off the screen or a starfish giving fish diabetes. That’s half an hour MINIMUM. You’ve then got 6 other events to deal with and they last either half a minute or up to 4 minutes again. It’s just so unbalanced and it kinda sums up athletics games in general. The Wii versions where YOU actually do something have a bit more to them because the designers allowed it. The other ones just end up as button mashing nightmares, particularly the jumping events, because you’ve got to slam two buttons as fast as you can and then press another one with a finger you clearly don’t have to spare in order to clamber over hurdles or whatever.
So James Pond then… that was a thing.
Why was it a thing again?
AND WHY IS THERE NO FUCKING SWIMMING IN THIS GAME, A GAME BASED ON AQUATIC ANIMALS DOING SPORTS. NO SWIMMING.
NO WATER POLO.
Someone grabs the electric eels and toast this game please.