Okay, let's get this out of the way. His name's Pond, James Pond. Bubble-oh-seven, sea-cret agent, license to gill. Consider that your inoculation against the ceaseless barrage of aquatic Bond puns that make up today's game: the 1991 Megadrive version of Vectordean's soggy-wordplay-em-up James Pond: Underwater Agent!

Why am I playing the Megadrive version rather than the hit Amiga original? No major reason. The controls feel a bit smoother to me, but the real bonus of the Megadrive port is that the status bar is a sensible shade of orange rather than the punishing rainbow colours of the Amiga version.
Anyway, here's James Pond: spy, lover, fish. He likes his martinis shaken, not stirred and presumably not with dry vermouth, and he's surrounded by what to a humanoid fish must be attractive female humanoid fish. There's also whatever the hell that thing in the bottom-left of this little group photo is supposed to be. Two olives floating in a hospital bedpan, maybe. Of course, James Pond is such a rugged yet debonair haddock of mystery that one title screen alone is not enough to contain him.

This rendition of James Pond is... not so heroic. I wouldn't trust him to boil an egg, never mind save the world from a mad scientist, not when he's got the same facial expression as I do when I'm choosing what cake I want from a bakery window. At least my youth spent reading the kinds of authors who think Latin jokes are funny has paid off, because I can tell you that the Latin motto on Pond's fake MGM logo translates to "It's a Dog's Life." Bet you didn't think you'd be getting a Latin lesson when you opened this article, huh? Well, I'm terribly sorry and it won't happen again.

License to bubble? Really? My "license to gill" pun was much better. I would have also accepted "license to krill."

Here we are at the start of James Pond, then, and the titular fishy agent is on a mission to rescue lobsters. To accomplish this, Pond has the ability to freely swim through the water in eight directions, as well as being able to blow bubbles that trap the roving enemies. Once an enemy is encased in a bubble, swim into it to burst it and eliminate your foe. James Pond definitely has a platformer feel to it, but aside from a few areas where you have to flop around awkwardly on dry land there's not much platform-hopping going on so I don't know what genre I'd class this one as. Courier-em-up, possibly: every mission revolves around picking up an item and carrying it to a different place.

In this first mission, that means dragging keys through the briny deep so that you can unlock the lobster cages and set their crustacean occupants free, but do it quickly before they're hauled to the surface by the prowling fishermen who are, let's face it, just trying to make a living. The sea is a cruel mistress, especially when she's working with a halibut who thinks he's Sean Connery.

Once you've rescued enough lobsters, the exit pipe will open and Pond can move on. However, you don't have to rescue all the lobsters before reaching your quota, so it's up to you whether you save the rest (which nets you a points bonus) or just head to the next mission, leaving the remaining lobsters to the mercy of the fishermen and a future involving butter sauce and people wearing bibs. I suggest leaving them behind, because James Pond only give the player limited lives and continues and there's no way to save your game, so conversing your health is a must.

"From Three Mile Island With Love" is of course a reference to Bond movie From Russia With Love as well as the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, which famously had what experts call a "nuclear boo-boo" in 1979. Fun fact, in the Amiga version this stage is called "From Sellafield With Love," Sellafield being a British nuclear plant with a less-than-stellar reputation. I'm not sure I need to rush about saving these fish from mutation. I mean, James Pond is a mutant and he seems to be doing all right for himself. He is a mutant, right? He understands human speech and he's wearing a tuxedo, I don't think he's just a regular fish.

Another clue that Pond might be mutant is that he's not very good at swimming. You know, for a fish. That's not a convincing swimming motion, is it? He looks like he's perpetually thrusting, not slicing through the waters like a master of the aquatic realm.

As well as mission where you need to transport items, there are some missions where you need to drag creatures from one place to another. Before you start wailing and gnashing your teeth at the prospect of that perennial videogame "favourite" the escort mission, please be aware that your charges cannot be killed and will even follow James through solid rock if they're obstructed by the maze-like layout of the undersea stages, making James Pond a strong contender for the title of "Best Videogame Escort Mission." However, it will not win the title, as it will be beaten by every videogame that doesn't include an escort mission.

So goes the flow of James Pond: Underwater Agent. Grab the required items, cursing the lack of opposable thumbs on your slimy flippers, and take the items where they need to go. In this case, James is "liberating" some gold bars from a shipwreck. Where do they need to go? James Pond's Swiss bank account, I shouldn't wonder. The ghost of Captain Bluebeard wants his gold back, however. You can see him in the screenshot above, and he'll do anything to reclaim his treasure so long as it doesn't involve more than floating ineffectually through the water. This kind of lackadaisical approach to piracy is probably what got you killed in the first place, Bluebeard.

