Reviews Archive
           
  James Pond II - Robocod
 
 
 
 
  Graphics
           
  Amiga
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  Amiga 1200
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  SNES
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  Mega Drive
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  Atari ST
           
  Detail
 

Amiga 500 - This is the original, base version of James Pond 2 that all other versions were built from. The actual graphics detail is not particularly high here, but is certainly functional, with this game the emphasis in the graphics is more on the colourful and impressive effects-laden backgrounds than with fine detail.

Some of the nice effects apparent throughout the game worth mentioning, are the colourful backgrounds which take advantage of the Amiga's Copper chip to create impressive transitions through the colour spectrum from one horizontal scanline to another (this effect is very apparent in the 1st screenshot), the snow effects (which change direction blowing in the wind), transparencies (see screenshot 3), over-the top background animations, and big, fast scrolling backdrops.

Amiga 1200 - This version has all the detail and effects of the original game, with some new "pulsating" effects added to certain levels (these backgrounds were originally unique to the bonus stages).

Mega Drive - Unfortunateky the Mega Drive version is missing many of the originals' animated backgrounds, and the original copper effect which took place in most of the original levels is completely absent here.

The big scrolling backdrops (such as the one for the train level) have been downgraded now, only scrolling in one direction (and others not at all), it's snow effects are more basic (snow doesn't change direction), and all the transparencies are absent.

Most of the backgrounds are completely different, aiming for a more offbeat look, and as such some are more detailed than the Amiga versions and others less.

SNES - The SNES version seems to me to be very similar to the Mega Drive version in graphics, with the notable exception that it's backgrounds are in full colour, and it's snow effects are much better, it also attempts to include the moving-through-the-colour-spectrum backgrounds from the original, though it must be said that the SNES' attempt is much cruder looking.

The transparencies and scrolling backdrops are for the most part also downgraded, though a handfull of the ones missing from the Mega Drive version are still here, albeit still in a cut down form in comparison to the Amiga.

Atari ST - The base foreground detail here is very similar to all other versions, but unfortunately there's pretty much zero background detail or effects going on in this version, leading it to come last.

 
  Winner Is: Amiga 1200
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  Colour
 

Amiga 500 - James Pond II is an extremely colourful game, in fact, I would say that the designers whole aim from the get go was probably to use the Amiga's Copper chip to it's fullest to create vibrant, over-the-top, rainbow styled backgrounds.

Restraint is certainly not a word you would associate with this game's colour use.

Amiga 1200 - The 1200 version takes the colourful graphics of the original, and goes one higher taking the whole thing to 11 as it were, many of the backgrounds and colours used are much more vibrant and beautiful to look at.

Mega Drive - The Mega Drive version of James Pond is definitely the most conservative with it's use of colour, gone are the over-the-top backgrounds in favour of browns or simple blackness. Some of the colours used for some sections are quite ill-fitting and can appear garish at times.

After prolonged play of this version I feel that its colour use is by far the weakest of the versions, and this definitely has a detrimental effect on the overall graphics.

SNES - This version uses a lot of colour but not anywhere near as much as the Amiga versions, and as mentioned earlier it also has it's own crude looking copper style effect.

Atari ST - Pretty good colour which is actually probably the closest to the original Amiga versions in its use.

 
  Winner Is: Amiga 1200
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  Animation
 

Amiga 500, Amiga 1200, Mega Drive, SNES - All of these versions have very comparably high levels of animation, any differences between them is so slight that it's pretty much negligible.

Atari ST - It's quite noticeable that the Atari ST version has fewer frames of animation, and it looks much cruder in motion than the other 16-bit versions because of it.

 
  Winner Is: Draw between Amiga 500, Amiga 1200, Mega Drive and SNES
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  Scrolling
 

Amiga 500, Amiga 1200 - Very good scrolling for the main levels. There's also some extremely impressive multi-directional scrolling for the train and bonus levels.

Mega Drive - Pretty much perfect scrolling for the main levels, though as mentioned earlier the scrolling is downgraded or missing for the more impressively scrolling sections.

SNES - Very good scrolling. Where it comes to the big backdrops its similar to the Mega Drive, but with a few less cuts (some of the bonus levels which no longer scrolled on Mega Drive still scroll here).

Atari ST - Much cruder than in every other version, it moves in a noticeable step and does not look that smooth.

 
  Winner Is: Draw between the Amiga 500 and Amiga 1200
 
  Sound
   
  Music
 

Amiga 500, Amiga 1200 - The music to James Pond sets the atmosphere pretty well and is of a fairly high quality, but unfortunately the actual tunes used do tend to grate over extended periods of time.

The two Amiga versions seem to have pretty much identical music.

