The GU iOS Game of the Week: Spy Vs. Spy

The GU iOS Game of the Week: Spy Vs. Spy

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 27th Jul 2012

Spy vs. Spy

When the word was passed last month that a reboot of the classic game Spy Vs. Spy was coming to the iPhone and iPad this Summer, it generated a fair bit of excitement in the GU bullpen -- or at least it generated excitement from the staff who were old enough to (A) know what it was, and (B) actually experienced reading the original comics in Mad Magazine -- which made some of us feel very old indeed...

The news was passed by publisher DC Entertainment -- who announced the upcoming release, sharing the details that the new game was being developed by the studio Robots and Pencils in association with the game's original creators First Star Software -- explaining that Spy Vs. Spy is meant to bring back the "action, humor, challenges and fisticuffs" that made the first game such a success when it was originally released in 1984 on the Apple II, Atari 400/800 and Commodore 64. While it was eventually ported to versions for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Sega Master System, and Nintendo's Gameboy, among other platforms, it was the C=64 version that most of the old-school gamers here at GU remember best.

A Little Background

The game is faithfully based upon the Mad Magazine comics, Spy Vs. Spy, and sports split-screen espionage of the sort that usually involves one of its two players getting hurt -- and sometimes both of them! The primary objective is to gather items hidden throughout the rooms of the diplomatic embassy, with the ultimate prize being the briefcase full of secrets, with the player lucky enough to find that and lay enough traps to slow down their foe long enough for them to slip out of the embassy and make it to their idling G4 to fly the secrets back to their home base, well, you should easily get the idea that it offers the sort of classic strategic game play that conforms to the spirit and the intent of the original comics.

In addition to sidling up to the opposition and beating the tar out of them, gamers get to lay traps that range from the simple to the complex, transforming the various objects, containers, and doors into potentially dangerous search targets -- but of course it would not by Spy Vs. Spy if there was not an "out" -- and in this case players can defuse or disable the traps as long as they correctly guess which type has been laid without first setting it off of course!

The truly fascinating element to the game is the fact that getting kacked by one of the enemy traps -- or one of your own (it happens) sets you back to the start with your ill-gotten-gains temporarily lost to you and, naturally, forces you to retrace your previous steps through the embassy and, depending upon how deep you had progressed towards the exit, also forces you to try to remember exactly what traps you laid yourself, and precisely where you laid them, because as was mentioned above, you can get just as dead setting off one of your own traps as you can setting off one set by your enemy!

A look back at the classic Spy Vs. Spy conflict in this series of animated shorts that server as the inspiration for the games!

Some Expanded Spy Goodness

While the original game was admittedly a much simpler and shorter play compared to this new version -- it had only eight embassies whereas the new version has the original 8 plus 16 new ones -- gamers will be pleased to discover that both the graphics and the soundtrack have been given a slick 21st century redo (though the option to play with the original 8-bit visuals still exists). In addition to a newly minted view, look, and feel, the game has been recast with online and local multi-player modes, a GameCenter leaderboard and achievements scheme, and last but certainly not the least, the chance to once again show your enemy up at the most crafty of spycraft skills -- the art of the boobytrap!

A Little Hands-On Play

The game starts out a little on the slow side since the first five minutes or so are spent in the mandatory tutorial that in addition to teaching gamers how to use -- and defuse -- each of the trap types, also demonstrates why even in a video game the black-suited monkeys from TSA are to be avoided. Seriously!

The version that we played was, of course, for the iPad, and while we can imagine playing the game on out iPhone -- OK no we cannot -- this game was clearly best played on the larger screen of the iPad, especially for gamers who spend most of their time playing games on larger screen platforms, but in a pinch or on a plane or train we can see why having the option to play on that pocket-friendly wireless phone might be a good thing. Probably would not be too bad when playing multi-player online, we are just saying... But even on the iPad when it went into split-screen mode we found ourselves wishing for more real estate...

A quick play through the tutorial mode teaches you about how and when you get to retain the items you find -- and the every-valuable briefcase that allows you to carry all of the items you find in it rather than being forced to carry just one item at a time. The trap tutorial has you laying one of each type and then setting it off for a visual lesson on what happens when that particular trap is set off! Following each specific set-and-detonate lesson is a lesson on how to defuse that trap, so that by the time you emerge out of the opposite end of the tutorial you are an expert on Spy Tech!

On that note the transformation from deadly spy to dead spy angel complete with halo and wings never gets old, even when we caused the death ourselves, though we have to admit that it is a much better looking visual effect when it is modeled by the enemy...

The first notable factoid is that the modern take on the game with its slick buttery-smooth graphics that somehow make the black and white spies even crisper in their spy-like goodness clearly presents as a modern take on the classic -- when the game is switched over to the retro mode it initially provokes feelings of nostalgia but it also makes you appreciate the modern game design which is, as previously noted, buttery-smooth and addictive.

After more than a few plays on the Retro side and hours of play on the modern side, we found the game to be as fun today as it was when we first played it on our C=64 back in the day... With a solid two-thumbs up it should be obvious why this one made the cut as our GU iOS Game O'the Week!