Stealth, of course, was THE buzzword of 1990 after various shenanigans in the Gulf, so it was no surprise that this tie-in of dubious parentage was originally released as a "James Bond: The Stealth Affair". By the time it crossed the pond to the UK, it had been discreetly rebranded as simply Operation Stealth, with the agent being renamed (ahem) “John Glames”. A somewhat cack-handed approach had been taken to the conversion however, which led to some oddball quirks such as the CIA giving orders to MI6 agents. And the agents taking them. Where was that sort of collaboration when we needed it during the Profumo affair, eh? It’s never quite clear why this change was made or indeed how publishers US Gold even got their paws on the license in the first place.
Operation Stealth was your average point-and-click adventure, very much in the LucasArts vein, but with (if the truth be known) damned annoying arcade sequences built in. One of these was a top-down view of a maze which you had to negotiate before your oxygen ran out. Remember Hungry Horace on the ZX Spectrum?
The plot was the usual mish-mash of derring-do in South America, trying to recover - you guessed it - a stolen Stealth bomber; kind of like Firefox, but with sunburn. Graphics were sub-par even for the time, betraying its roots as a port from the Commodore Amiga. The Expanded Amiga version, incidentally, had speech synthesis which grated out every single line and had an irritating habit of crashing should you be fool enough to move the mouse whilst it was chirruping away. Many a seasoned user wisely removed the memory expansion cartridge to avoid having to reboot every two minutes. This “feature” was sagaciously removed from the PC version.
Operation Stealth wasn’t a bad game. Sure, the plotline was utter dross and you never quite felt engaged with the character that you were playing, but the puzzles were well thought-out and there were some novel twists in the story arc. Sadly though, the arcade sequences broke up the flow of the game at vital moments, and could provide an impassable barrier for those who were lacking the requisite joystick skills (or, come to that, joystick – this was 1990, remember). But the two-man team that were Delphine Software were obviously trying something a bit fresh and new and it’s perhaps to their credit that later games successfully melded the two spheres together. Okay, the recent reinvention of Bond and the mothballing of the Stealth programme make this look even more dated, but Operation Stealth is still an enjoyable romp down memory lane.
Written by: ~badhorsey