Unusually for a game of the time, James Pond doesn't just have discrete stages, and while I wouldn't go so far as to call it an open world game there is a bit of exploration that can be done. Most commonly, this will result in James floundering into a secret room. The secret rooms contain two things: items and death. Just being in a secret room will drain your health, but there are items to be collected for points and therefore (eventually) extra lives, items like headphones and, erm, bog roll. Judging by how shiny it is and its complete resistance to water, I'm going to guess that the horrible, cheap, plasticky toilet paper that you used to find in places where the user's comfort was not important, like schools.
Collecting items is a big part of James Pond. I don't mean power-ups (although there are a few) but points items, which are absolutely everywhere in this game, littering every crack and crevice of the ocean floor and appearing each time you pop a bubble-encased bad guy. What's impressive is that there are so many different types of item to collect, and the overall impression is that the game's artist looked around their bedroom and made a tiny sprite for every single thing they could see. Packs of gum, Rubik's Cubes, cups, teapots, cassette tapes, lamps, tennis balls, wind-up chattering teeth - there are dozens of different tiny trinkets for James to collect, and while I appreciate the effort it does seem like a bit of a waste when ninety percent of them just give you points.

The actual power-ups range from common things like health and time refills to rarer items like the fairy that flies around James and makes him invincible for a while using her faerie magicks, and even a few pick-ups that are more like equippable pieces of gear - there's a top hat that reduces the amount of damage you take, a fish bowl that lets you survive longer out of the water and, as seen here, a gun. Obviously James can't blow bubbles when he's not underwater, so he needs something to murder the surface-dwellers with. It's okay, he's doing it to save some adorable seal cubs. Unfortunately a lot of these seal cubs are lounging around on land, so James has to haul himself out of the water and get them. This is where the game's platforming sections lie, and if you're wondering whether they're any good I would remind you that "a fish out of water" is a common description of someone awkward and unsuited to their role. James bounces around constantly while he's on land, making jumps difficult to time, and the preponderance of invisible blocks waiting for you to smash your scaly head into when jumping may constitute the very opposite of the concept of fun. Oh, and your health constantly drains while you're out of the water, although it is replenished when you get back in the drink. Way to not evolve lungs, James.

These mission briefings are staring to get weird. You've got a gun, James. Why not just shoot the construction workers? This plan with the orchids seems unnecessarily complicated. It also forces you to yet again leave the sea, making a mockery of the title "Underwater Agent." Maybe leave this one to Captain Planet, huh?

Whether or not you enjoy James Pond will depend in large part on how you feel about mazes. None of the stages are vast labyrinths, exactly, but there's often a lot of backtracking because James can only carry one object at a time and it can get a little - okay, a lot - tedious. Something that might help you are mushrooms, just like half the people I went to university with used to tell me. These magic mushrooms - the small browny-red ones you can see on the right there - are actually magic, and touching them will teleport James to a different location in the stage, often a chamber that is otherwise inaccessible. It took me a while to figure this out, and I spent much of the first couple of stages confused as to why I was suddenly in a different room. Eventually I realised that it was the mushrooms' doing, and after that the first order of business in each stage is investigating each mushroom to see which ones work as helpful shortcuts back to the item drop-off point.

If you need a break from the action, you can visit James' home, complete with well-kept underwater lawn. Judging by the wreck of the Titanic lurking ominously in the background, James lives in the far north of the Atlantic Ocean and he has ready access to a large supply of human bones. You know, just in case he needed human bones for something.

A couple of times between stages I was chased relentlessly by this mysterious figure in a yellow trenchcoat, prompting me to spend an embarrassing amount of time scrabbling around for a fish-related Dick Tracy pun. The best I could come up with was Dick T-ray-cy. Like a stingray, you see. Come on, give me a break, after playing James Pond for so long my pun matrix is in dire need of recalibration.

Here's a mission where James needs to get rid of some toxic waste. His solution: drag it onto the beach, where it will become the problem of the Land-Folk. The barrels are actually smashed up by these people that are described in-game as "beach bums" but are clearly English tourists, which was a nice bit of local flavour. Still, it's not a great depiction of English holidaymakers on a sunny foreign beach, because they're not bald, overweight, sunburnt and shouting at waiters very slowly in English with "O"s added to the end of random words.

As is to be expected from a game that started life on the Amiga, James Pond starts getting very difficult towards the end. Time limits become tighter, enemy numbers are greatly increased,and the enemies themselves are more challenging. For example, there are enemies that are completely invisible unless you happen to be wearing a special pair of sunglasses which, I will be honest, I did not manage to find while I was playing the game. They might be invincible, but at least I can see these sharks. I'm glad I can, too, because they're rather sweet and possibly the least menacing sharks I've ever seen in a videogame. Given James Pond's maniacal zeal for fish-based James Bond gags, it's amazing that there is no reference to Jaws in the game. It's good to know the creators were willing to draw a line in the sand somewhere, I guess.

It didn't stop them going with the classic "dogfish" joke, though. No catfish, surprisingly.

