James Bond: The STEALTH Affair. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Leddie Huffman
Santa Paragua may look like a sun-soaked South American vacation spot, but you only need to scratch the surface to find trouble in paradise. In James Bon& The STEALTH Affair, you step into the secret agent's well-polished shoes. On behalf of the American CIA, your job is to hunt for a stolen stealth fighter.
In this animated adventure game, Bond runs through a series of crises both trivial (getting change to buy a flower) and life-threatening (escaping a watery grave) in pursuit of the jet. Controlled by either keyboard or mouse, the Bond of The STEALTH Affair moves and acts in a manner like that of his namesake in latter-day 007 movies-that is, choppy and silly, trading the quiet sophistication of Ian Fleming's hero for a goofy nonchalance. He lapses into confused muttering at the first sign of a confrontation, trudges across open pavement at a sluggish pace, and freezes under smart-alecky insults at every move.
While The STEALTH Affair ostensibly offers many options for action, each dilemma actually has only one correct resolution. Choosing the right option amounts to outguessing the whims of the game's creators. While some resolutions are challenging but logical-as they should be--others are almost impossibly obscure. If you're lucky, you'll suffer only smug putdowns for your mistakes. If you're not so lucky, you will watch Bond die or be thrown into prison, courtesy of Santa Paragua's system of summary justice.
It's advisable to save your progress with every new scenario, since Bond succumbs so readily to so many different traps. Fortunately, Interplay offers American players a hint line to call if it becomes impossible to maneuver Bond out of a scenario. Unfortunately, it's a 900 number that costs $1.25 for the first minute and $0.75 for every additional minute. As a result, mistakes can punish your wallet almost as much as the animated James Bond figure.
The STEALTH Affair's graphics are colorful and varied, placing Bond in imaginatively created settings. There's a lovely park with a city skyline for a backdrop, a plush hotel cast in rich red tones, and an ominous-looking dictator's palace where the walls are peppered with bullet holes. Each scene sports interesting details, some of which are necessary for advancement while others are red herrings. Frenzied electronic music accompanies a handful of crucial scenes; it quickly became irritating, and I toggled it off. A detailed manual offers entertaining background material and crucial guidance.
Bond and the objects around him generally respond well to keyboard commands. The actions necessary to make things work are frustratingly inconsistent, however. In one scene in an airport, where Bond is trying to figure out which luggage to take, the game is maddeningly unresponsive. And a few of the error messages contain annoying typographical errors.
Just as The STEALTH Affair obscures thieving military dictators and double-crossing secret agents behind sunny tropical locales, the game obscures some strict limitations on action behind an apparent wealth of options. When every dilemma has only one real solution, resolving predicaments can truly be an exercise in frustration.