As dedicated Spec-chums should know by now, Domark hold the licence to the entire run of James Bond films, and seem set to release a new one every year. This time round there's no new film, so it's raid-the-back-catalogue time again, and what have they come up with but The Spy Who Loved Me (possibly Roger Moore's best outing as 007). Good film, but will it translate into a stonker of a game? "Yes," say Domark confidently. "It's destined to be the best yet." Let's see, shall we?
Okay, so first off how does it all work? Well, it's pretty much an updated Spy Hunter realty or at least half of it is. There are seven levels of overhead-viewed action, some of them very much racing games with you zooming your Lotus Esprit around roads, over bridges and so on (and shooting or dodging other cars while you're at it) while the others (the water-based ones, where there are no roads or obstacles as such) play much more like your standard vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up. Your task (as secret agent James Bond 007, of course) is to prevent arch-villain Stromberg's mad plan to provoke nuclear war and rule the resulting mess from his undersea base Atlantis. In levels very (very) loosely based on scenes from the film (for instance, the famous bit where Bond drives his car off the end of a pier and it turns into a submarine, as opposed to the wet bike shoot-'em-up and speedboat chase which have nothing whatever to do with the film) Bond must defeat Stromberg by, erm, simply driving along and shooting things (it would appear).
In this way, Spy isn't really a film conversion at all in the way that, say, Ocean do them - there's no real attempt to tell the plot of the film or explain how the levels connect. Instead this is more of a scrolling shoot-em-up 'inspired' by the movie. All very well, you might be saying, but is it actually any good?
Well, yes it is, in a funny sort of a way. The actual driving bits on the roads are excellent - though only monochrome, there's a rather pretty background to them, they scroll quite last and smoothly, and the difficulty build-up is quite well handled. There are lots of collectable items that add speed and weaponry to your car, a shop sequence set in Q's truck and so on - you can see how they've gone for an arcade game feel with all this stuff. They're also the bits that are most reminiscent of the film.
Less successful are most of the aquatic bits. The speedboat chase (Level Two) is okay, but spoilt by the fact it's got absolutely nothing to do with the movie, while the underwater Esprit bit, perhaps in a misguided attempt to reproduce the feeling of being in the deep, blue briney, is just too slow. There are some nice visual effects (the bubbles, how your car goes all wavey as if being viewed through water) but how on earth are you meant to dodge enemy subs or (badly-drawn) divers when your car's plodding along at such a snail's pace?
The final jet-ski fight is a disappointment too - a vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up has to be something special to earn much of a vote these days, and this just isn't it. No background to speak of and some rather weedy little sprites shifting aimlessly round the screen - it could be set in space for all the difference it would make to the game (in fact some stray person wandering into the office actually thought it was!).
So not a bad Spy Hunter update overall, and certainly an improvement on recent(ish) attempts like Action Fighter, not to mention the vast bulk of past James Bond games. I enjoyed it - particularly the road-based sequences - but it's not a knock-out by any means.
Half good/half bad Bond game. There's quite a lot here though, so it's not bad value.
One of the early driving bits, and really the high-point of the game. Oi! Get over to your side of the road, you scamp!
Eek! Looks like I'm about to have to do a Live And Let Die-type boat jump! (I don't remember this bit from the film.)
The underwater Lotus - wibbly car, weedy divers, lots of colour and a power-up icon. (It's just a pity it all moves so slow.)