"Remember, Agent Pond: don't waste time thinking about getting laid, these mermaids are way out of your league." Ouch, man, that is rough. I'm sure there's something these mermaids might see in James Pond, the suave secret agent and defender of the ocean. High levels of healthy Omega-3, for starters.

Look, the mermaids live in the sunless depths of the ocean with no company apart from flowers and scientists with heads so bulbous they look like they've had a basketball rammed up each nostril, I think they would probably be quite happy to see James Pond, even if it only leads to friendship. However, the mermaids will not even acknowledge James unless he brings them a comb. A comb each, and there are nine mermaids. Could you not just share the comb? It would make my life a lot easier.

Once I reached the last few missions, I started using cheats. The above screenshot may given you an idea why I started using cheats, and James' expression mirrored my own before I gave myself infinite lives and time. In fact, I would recommend giving yourself infinite time from the start if you plan on playing James Pond. It's hard enough without a time limit, especially because your limited supply of lives and continues means that a slow, patient approach is almost mandatory if you want to get past the first few stages. The time limit adds absolutely nothing to the game, so I definitely didn't feel guilty about getting rid of it.

For the final mission, the villains have caught up with James Pond, and he must gather a supply of food before the evil Dr. Maybe - yes, like Dr. No but less decisive - captures James and batters him. Presumably that's meant as another pun, but I'm going to pretend that Dr. Maybe intends to give James Pond a thorough kicking for messing up his plans. But what food will James collect? Fish food? Insect larvae? Plankton?

Nope, he needs pears. Pears, the superfood of the fish kingdom. Is this a thing? Do fish prefer to eat pears? I wouldn't know, the only goldfish I've ever had was fed on fish flakes, and he seemed pretty happy with it. We called him Adolf, because he had a small black patch just above his mouth and not because he kept trying to annexe the hamster cage.

I've just realised what these floating, swollen-headed scientists remind me of: it's an army of Loyd Grossmans! Fetch me a shoe-cake, pronto!
If you have the skill and patience to bubble your way through the army of scientists and killer clams, enough pears can be gathered to provide a long and prosperous future for James Pond, although Dr. Maybe escapes and will return again - James Pond was a hit, so naturally it spawned (oh god these fish pun will not stop) several sequels. Did they keep up the same level of highbrow humour? Well, the second game sees James wearing cybernetic armour. It's called RoboCod. That's a game for another time, though. For now, let's sit back and enjoy the sumptuous ending sequence.

That's it. That's all you get. The chilling message that his life of intrigue and danger will never be peacefully resolved and that same incredibly gormless image of our hero, the one where he somehow looking even more dense than an actual goldfish.

Yes, James, I know you do.
I'd find it difficult to recommend that you rush out and play James Pond: Underwater Agent. It's not that it's a terrible experience, but I'm left with lingering questions about why I bothered with it. The gameplay is fine, if a little too reliant on difficulty, but it never really catches the imagination and bobbing around the sea collecting things quickly becomes monotonous and you start to wonder when the game is going to start for real. Of course, it never does. The most interesting thing about the game for me is how it stands as my mental ideal for what a "European" videogame looks like. One look at the graphics immediately tells you that this is not a Japanese game, although I lack the critical art skills to tell you why that is. It's a combination of rounded shading and a complete lack of an anime influence, I suspect.

I know James Pond has lots of fans, and I appreciate the effort that went into making it, but sadly James Pond just isn't for me. I will, however, give it top marks for its unrelenting dedication to terrible puns. In this respect, James Pond and I are brothers of the sole. Soul. Please send help, I can't stop.



You know, I've wanted to write about Doom for a long time but I never knew how to come at it. It's one of the most discussed and dissected games of all time, (and rightly so,) and there's little I could add to the vast swathes of information available about its impact, its development history and the huge influence it had on the future of computer and video games. My usual method of playing through the game and covering as much of it as possible would never work, because I'd just end up playing Doom instead of writing about Doom. However, my desire to immerse myself in id Software's genre-defining classic has become too strong to ignore, so here's an extremely self-indulgent article about the many and various demons from Doom and Doom II that want to see you, the player, dead. I've spent so much time with them over the years that they're like family, except better than family: when there's back-biting it's because they're literally biting you in the back and not engaging in petty verbal sniping, and the former is much easier to deal with. A Cyberdemon never ruined Christmas dinner by loudly proclaiming that all immigrants should be shoved back into the sea, you know?

