Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Matter of Import 74: Shaken But Not Stirred [Richard Shepherd Software Ltd 1982]


Shaken But Not Stirred is perhaps the first James Bond themed game, and an unlicensed one at that, coming to the ZX Spectrum in the form of a text adventure game. It pits the super-spy against a master criminal named Doctor Death, blackmailing the world with nuclear missiles.

The first part of the game is less a traditional interactive fiction game than an extended anagram puzzle. Each turn you’re asked to pick a city to visit from a list - though there’s no error if you choose another city, or just enter a word salad, they’re accepted as valid responses.

The reason for this is that upon arrival you’re given a completely random encounter, from a combat scenario to a clue. This is in the form of a single letter to the puzzle, whose solution is yet another city you’ve got to visit to reach the second part of the game.

Having discovered the location of Doctor Death’s lair, you head to an island to search for his lair. Controls here are a more standard cardinal direction - N, S, W, E - in a worldspace largely inhabited by homicidal animals. And this, of course, means a lot of combat.

Tedious combat. To defeat a foe in either stage of the game you need to type out the name of the weapon you’re using. Have a secret cyanide pistol? Get ready to type out “Secret Cyanide Pistol.” Not pistol. Not Secret Pistol. You need to type out the full name, every time. Hidden Knife. Walther PPK Pistol. Whatever. Type it out. 

Each weapon kills its target instantly, but each - even the knife or watch garrotte - only has a few uses. And once this runs out? Will, Jimmy Bond can’t judo chop his way out of trouble, and running isn’t very English so… yeah. Just hope you find the lair fast, because once you’re on the island there’s no running back to London to reload.

On the one hand, it’s nice to see a departure from the standard parser-based text adventure for the ZX. Unfortunately every twist Shaken But Not Stirred provides only serves to make play more irritating.

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