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The Fish That Saved Christmas
by: Dr. Boogie

WIt's easy to find games out there that capitalize on the Halloween season. Any number of games out there can go for cheap scares and frustrating gameplay. What about the other holidays? Surely, there are games out there that capture the true spirit of other famous holidays like St. Patrick's Day, Easter, and even the ever-elusive Thanksgiving game. For now, though, let's limit ourselves to a slightly easier holiday: Christmas.

I've seen a few Christmas-y games in my time, but not one of them allows you to play as Jesus, or even a measly Wise Man. What does that say about our heathen video game industry, hmm? I do remember one Xmas-themed game where do play as an unusual character. It would be easy to just make the center of your game Santa, or a reindeer, or an elf (Dungeons and Dragons excluded), but in this case, you control a hybrid of technology and marine biology in James Pond II Codename: Robocod.

A title screen that doesn't mess around.

Yes, there was an original James Pond game. It's not often that you see an entire game based off of puerile wordplay, but it happens. In the first, you play James Pond, an orange fish with a fancy vest and bowtie who rescues other fish (and crustaceans, too) from various hazards in missions named after James Bond movies. In the sequel, you play a fish that I assume is the same one from the first game, only this time he has a mechanical suit that allows him to, among other things, walk on land. Why does he need to walk on land?

Where'd he put that saw?

It's not to shut down tuna canneries or lay siege to Japanese whaling fleets. He's been summoned by penguins that can hear toys talking. So, he's trying to save Santa's toys, I guess. Alright, I can think of worse reasons to walk around the North Pole, risking death by exposure.

Fortunately, Pond's suit keeps him insulated from the harsh artic environment. It even gives him the ability to walk around on his tailfins as though they were stubby little legs. Stubby little legs that that can kill just about any enemy they touch. Even more noteworthy, though, is this new ability:

Stretch Armstrong stole his gimmick.

Well, it's definitely imaginative. I wouldn't have thought that a suit could make a fish stretch to any length and allow him to grab onto the ceiling with its fins. That's kind of handy. You don't really use it that often in the game, but it's still kinda neat in a weird sort of way. The levels themselves are fairly weird.

Notice that the spoon will never touch the fruitcake.

It's the Stairway to Heaven sheet music.

And there are levels that are kind of creepy:

Santa's bug-infested peanut brittle.

Along the way, the objective gets kind of muddled. Ostensibly, you went into the factory to stop Santa's toys from crying, but for some reason, you can't exit a scene unless you rescue all the penguins in the area. Are they spies, trapped behind enemy lines? That would explain how the penguins on the outside heard those screaming toys. Then again, maybe that was just a secret spy code for "Santa's been kidnapped! Initiate Operation: March of the Penguins!!!"

Magical stretchy-suits aside, Robocod also has limited access to a couple of drivable vehicles, including this bathtub.

Powered by Mr. Bubble!

Yeah, it flies. So what? I know it doesn't have wings or an engine like the airplane, but it comes with its own shower cap. Santa rides in a sleigh and wears a red stocking cap, and Robocod rides in a flying bathtub while wearing a shower cap to keep his hair dry (hair not included).

A fancy suit and a couple of schnazzy rides would make you think that Robocod has the full backing of his penguin allies, right? Wrong.

Don't tell the new guy that we ate the hero.

That's right, if you lose all your lives, the penguins will EAT YOU!!! That's pretty gruesome, even for Christmas! Even worse, with that suit's stretching power, they'll be able to feast on his ever-lengthening corpse well into the new year.

All the enemies appear to be toys themselves, even the bosses, so I guess the toys are crying out about some kind of civil way going on within Santa's toy factory. The only exception is the final boss, a giant snowman.

Face to face.

A giant snowman that fires his own head at you like a snowy superball. If you can bounce off of his head and prod his shoulders with your tailfins enough times, though, you'll unmask the true culprit:

I'll bet he has a German accent, too.

A... mad scientist, I guess. He kidnapped Santa, or reprogrammed his toys for evil, or something. It's not really clear what he's doing, but he has to be evil. He was hiding inside a giant, head-tossing snowman, and just look at that monocle! He makes a break for it after your big fight, but luckily, the man in red has it all under control.

No reindeer?

Hooray, you saved Christmas! Santa helped, too, but I think we've come to expect at least that much from him. The man only works one day a year, for crying out loud. It shouldn't take that long for him to crush a man's spine with his sack of toys. Fish, on the other hand, have things to do. Like school.

And that's it for Robocod. The game manages to take James Bond, Robocop, and Christmas itself, and mash them all together for some inexplicable reason to give you a strange platform adventure. I'm not really sure why they threw the Robocop parody into the mix (along with a parody version of the Robocop theme), but it's something new, I guess. Say what you want about Robocod, he's still a better oceanic superhero than Aquaman.

Note: Dr. Boogie thanks any readers who laughed at the joke about fish and school, even if it was just weak pity laughter.

Do the hustle!

Questions or Comments about this piece?
email Dr. Boogie

*** You too can play James Pond II - Codename: Robocod ***


(you'll need to get a Sega Genesis emulator to play it)

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Then check out Dr. Boogie's feature on:


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