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The History Of James Bond Video Games Begins With A Bizarre, Text-Based Adventure

James Bond has a long and celebrated history across all types of media. While the superspy got his start in novels and is probably most known for his numerous film appearances, he's also headlined more than a few video games over the years. While they've varied in quality, some have been true classics (looking at you "Goldeneye") that are still remembered fondly today.


As technology and the video game industry have evolved over time, so have James Bond games. While, today, the character is most associated with first-person shooting mechanics and slick graphics, that's far from how he got his start. Going back to the early '80s, the history of James Bond video games actually began with a text-based adventure game with almost no animation and a bizarre, somewhat original story.

While mostly forgotten today, this title deserves recognition for bringing Bond to gamers for the first time and starting a long, successful partnership between the character and the games industry.

A limited release and an original story

James Bond got his start in games in 1982 with the release of "Shaken but Not Stirred" for the ZX Spectrum. Appropriately, the game about the British spy was only released in the UK, as the ZX Spectrum was initially released — and most popular — there.


Interestingly, unlike other titles that would follow, the first Bond game was not based on any previous film or novel. While the plot seems to have drawn inspiration from both "Dr. No" and "Thunderball," it was not truly an adaptation of either. Instead, "Shaken but Not Stirred" has Bond facing off against the evil Dr. Death to thwart his scheme of starting a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

To prevent World War III, the player must first adventure across the world, fighting off foes and solving riddles to discover Dr. Death's secret island lair. Once on the island, the player is then tasked with exploring it to discover the lair's hidden entrance and then move through the base to find and disarm a nuclear warhead.


The plot was very simple and quite cliched for a Bond title, but it certainly hit all the standard beats and set up the gameplay accordingly.

Bizarre gameplay but a positive reception

If the story was simple, the gameplay was downright elementary. The search for and exploration of the island played out as an entirely text-based experience with minimal options to choose from. Only when the player got to the hidden base did they see anything other than text, now exploring a ten-by-ten room map to locate the warhead while avoiding Dr. Death's henchmen.


While uncomplicated, even by the standards of the time, "Shaken but Not Stirred" received great reviews in its day. ZX Computing Magazine praised the game despite its uneven difficulty and lack of graphics, while the Computer and Video Game Book of Reviews cited its trueness to the source material and compared it to playing a Bond novel.

The game may be forgotten today, but it did well in its time, despite its limited release. It now enjoys a place in gaming history and in the history of one of the most iconic characters in all of fiction. Not bad for a little text-based adventure.