James Bond 007: The Duel

If you have seen a lot of AVGN, and I sure know that I have, then you may have a mental image of the typical, rubbish retro game. Stiff 2D platformers with obnoxious controls, convoluted levels, and unfair enemies. Sometimes you wonder how so many games fitting that description could exist, but then you play James Bond 007: The Duel and you’re reminded that these were darker days for game development.

Allegedly the first James Bond game not to directly adapt a movie, The Duel is a simplistic 2D platformer for Sega systems in which Bond, still represented by a long-retired Timothy Dalton, takes on a series of levels that all have the same objectives:

  • Rescue the girls
  • Set a bomb
  • Escape

These are non-linear 2D platformer stages and the location of each of these objectives doesn’t necessarily abide by any rhyme or reason. You just need to find them while juggling your finite resources and you’ll always end up being 1 or 2 short after you thought you mapped out the entire level. Especially the final part is egregious, as you need to escape from your own bomb even though you don’t know the escape location. Why isn’t 007 getting mission briefings or cool gadgets to make this work easier?

Bond’s three primary controls are jumping, firing his pistol, and lobbing grenades if you happen to have any. It’s all barely functional. Movement feels off and is particularly choppy on sloped surfaces, yet Bond can easily jump over people from a standstill. The platforming often requires precision platforming, however, and even the slightest falls can damage or instantly kill 007. The pistol is a reliable one shot, one kill kinda deal, safe for the odd boss-fight. Just a shame that the enemies don’t play nice.

Foes are just constantly running back and forth across small patrol routes and will almost instantly turn around if you are anywhere near them and they could take a shot at you. Their reactions aren’t instant, but your movements are so delayed that getting hit feels inevitable. Getting shot can also knock you back, causing instant death or major loss of progress. This may sound normal for the era, but enemies respawn, often behind scenery, so you never know when you might be blindsided from a place you just cleared out.

The combination of open-ended levels where you MUST find everything, endlessly respawning enemies, and these less-than-optimal controls don’t exactly make for a game many will care for. I certainly know that it began to drag on for me after mere minutes of playing it. I had to take frequent breaks, despite the actual runtime being maybe an hour on your first go through.

There aren’t many Bond games on classic systems, but put aside your need for realism and consider James Bond Jr. instead. Its the better console game, though still not a fantastic one.

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