This awkward 1989 ad is for Operation Neptune from Infogrames which shouldn’t be confused with the one from The Learning Company. In the US, it was renamed Project Neptune instead by Epyx who handled the distribution for it even though The Learning Company’s game wouldn’t come out until ’91. Still, the two games couldn’t be any more different.
One didn’t do any math or “educational learning” at all here. Instead, one jetted around the ocean like an underwater James Bond taking out enemy bases while skewering squid and shark. Players took on the role of the heroically named Robert “Rip” Steel who, with his private super sub, the Remora, went after a nefarious arms dealer called the Yellow Shadow for his bad complexion.
The manual lays out a pretty thorough background for the Yellow Shadow covering his education, resume, birth date, and why he’s such a bad person. He’s decided to up the ante by mining for uranium on the ocean floor using a network of bases scattered throughout the world. Of course, this is a bad thing, so it’s up to Steel to help out the Allied Special Forces in putting an end to his wicked ways.
After the briefing on Yellow Shadow and the op at hand, the manual even goes into a short history on the Remora before diving into the controls which show Neptune as one of those games blending a number of different action sequences together depending on what you want to do. For example, if you leave the sub to plant explosives at an important node link to sever the connection between two bases, it switches to a side scrolling view though it’s up to you to find the node while using your spear gun to punch holes in the local wildlife.
Driving around the Remora is done from a big, detailed interface as you cruise about in a sort of first-person perspective. When enemy subs decide to pick a fight with you, a third-person combat sequence shows you on a kind of sub-sled battling it out.
The map showing where the enemy bases, and the nodes you need to trash, was pretty neat giving this action adventure game the feel of a wide, open tactical shooter. Yellow Shadow will also be building more bases and nodes at the same time, so figuring out where to go next was just as important as having good reflexes.
This is the ad that ran in the UK propping the game up with the kind of comic-styled, action-packed art that defined other titles like Rastan. Screenshots show the game off below, text lays out the backdrop for the mission, and a potpourri of combat bits hint at everything you’ll be doing in the game…except perhaps getting shot in the crotch by dual laser beams. Ouch.
The game came out on a wide variety of popular computers at the time like the Amiga, the Commodore 64, Atari ST and of course, DOS. There’s even a version out there for the Apple IIgs, though only in beta form since it never made it out to retail. Epyx going bankrupt in the same year that this game came out probably had something to do with that.
The box art for the retail release, at least in the States, was also markedly different from the ad below. The box art has a square jawed Steel holding up a gun Bond-style with a hot lady pushed slightly off to the side and in the backdrop though there was no love interest in the game. Yet for how Bondian it looked, it did have one other saving grace: it was also a lot less painful to look at.