Former Human

The weakest of all the denizens of Doom, the Former Humans are soldiers that have either been possessed by a demonic force or killed and then raised from the dead as zombies. As per Doom's insistence on ignoring everything that isn't shooting monsters, the difference is never explained. I suppose it's academic, really. I lean towards the "killed then revived" angle myself, because it explains why the powers of Hell don't just possess the Doom Guy, although maybe that's because the Doom Guy is the only soldier on Mars sensible enough to wear a helmet.
With barely any health and only attacking by firing weak pistol rounds from what appears to be a length of steel pipe, the Former Humans offer little threat and aren't that interesting apart from one detail: why do they have green hair? So they can be better camouflaged against the verdant lawns of Mars? Is an overwhelming desire to dye your hair like a fourteen-year-old who's just discovered punk music a by-product of demonic resurrection? I have no answers to these questions. I'm pretty sure there are no answers to these questions, but you know what? Now that I've taken a really good look at the Former Human's face close-up, I realise that he has fangs and would probably talk with an extremely unthreatening lisp.


A step up from the Former Human while still being former humans, the Sergeants carry more powerful weaponry in the form of shotguns as well as possessing slightly more health than their green-haired compatriots. That's how it works in the military: the higher your rank, the more powerful guns you're allowed to use, which is why only generals get to drive tanks. With their shaven heads and hands coated in what I like to think of as "gore mittens," the Sergeants aren't much of a threat when tackled from a distance or in small numbers, although having a bunch of then appear right next to you can be punishing. But hey, free shotguns!


The last and largest formerly human monster is the Commando, a chunky chap whose large physique is necessary for lugging around his weapon of choice - the chaingun. Oh, how they love their chainguns, and how the makers of Doom levels love to pack their maps with Commandos, hidden away in alcoves and perched atop sniper nests, raining down death on the reckless and unwary. Because they've got hitscan weapons, if they can see you, they can shoot you, and their presence in a level generally requires a cautious approach lest their chainguns quickly drain away your health. On the plus side, the volume of bullets that they can output means they're great for causing infighting between Doom's other enemies. Doom is a game where the action is studded with intensely satisfying moments - a point-blank super-shotgun blast to the face of your opponent, lesser enemies exploding into a red paste at the gentle touch of your rocket launcher - but few are quite as satisfying as getting a Commando to shoot a big enemy and then watching as said big enemy turns around and reduces the Commando to a former former human.
Also, a close inspection of the Commando's sprite reveals that he is suffering from a very severe nosebleed. As a fellow sufferer of sinus problems, he has my sympathies.


The first and most common of Doom's true demons is the Imp, a snarling, fireball-flinging creature formed by hammering railroad spikes through a pillar of doner kebab meat. They are to Doom as the Goomba is to Super Mario: numerous, ubiquitous and more of a hindrance than a deadly threat until you lose concentration. They are also both brown. Given that one of id Software's pre-Doom projects was an attempt to port Super Mario Bros. 3 to the PC, I think we can safely conclude that Goombas were, in fact, the main inspiration for the Imp.
Imps are everywhere in Doom, vast numbers of them embarking on Hell's crusade to subjugate the world of man, and as such I have probably killed more Imps than any other videogame enemy. Well, any other specific videogame enemy; zombies don't count, because they're more of a concept than a set type. There are many different zombies but only one kind of Imp, unless you're playing Doom 64 in which case surprise, there's a differently-coloured and more powerful kind of Imp. Forget about those, though - this Imp is the original, an icon of videogaming, the easily-perforated vanguard of Hell's assault and best of all they make the sound of a camel when they die.


With elements of pig, bull and humanoid physiology, capped off with the rosy pink glow of something freshly shaved, the Demon is melange of brute force and raw muscle, designed by the forces of Hell as the most efficient bite-delivery system possible. Well, maybe not the most efficient. They could probably do their job just as well without arms, as long as they retained at least a small nub on either side to help them keep their balance.
I love Demons, and for one simple reason: they love running face-first into your chainsaw, and once they're being chainsawed there's very little else they can do. A swarm of angry Demons, especially when there's a convenient corridor nearby that you can funnel them down, is your ticket to a conga line of ammo-preserving chainsaw death. If there's one thing all Doom play sessions should contain, it's a conga line of chainsaw death. If you ever go to see a band called Chainsaw Death - I'm sure there's one out there somewhere - make sure you start a conga line during the gig. They'll probably love it.

Hell Knight and Baron of Hell

Towering, bestial goat-legged demons in the classic fiend-of-the-underworld mould, the Knights are the beige-coloured versions and have half the health but the same attacking power as the Barons, who are very pink. The Barons originally appeared as a pair to make up the boss battle at the end of Doom's first episode, where they emerged from what I think were supposed to be teleporter pods but which always put me in mind of porta-potties. Maybe that's why they're so pink, they're flushed (no pun intended) with embarrassment at being caught coming out of a portable toilet.
Like most demonic enemies in Doom, the Knights and Barons can attack both in melee range and from a distance by either punching the player or launching balls of magical green fire from their hands. Apparently their fireballs are fairly easy to dodge, although I wouldn't know because I'm always intent on getting my shotgun as close to their face as possible.


