The Game Gear Directory: (Ja-Je)

Reviewing every single Game Gear game. What is futility, Alex.

James Bond 007: The Duel (1993)

What do you expect when you think of a James Bond game? Excitement! Espionage! Maybe even a little bit of philandering! Well, perhaps not that last one, though I'd love to see the Game Gear try. Unfortunately, you're not really getting any of the other things either in James Bond 007: The Duel, an almost comically slow-paced take on the swoonsome superspy. The whole thing moves like wading through treacle, and it's rendered all the more dull by a complete lack of music in-game, much like Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (though that was a bit more dynamic). Here, you're seeing James Bond face off against... tiny orange fish, falling crates and little pistols firing at you through windows, with no way to hit back. You do have a gun, but it can only be used on the human enemies, who have a nasty habit of entering the screen at relative speed and suddenly being all up in your business; in fact, there are a few obstacles that seem to come out of nowhere, particularly when moving vertically. I didn't get very far into this one primarily because I just wasn't interested in it, though I must acknowledge I've played far worse. The inclusion of a password system is nice, but it's just providing a way to continue playing a game I don't really want to. Visually it's fine, I just wish that it picked up the pace a little. **

James Pond II: Codename: Robocod (1993)

And here we come to something of a Game Gear classic - a very good Master System port in which you cannot see where in god's name you are even going. Yes, the curse of the dreaded screen real estate hits this otherwise rather smooth and playable port of Robocod rather badly; a shame, because it has a hell of a lot going for it otherwise. To my very real surprise, it actually isn't a Master System port; many of the levels cut from that version have been re-implemented on Game Gear, making it a much closer approximation of the original game than Sega's 8-bit console managed. That being the case, though, couldn't they have made the game's viewing area a little less, well, miniscule? You'd need ESP to find some of the game's secrets and alternate exits here, given the leaps of faith required simply because you can't see where you're going. It doesn't kill the experience as you might imagine, because Robocod is a thoroughly friendly game, but it can test the patience at times when you take unfair hits from the faster enemies. It all looks great - better colour depth than Master System - but, heartbreakingly, it cannot rise above three stars with its screen issues. ***

James Pond 3: Operation Starfish (1994)

Mmm, getting this one onto the Game Gear intact was a tall order, and it is indeed quite compromised. The Mega Drive version of this title is one of my favourite games on the system, an enormous, expansive and fascinating platforming adventure full of challenging stages and beautifully-hidden secrets. This handheld edition is unfortunately lacking in the fundamentals, that being the visuals and the play control. The graphics are garish in the extreme, with some bizarre and distracting backgrounds and ugly miniaturised sprites that appear crushed as well as inappropriately cut off, in places; some platform edges look like someone just cropped the sides out in Microsoft Paint. Control is heavily compromised, too, with James Pond's running move now available on a double-tap of the D-pad. You may feel differently, but I've never liked this input. That said, with only two buttons available, I can't really think of a better alternative besides having Pond always be running. There are plenty of levels here - over 50, in fact - but the stated issues and frankly irritating music make it a far from agreeable proposition to persist with. **

Jeopardy! (1993)

The late Alex Trebek's inordinately popular game show comes alive on Game Gear, to some extent. You can play against the CPU or, more sensibly, another player, partaking in some rather classic quiz action. Of course, what this amounts to is a bunch of text on the screen posing questions which you then have to answer with a reasonably laborious interface. It's probably as good and as clear as it could have been, but it still begs the question as to whether a handheld system is the best choice for a quiz game like this. It's quite fun and the presentation is decent, with a bunch of Trebek voice samples to liven things up, but overall it just feels like the wrong platform for this sort of thing. Still, I'm not going to dump on it for being about the best attempt at a quiz game that I can imagine on a system like this. I wouldn't recommend it, but rest assured that it is very much a quality product. ***

Jeopardy! Sports Edition (1994)

Literally exactly the same as the previous edition, only with exclusively sports-based questions. I see no reason to write anything much further given the absolutely identical presentation and game inputs offered here. Good if you like sports, I guess, but lacks the variety of the original effort. ***

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