Sawbuck Gamer

The Button Affair

No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Die

In The Button Affair, death is a variation on a theme.

By John Teti • March 12, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

Whenever you die in a James Bond game, you’re essentially creating a little alternate story where 007 doesn’t save the day, and the world came to be ruled by a terrorist madman simply because, say, old James couldn’t figure out how to work his sniper rifle. By the time you finish GoldenEye 64, you might have “died” a hundred times—and thus created a hundred different versions of the story. The stylish spy game The Button Affair embraces that parallel-universe idea. When you die, it’s called a “variation,” and you’re penalized for diverging from the omnipotent secret agent norm. This subtle shift in expectations makes the object of The Button Affair not just survival but survival with closest possible adherence to perfection.

The game takes the form of an “infinite runner” like Canabalt, but with finite levels that you can memorize. Your secret agent runs on his own, so you just have to duck laser barriers and dodge gunfire to ensure that he never loses a step (i.e., loses his life). There’s a strange mix of polish and sloppiness here. The Button Affair looks fantastic, with a cool sense of style that captures the ambience of a cocky spy gallivanting his way through evil-villain hotspots along the Brazilian coast. The game’s script could have used a quick pass by a copy editor. Maybe it’s just me, but when I read line after line of sloppily unpunctuated dialogue it looks amateurish. On a more troubling front, the game’s initially crisp rhythm gives way to choppiness. The third and final level is set partly on the roof of a speeding train and partly inside that train, which turns a potentially triumphant conclusion into a halting chore. The game’s promise combined with its half-finished feel left me wishing that The Button Affair had some alternate endings of its own.

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6 Responses to “No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Die”

  1. HobbesMkii says:

    Perhaps because McGoohan was also in Danger Man/Secret Agent and it came up recently, but I really wish there was a The Prisoner adventure game.

    • EmperorNortonI says:

      I could imagine The Prisoner adventure game being the first rogue-like adventure game.  What’s the secret plot, what odd device and power will they deploy, and what secret plants are involved this time?  Why, you could even procedurally generate the New No. 2 every time.  It would require a really sophisticated and flexible set of tools for the player to use in response to these puzzles, but it would perhaps be the best fit to a show with no real continuity and an ever-shifting batshit crazy backstory.

    • The only rejoinder I can think of is in Infocom format, unfortunately:

      No. 6’s Foyer

      You’re at the front door of your domicile, painted a mildly irritating shade of robin’s egg blue.  The Village’s newspaper is sticking halfway out of the mail slot.

      >TAKE NEWSPAPER

      Taken.

      >READ IT

      The only section that seems to have been delivered today was the comics page.  No. 2 probably wants you to call and complain, starting another of his interrogation games.  Well, it won’t do today.  You’re going to enjoy yourself indoors, and enjoy the comics page, whether they’re inane or not.

      Catching your eye is a three-panel strip about cartoon cavemen.  There’s a caption written under it.

      >READ CAPTION

      B.C.ing you.”

    • Anspaugh says:

      There is a The Prisoner text adventure game, I believe.

  2. HilariousNPC says:

    This was pretty slick. Really short, but, if this was a more fleshed out XBLA title, I’d give it a look.