It can't all be rippling muscles and rending limbs in Hell's army, of course, and that's where the Cacodemons come in. No limbs at all and not much of anything else, either. A mouth, one eyeball, the odd horn here and there and viola, you've got the Cacodemon - capable of flight and capable of vomiting balls of lightning at the player, not so capable at playing Twister. One of my favourite things in Doom is when a map designer places a Cacodemon below the player, because there's something charming about the dopey way they float up into view, and in general there's a sedateness to the Cacodemon's movements that suggests they're not really into this whole "destruction of mankind" thing. A clue to their behaviour might be found in their name: Cacodemon comes from the Greek word "kakos," meaning bad. The Cacodemon is a Bad Demon. Always forgetting to torture sinners, never cleaning out the sacrificial altar after he's used it, that kind of thing. The Cacodemon really needs to pull its (strictly metaphorical) socks up if it wants to make an impression here at Hell, Inc.

Lost Soul

A flaming skull that attacks only by the admittedly pretty metal means of the fiery flying headbutt, the Lost Souls tend to clog up the skies and zip around being difficult to hit. There's really not much more to them than that: they're kamikaze creatures that unfortunately don't die on impact, returning once and again to headbutt you like the accumulated psychic energy of all the world's drunken Scotsmen on a Saturday night. They're the hyperactive Beavis to the more laid-back Butt-Head of the Cacodemon, then, although I think their violent ways might not just be a result of them wanting the player dead. Being Lost Souls, they're probably looking for a warm body to inhabit and the Doom Guy offers an ideal candidate... except, as mentioned before, he's wearing a helmet and so they can't get in via his head. This leaves only one other major orifice through which they might enter, and even the Lost Souls, lowliest of all Hell's minions, have more pride than that.


They're squat and they're hot, it's the Mancubus! Wait, I don't mean they're hot as in attractive, I mean because they've got flamethrowers instead of arms. Mind you, I don't doubt that somewhere out in the darker wilds of the internet there are pictures of the Mancubus engaged in a variety of amorous exploits even if the phrase "erotic Mancubus" seems like it should stop the world turning when uttered. Erm, I've rather lost my train of thought now. Where was I? Oh yes, the Mancubus. As it says in Doom II's manual, the saving grace of the Mancubus is that at least he's a nice big target, and while he's got a lot of health he's not rocket-proof now is he? No, I didn't think so. His large girth also means he can serve as a surprisingly effective shield when there are lots of enemies present, and because demons have no compunctions about shooting one of their own in an attempt to get to you they might even kill the Mancubus on your behalf. Have I mentioned that I really love enemy in-fighting? I hope it's in the new Doom and the time that could have been spent implementing it wasn't wasted on creating flashy kill animations that quickly become repetitive.


Oh Christ, this guy. The bane of my Doom-playing experiences, the cause of thousands of digital deaths - a skeleton with rocket launchers. Not just any rocket launchers, either: the Revenant can fire regular rockets and homing missiles, and if you get close enough it will punch you in the head. The punch is definitely their most aggravating attack because it feels like, well, a slap in the face. Like, come on, man, you've got two kinds of rockets and you throw a mean right hook? Give me a break. How can you even punch that hard when you don't have any muscles? But the Revenants will not give you a break, and from Doom II onwards they seem to be densely packed into every Doom level ever made, filling the hallways and clattering around like an avalanche in the stock room of a coat-hanger factory. They are imposing foes, then, with the terror they exude being only slightly diminished by the coating of red gore on their lower bodies making it look like the Revenant is wearing lycra shorts.
Having spent so much time playing Doom, the word "revenant" has become inexorably linked in my mind to a skeleton wearing a rocket launcher, so naturally the first time I saw a poster for the movie The Revenant I instinctively started looking for a pillar to hide behind. The internet didn't disappoint me, either, and the next day I saw a poster for The Revenant edited to replace Leonardo Di Caprio with a Doom Revenant. Good job, internet. I can't help but think Leo would have won that Oscar by now if he'd taken on the challenging yet rewarding role of a skinless murder-demon. He would have to lose quite a lot of weight for the part, mind.

Pain Elemental

Meatballs of the Damned, the Pain Elemental - a more nurturing demon than most, seeing as it exists solely to puke up Lost Souls. A lumpy matryoshka of evil that wouldn't look out of place atop a pile of spaghetti, Pain Elementals don't really have much more to them other than the ability to create new enemies, although that's plenty bad enough.
You remember earlier when I said that Demons could probably do away with their big, muscular arms and make do with stumps? Yeah, I've changed my mind. Looking at the Pain Elemental, I don't think the gain in efficiency is worth the trade-off of looking like a dork. Now I think about it, it is a little strange that a flying monster with horns, a huge mouth filled with jagged teeth and a single bloodshot eye manages to look so completely unthreatening.


