James Pond in the Deathly Shallows

This can’t have been originally conceived as a James Pond game. I say that not because it bears no resemblance the fondly remembered ’90s platform games, but because one of the three controls puts James Pond into reverse. Now, I realise that some fish can swim backwards. But if you were bringing James Pond back, your first thought wouldn’t be: “Yeah, I liked the platform games, but they really suffered from a lack of reversing. We should fix that.”

James Pond in the Deathly Shallows - iPhone

So, it’s not a James Pond game in anything but title. Though, incidentally, that’s one thing they did get right: an completely unrelated film pun in the title is very much in-keeping with the series.

What have we got then? Well, it looks like a shoot ’em up – except the firing is automatic when there’s an enemy roughly in front of you. The game itself uses the phrase “underwater maze” – except your path is almost always obvious. Maybe it’s best described as the swimming equivalent of a platform game – except without the platforms. Clear? Excellent.

The challenge is just staying alive. Tapping the screen to swim is a rather blunt control method; slightly lagged and over-responsive. Hitting the scenery reduces your health bar, and that’s not uncommon even once you’ve tamed the controls. Also, the game frequently likes to ensnare you on the scenery, so you end up staying there until you die.

Shooting isn’t much better: as I said, it’s automatic, so there’s no opportunity to conserve your air supply, which powers the bubble gun. Which is doubly frustrating because that same air supply is what you need to fly above water – and reverse, for that matter – and doing so is not just an optional extra. Cue more helplessly hitting the scenery until you die.

For the most part, all this is merely inconvenient, because the game’s pretty easy – and brief, at six levels. The final level is trickier, only because there’s a lot of flying to do, and large shoals of enemies to get through – both of which need a lot of air, and keeping your supply topped up becomes virtually impossible. You see, the air above the surface is no good – it has to come from bubbles underwater. Obviously.

To its credit, the game’s not bad looking, and the individual animations are quite nice. It’s a bit jerky though, thanks to the twitchy controls and awkward transition between animations.

It’s the sort of slightly shoddy effort, that people who are sniffy about mobile phone games, think all mobile phone games are like. It’s remarkable only because it’s had the James Pond license slapped on it; otherwise it would have been widely ignored, along with countless other unnecessary iPhone games.