Long before GoldenEye established the gold standard for James Bond action games, 007 had a PC gaming presence, with games dating back as far as 1983 (the Commodore 64 game James Bond 007). Most were based on the various Bond movies, and were either interactive fiction, such as James Bond: A View to a Kill (1984) and James Bond 007: Goldfinger (1986), or arcade action side/vertical scrollers, such as The Living Daylights (1987) or 007: License to Kill (1989). Some were forgettable, some enjoyable, but the first graphic adventure James Bond adventure is today’s featured game: James Bond: The Stealth Affair.
The story revolved around a missing F-19 stealth fighter, stolen from an American base and tracked (how did they do that?) to somewhere in Latin America. Who did it? Could it be the Russians pulling a Red October or could it be some Latin American tinpot dictator or crime lord? The danger of having a Latin American drug lord having stealth technology was sufficient to bring in the best troubleshooter in the business: James Bond. The action began as fast as our man James stepped off his flight into the Santa Paragua airport, holding only a briefcase and his airline ticket, with the need to somehow get past a maddeningly efficient airport security guard. “I don’t care who you are. In this country you are all outsiders.” The game moved on from there, with a variety of puzzles to solve, as well as a few arcade action sequences to complete.
The Stealth Affair was a graphic adventure using a point&click interface, which means an inevitable pixel hunt. The command menu was brought up by right-clicking the mouse, and consisted of EXAMINE, TAKE, INVENTORY, USE, OPERATE, and SPEAK. Descriptions were provided when you used the EXAMINE command on objects, and you could either TAKE some items to later USE them in other situations, or OPERATE devices immediately. You could not EXAMINE your INVENTORY, however.
Interestingly, The Stealth Affair was a James Bond adventure game title only in North America. The game was originally released in Europe as Operation Stealth, and it wasn’t James Bond that was attempting to recover the missing stealth technology, it was agent John Glames. The developer of The Stealth Affair was Delphine Software, based out of France. Their previous hit was Future Wars, but would go on to produce some amazing games, including Out of This World (released as Another World in Europe), Flashback, and Fade to Black, among others. Interplay Productions was the game publisher who distributed Delphine’s games, and whose logo was emblazoned upon the box covers of the North American versions. It was Interplay who acquired the James Bond license and who initiated the change to the Operation: Stealth game from a generic spy adventure game to playing 007 of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The powers-that-be decided that the James Bond franchise was a bankable commodity, so they altered all instances of John Glames into James Bond. In addition, some of the action sequences were removed, presumably to make for easier gameplay, and some of the bad French to English game text was reworded. Oddly both Bond and Glames were working for the CIA, which to a Bond enthusiast, is a serious faux pas. But I digress.
The game simply begged for Sean Connery voiceovers, but, alas, the IBM PC version lacked digitized voices. Darn technology and/or budget limitations! However, the Amiga version had synthesized voices (with 1 MB or higher RAM), but a serious bug in the code can lead to a full system crash if using the player got tired of listening to the dialogue and attempted to click through with the mouse button. As one of the attention-challenged brethren of gamers, that’s a serious flaw that exploits a common weakness!
The Stealth Affair was released on three formats in North America: IBM PC (MS-DOS), Amiga, and Atari ST. Reviews were generally favorable, with .info giving the game 4.5 out of 5 stars in their March 1991 issue, stating that, “No Bond fan should miss this one.” However, some reviewers were more ambivalent towards the game, such as the review in the May 1991 issue of Compute!, wherein the game is described as, “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.” Still, accepting the technology limitations of its day, James Bond: The Stealth Affair was a fun game. Perhaps not worthy of the top 100 games of all time, but still in the running for the next one hundred, and well-worth a look by any retrogamer yearning for a spy-based adventure game!