One thing you can say about the Arch-Vile is that in a game where most of the monsters are naked, he somehow manages to look more naked than the rest. I suspect this is a personal thing, as I share a similar pallid skin-tone with the Arch-Vile.
Envisioned by id as a demon healer, one of the Arch-Vile's trademark skills is its ability to bring dead monsters back to life. As such, writing this article has afforded me a rare chance to see the Arch-Vile up close, because when I encounter them in-game I'm always intent on killing them as quickly and from as far away as possible. That doesn't leave much time for a detailed physical analysis, but now I can see that they're a little plain, as demons go, their anonymity masking their deadly abilities. They're the kind of demon you wouldn't look twice at on a tour of Hell, until they use their other attack on you: a fiery explosion that will cause huge damage to the player if the Arch-Vile can see you. That's another reason I've never got a close look at one before - each battle with an Arch-Vile becomes the world's most lethal game of peek-a-boo.

The Spider Mastermind

Spider-brain, spider-brain,
He only wishes to cause you pain,
Robot legs, a massive gun,
He eats babies just for fun,
Look out, here comes the spider-brain!
Spider Mastermind, huh? I have to take issue with that name. You built yourself a set of mechanical legs but didn't include a protective dome to encase your delicate brain-meats? That doesn't sound very intelligent to me. I suppose it's all relative: when every other demon is a ravening, bloodthirsty berserker, being handy with a soldering iron is enough to see you elevated to the position of "mastermind."
I shouldn't be too harsh on the Spider Mastermind, because he's been deal a rough hand. Despite being Doom's original final boss, the Mastermind has been overshadowed by the Cyberdemon. It must be a bitter pill to swallow when everyone prefers a walking cow.


The Spider Mastermind also comes in a Fun-Sized version known as the Arachnotron, who possess a plasma rifle instead of their larger relative's super-chaingun as well as some of the deepest, most piercing blue eyes I've ever seen. It uses those eyes to placate the other monsters when they become enraged by the annoying whirring sound that the Arachnotron makes as it walks. Honestly, could you look into those eyes and stay angry at the Archnotron? No, I didn't think so.


The most iconic of all Doom's demons and one of the most famous computer game enemies ever to splatter players across a wall with a well-placed rocket, the Cyberdemon is a grotesque amalgamation of machinery and meat. But why am I telling you this? You already know about the Cyberdemon. He's the Elvis of videogame bosses. Shoot at it until it dies, etcetera. Although time and repeated encounters may have dulled the Cyberdemon's presence somewhat, I can still remember the first time I fought one in the original Doom, which is impressive recall on my part considering the battle lasted about four seconds. If I wanted to get pretentious about it, I could argue that the Cyberdemon's mix of ancient demon and modern technology is a perfect metaphor for Doom itself - taking something from the past and improving it with new technology and added lethality to create something powerful and terrifying. I won't say that, though. Instead I'll say that I like it when you kill the Cyberdemon and it explodes, leaving behind only a pair of bloody hooves, hooves being the most powerful material in the universe.
The Cyberdemon, and all the other demons with robot bits, make me wonder about the nature of Doom's Hell. Is it the literal Christian Hell, or merely another dimension filled with enough demonic horror that a casual observer would say "yep, that's Hell all right"? It's not an important distinction, of course, because this is Doom and anything that isn't shooting monsters isn't important, but I do hope it's actual Hell. The only reason is that I like to imagine Lucifer sitting on his throne and saying "I'll get my revenge against God using the one weapon the Almighty will never expect: cybernetics!" and then Lucifer builds a robot demon out of scraps. It's basically the start of the first Iron Man movie, but with more blasphemy.

Icon of Sin

Disappointing moments in the classic Doom games are few and far between, but I think the very last boss of Doom II being a wall might be one of them. Yes, it's a very spooky wall, a wall that might have adorned H. R. Giger's kitchen, but it's still just a wall. The evil wall is often called the Icon of Sin, but that's actually the name of the level it inhabits and it doesn't have a "real" name, although some call it Baphomet. To defeat the Icon of Sin - a name which has always sounded to me like the title a controversial pop star might give themselves, like the King of Pop - you have to use rockets to hit a vulnerable spot in the Icon's brain. Famously this target is the severed head of Doom creator John Romero, normally unviewable without cheat codes. I think I would have preferred it if the final boss was just Romero's head, bouncing around on the spike it's impaled on like a pogo stick.

There we have it, folks: all the demons of Doom, except for the mostly-invisible Demons called Spectres, and they're just Demons that you can't see very well. Just read the Demon section again and mentally append "plus 200 percent irritation factor." Which monster is my favourite? I'm not sure I could choose one, not when they all die in such wonderfully gory ways, but if forced I think I'd have to go with the Cacodemon. They just seem like the most chilled out, although their appear is hampered by their inability to give you a high-five.



I used to have an NES Zapper, but my younger brother decided it would make a good bath toy. It's okay, it was years ago, I'm over it now. There are two consequences to this: one is that my Duck Hunt high-scores will remain forever unbeaten, and the other is that I never got to play TOSE and Bandai's 1989 NES marksmanship-em-up Shooting Range. Oh, cruel fate! Well, I'm going to put that right today, and judging by the sheer amount of creative effort that went into coming up with the game's title, I'm sure it will be fantastic.