Mega Drive - The music is of a lower quality than the Amiga versions, and unfortunately it manages to grate even more.

SNES - Pretty impressive music quality, much more xylophone sounding (if that makes sense).

Personally I'd say the SNES version's music wins by a small margin, it sounds differently to the other versions, and is a little less annoying over extended periods of time in my opinion.

Atari ST - Music is alright, it is a little lower quality than all the other versions though.

 
  Winner Is: SNES
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  Sound FX
 

Amiga 500, Amiga 1200 - Pretty good Sound Effects, they're nothing special really but are quite functional, the only thing I would say is that explosion effects sound a bit on the wimpy side.

Mega Drive - Sound effects are generally of a lower quality than the Amiga versions. In some instances the sound effects have been changed for the better, such as with the explosions, but some other sounds have been changed for the worse.

SNES - Very similar to the original Amiga version, maybe slightly higher quality but nothing too noticeable to be honest.

Atari ST - Unfortunately sound effects are completely absent from this version.

 
  Winner Is: Draw between Amiga 500, Amiga 1200, SNES
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Gameplay

Amiga,- Robocod is basically a platform game which plays like an amalgamation of Mario style hop n' bop gameplay, with The Newzealand Story's exploration based gameplay and huge labyrinthine levels (The Newzealand Story was a Japanese arcade game made by Taito which inexplicably became extremely popular and influential in the UK whilst fading into relative obscurity in most other places).

Added to the aforementioned qualitites is James Pond's unique ability to stretch an unlimited amount vertically and cling to the ceiling, allowing the player to search for secrets and items.

Overall its the sort of game designed for those who like to take their time and fully look around.

Amiga 1200 - Exactly the same as the above, except now there is some additional new levels added in that were created specifically for this version. The new levels are all fairly good and fit in well.

Mega Drive - Gameplay wise the Mega Drive version is pretty much a perfectly accurate recreation of the Amiga original.

SNES - Still plays well, but there's much more slowdown noticeable here, in fact some levels (such as those under water and those with a big emphasis on flying) are pretty much constantly plagued with fairly serious slowdown issues.

Some other points here include the strange fact that all the upside-down stages have now been flipped so that they're now the right way up (which makes those stages appear noticibly basic, empty, and short now), and the scoreboard design has been changed, the new one is huge, and unfortunately obscures the screen, often leading to taking cheap hits.

Atari ST - Due to the lower frame rate, and slowdown the Atari ST version plays noticeably worse than all the other versions, it's still not a bad game by any means but whilst playing it the controls feel a lot less responsive, and the slowdown frequently causes you to misjudge jumps.

Winner is: Amiga 1200
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Presentation

Amiga 500, 1200 - Great levels of presentation with loads of humour, a nice intro and great game over screen.

Mega Drive - Very similar to the Amiga versions but has some slightly lower quality writing artwork in some places.

SNES - Missing a lot of the presentation from the other versions, though it does have nice end of level effects added in.

Atari ST - Pretty much has all the presentation of the Amiga version, though there is a noticeable chug in some places

Winner is: Amiga 500, Amiga 1200
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  Misc
 

Amiga 500, 1200 - These versions are not fullscreen, and have load times, which does slightly count against them.

Controls between the versions differ, in the Mega Drive and SNES versions jump has it's own specific button, whereas the computer versions have you pushing "up" to jump, the game was designed with the "up" method in mind, and this method works very well in this instance, so both ways are acceptable ways to control.

There seems to have been only one release of each port of the game made for both America and Europe with no attempt at region optimization, the game was designed for the PAL standard European machines, so it seems that the game will always run too fast on US systems, the extra speed boost on US machines doesn't seem to hurt gameplay at all, but does help to make the music of the Mega Drive version sound even more annoying than usual.

 
   
  Conclusion
 

The console versions of Robocod don't stand up very well to the Amiga originals unfortunately. Much of the colour and energy of the original game has been drained out as a result of the loss of the moving backgrounds, and copper effect colour transitions. In this case I think that just too much of the game was specifically designed to fit around the Amiga hardware, and use its features to their fullest for it to be ported accurately to the other 16-bits.

Out of the console versions its difficult to find a winner, on the one hand the SNES version at least retains some colour, and has good music, but on the other, lamentably, its gameplay suffers to constant slowdown, and some of the stages (the upside down ones) have been compromised. For this reason I feel that I'm going to have to go with the more conservative Mega Drive version as the best console port due to it bein a little more consistent.

Out of the two Amiga versions the Amiga 1200 is by far and away the best version, the 1200 version has everything that the original game had, and much more, it's new backgrounds are all great additions, and on top of that it also has a whole bunch of new extra levels to explore.

  Overall winner is: Amiga 1200
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