Seriously though, Shooting Range? You couldn't come up with anything more enticing than that? Here's a couple of better titles, for free from me to you. Bullseye Fun-Pack. Crazy Carl's Circus of Bullets. Target Shooting X-Treme: Ultimate Annihilation Edition. He Who Zaps First Zaps Longest. See? It's not difficult. I can only assume the only other candidate for the title of this game was NES Lightgun Game 001, and that was shouted down for being too interesting.

You get to choose between a Normal Game and a Party Game. The party game is not "shoot the tail off the donkey," nor is it a harrowing combination of Russian roulette and pass-the-parcel. We'll get to it later, but first we'll be exploring the normal game, which makes up the bulk of the action.

Shooting Range is not exactly packed with content: aside from the party game, there are three stages and a bonus round. The first stage is obviously Wild West-themed, because I'm not lucky enough for it to be about the deadly onslaught of the sentient mutant cactus folk, and stage three is set in space. As for stage two, it's a house? I'm going to kill that house. Okay, got it. Stage two, murder a house. But first, cowboys.

Here we are, then. The Old West, where the natives balance oversized peppermint candies on their heads. Those are the targets you need to shoot, not the native Americans. In fact they're the only targets you need to shoot in Shooting Range, and every stage has you shooting these circular Umbrella Corp logos rather than the people and animals that litter the stage. Why did TOSE and Bandai go for this division between the recognisable people / creatures and abstract targets? I have no idea. Maybe they didn't want to be accused of promoting violence. Maybe they couldn't be bothered to draw a different set of sprites showing a native warrior bleeding to death from a gut-shot, his life fading away as his blood soaks into the desert sand? The only semi-convincing reason I can come up with is that it makes it very clear what you're supposed to be shooting at at any given time, but that would still be true if you just had to shoot the characters. They stand out pretty well when they're moving around the screen, it's not like they're particularly camouflaged.

A cowboy ran by. He wasn't carrying a target, so I couldn't shoot him. I mean, I could shoot at him, and naturally I did, but because he wasn't carrying a red-and-white pinwheel he remained unaffected by my gunfire. Now that I see him in a still picture and not dashing across my screen in the manner of someone running for the bus while trying not to look like they're running for the bus, I've noticed a couple of things. One is that he's got a badge, so he must be the sheriff. The other that he appears to be smoking, in an NES game that (as far as I can tell) was only released in the US. I guess that one snuck past Nintendo of America's censors, just like this cowboy snuck past my gunfire.

A lone white dove flies by with a target in its mouth, a sign that the flood waters have receded and Noah's Ark has come to rest on top of a factory making Christmas sweets.
The problem is that the odd bird and unshootable cowboy just aren't cutting it. To progress in Shooting Range, you have to reach a target score before the time runs out, and there simply weren't enough enemies appearing on screen for me to collect the points I needed. Thus condemned to failure, I sat and waited for the inevitable while staring at the desert scenery, which was sort of relaxing in its own way.

Then I realised you can use the D-Pad on a connected controller to move your viewpoint left and right, allowing you to track down other enemies and targets that may have eluded you. I even got to see the cowboy doing something! He was trying to shoot me, or at least trying to scare me by pointing his target at me. He can't hurt you or anything. Shoot him without worrying about the consequences! Except make sure you actually hit the target, because every shot you fire results in your energy meter decreasing, and if it empties completely then it's game over. You can refill it occasionally with power-ups dropped by defeated targets, as well as finding the odd hourglass to give you extra time, but on the whole it does not pay to be wildly shooting your gun even if this is the Wild West.

Once I'd figured out you can move the screen with the pad - a clumsy, inelegant solution to a problem that need not exist - clearing the first stage was not much of a challenge. That's not meant as a boast, it's the first stage and I'm playing on the easiest difficulty (although all the difficulty level changes is how much time you start with to complete each stage). I'm looking forward to the next stage, though, because now I know it's a ghost house.

We've got a house, we've got a ghost, so now I know that "ghost house" wasn't just a clever name intended to lure me in.

It's not just ghosts, either: all manner of horror movie monsters are roaming around, from werewolves to vampires to mummies. I am now fully on board with the whole "shoot only the targets" mechanic, because all these monsters are so adorable and precious that I wouldn't want to shoot them anyway. Forget Shooting Range, Bandai should have called it Look at That Mummy, Sinking to His Bandaged Knees in Abject Despair Because I Shot His Target: The Lightgun Game.

I think my favourite are these Frankensteins, though. They look more robotic than usual, as though the Mad Doctor who built them was running low on cadavers and had to make do with odds and ends from his garage. And look, they're holding their targets like lollipops! Aww. I can't help but imagine that the original Creature wouldn't have been quite so bent on destroying his creator if Frankenstein had given him a big lollipop.

If you shoot their targets, the Frankensteins look at the now-empty space with an air of calm puzzlement. It's pretty great, and it makes me wish the whole game has been based around this monster theme. I like puzzled Frankensteins, but now I want to see confused witches, baffled warlocks, uncomprehending elder gods from beyond the stars, that kind of thing. Oh well, I can enjoy it for what it is -  decent if uninspired target-shooting action that does at least try to mix the movement patterns of your targets up. Some stand still, some move horizontally and the werewolves frantically jitter around the stage with their targets balanced on their snouts in a manner that suggest the brand of flea powder they're using is not very effective.

The previous paragraph may have implied that there are no witches in Shooting Range, but there are. They're just not confused. They know exactly what they're doing, be it carrying targets for you to shoot or engaging in terrifying bacchanalian rituals that let them commune with the dark lord Satan.

After the ghost house, there's a brief bonus stage interlude in the form of this bottle-blasting minigame. Simply shoot all the bottles to win, although things are complicated by the fact the bottles remain resolutely bullet-proof aside from the second or so when they're flashing white. Presumably this element of timing was designed to stop the player from going hog wild and getting through the bottles faster than Oliver Reed, but as the rest of the game is all about precision shooting I think it would have made a nice change to include a stage where the only thing being tested is how fast you can pull the trigger.

The final stage has an outer space theme and is heavily influenced, in terms of monster design at least, by the Alien movies. These pink things are very facehugger-esque. "Maybe you just want them to be facehuggers, VGJunk," I hear you say, "because you love the Aliens franchise so much." Well, fair enough. These things could quite easily be generic space insects, your common-or-garden Astro-Spiders.

I mean, these pop-eyed blue things definitely aren't related to the Aliens series, unless they were planned to appear in the ill-fated kid's cartoon spin-off. Speaking of cartoons, they look like something from The Real Ghostbusters. Nothing Alien related here, then, until you shoot their targets...

...at which point they turn into an eggs from which the facehugger-type enemies hatch and jump at your face.

Also there are monsters that are clearly xenomorphs, albeit orange ones. There's one now, lurking at the right-hand side of the screen and pondering how it's going to get an parasitic embryo into the target it's carrying given that it has no face to hug. So, there you are. Aliens. It's hardly surprising, Aliens has been more of an influence on videogames than probably any movie ever, from Contra to Doom. They're not usually quite so tangerine, mind you, aside from the dog aliens in Alien Trilogy.

The final stage even has a boss of sorts: the happy union of tentacles, eyeball and brain, all coming together with the sole purpose of making you lose the game by running out of time. The boss doesn't attack in any way, so it's down to you to take it out by shooting it right in the eyeball several times. This task is made more challenging by the boss possessing bullet-proof eyelids and a sleepy expression that tends towards Droopy levels of drowsiness, making it surprisingly difficult to hit the boss who is fifty percent eyeball in the eyeball. Still, I got there in the end, once I'd figured out it was easier to wait for the boss to fly in front of my sights rather than chasing it around the screen.

For my troubles, I received... a bronze medal? Oh, come on, I shot everything you asked me to and even some things you didn't! "You need to work a little harder," it says. You know, I'm not sure I do. There are many things in my life I need to work at - my personality, my potential employability, cleaning the grout on my bathroom tiles - which are much more important than Shooting Range.

However, those things are difficult so I pretended they didn't exist and went for the gold. Hooray for solid life choices! It turns out the key to being the best is the bottle-shooting minigame, as destroying all the bottles within the time limit nets you a very large points bonus. Is it worth it? No, not really. I already knew my play is wonderful. It's a modern re-imagining of Macbeth, it's going to blow the critics away with its fresh new take on the Bard!

Oh, right, and there's also the Party Game mode. It's whack-a-mole, except it's shoot-a-mole. Shoot-a-target, anyway. The targets pop up from the holes, and you shoot them. Sometimes the orbs at the back light up, and you have to shoot them to activate a new wave of targets. This is easily in my bottom twenty worst parties I have ever attended. It doesn't get into the bottom five, because there were no drunken arguments or embarrassing lapses of intestinal integrity.

I'm happy with being average. I'm certainly not going to play the party game again. If you really want to see the other endings, do it yourself. What am I, your mother?

And there you have it, Shooting Range is over; almost before it started, such is the brevity of the included content. What is there is diverting enough in a very basic way, and aside from having to hold the Zapper and the pad to play the game - which adds nothing and is merely awkward - I can't think of anything that you could change to make it better without making it an entirely different game. Apart from more stages, I mean. What is available is fun and cute, so if you're after a very basic NES lightgun game then you'll probably have at least some fun with Shooting Range. If you're after a deeper, more involved NES lightgun game then, erm, tough. I don't think there are any.

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