XBOX REVIEW: SPY VS PSY

Spies are killing each other with zany contraptions and wicked weapons. Even though I find myself caught in the middle I shrug and say, "What, me worry?"

I grew up on Mad magazine. It's what made me the freak that I am today. One of the highlights of the magazine was a feature called Spy vs. Spy. It was a highly stylized black and white cartoon that starred a pair of spies that looked identical to each other with the exception of the color of their wardrobe - one was white and other was black. The strip was created by a Cuban refugee, Antonio Prohias, who escaped to America in 1960. The first version of Spy vs. Spy was published in Mad magazine in 1961 and was an instant success.

Many liberties have been taken with the strip's original design to create this videogame. Color being the most obvious break from tradition. I'm not sure how a black and white videogame would be accepted by the mainstream market but I'm sure fans of the strip would have appreciated it. I guess I'm something of a purist in that respect. I don't think that one videogame is so important as to basically disregard an artist's life work. I think the developers should have paid a tribute to Prohias instead of kowtowing to the unwashed masses.

Played in the third-person, Spy vs. Spy employs the deathmatch formula. The object of the game is to collect a number of gadgets from various safes located all over the map and get out of the level without getting killed or losing an item. If you get killed you automatically lose an item which you'll have to recover from the spy that took it. There are other threats in the level that you have to watch out for. Most of them are labyrinths filled with booby traps and other enemy bots that will take a swing at you. There are some platforming and puzzle elements in the game which can help you get out of tight situations but you have to be careful when platforming since a fall can be a serious drain on your health.

You begin with a few simple weapons such as a slingshot and a club, eventually graduating to machineguns, flamethrowers and heat seeking missiles. By acquiring Bux from killing bots, you can purchase new weapons, gadgets and some really inventive booby traps such as electrified doorknobs and other Rube Goldberg inspired machines that are the hallmark of the original Spy vs. Spy strip. Some of these traps are really elaborate but you all you have to do is get the spy to take the bait and rest will take care of itself. You can also purchase a form of insurance which will counter these traps if you find that you're not too bright when it comes to assessing a situation.

A lock-on system will target the enemy making weapons easy to use. All you have to do is cycle through your weapon inventory, arm yourself with the best one for the job, set your lock-on to the desired target and fire away. The controls are easy to learn and just about any level of gamer will be able to get into the game in a few scant seconds. But that doesn't mean the game is easy from start to finish.

Once you complete the single player mode there are several other modes to keep you busy including online modes such as Deathmatch, Armed and Loaded, Get Mad, Last Man Standing and Run and Gun. Up to four players can take part with the addition of a blue and red spy. Each player begins at their hideout where they can purchase weapons and recharge their health. These hideouts are also safe havens where you can hide when things get too heated.

Aside from weapons you can purchase, or unlock, disguises which can fool the other idiots and protect you from their attacks. Disguises such as a Samurai, clown, carnival barker and mechanic will work in conjunction with themed levels and booby traps.

Graphically the game looks more like a newer Warner Bros. cartoon than the original Spy vs. Spy. The animation is smooth and the various backdrops look nice but they're not very interactive. The cartoon violence is also reminiscent of Warner Bros. - not that it's a bad thing to be compared to a classic cartoon but it just seems like we've seen versions of all these gags already. The music is good and the sound effects are pure cartoon.

Spy vs. Spy is worth the price of admission. At under $20 there's not much to complain about. It's inventive, funny, engaging and somewhat original although I think the developers should have stayed true to Prohias' vision.

Preview by Vaughn

What me worry? If you're unfamiliar with one of the 70's most famous sayings, then chances are you won't know what a "spy vs spy" is either. Alfred E. Newman, the gaptoothed, redhaired freckle faced mascot of Mad Magazine was the impetus for the saying, while Spy vs Spy was one of the magazines regular features. Of course some of you might recognize the worlds most famous black and white spies from Mad's own Mad TV on Fox.

While this isn't the first game based on the two intrepid counter intelligence agents, you might be wondering why this new one exists at all. Sure it might be very easy for the unitiated to dismiss the entire concept however from what we've seen of Spy vs Spy, there is much more than meets the spy...er...um....eye.

First and foremost the game has a visual style all its own and stays 100% true to the Mad magazine presentation while secondly the gameplay is completely dedicated to online multiplayer which is definitely a nice twist. Up to 4 players can play at one time (white, black, red and blue spies) and even though there will be deathmatching aplenty, each level has its own ultimate objective. Weaponry and booby traps have always been a mainstay of Spy vs Spy and players will be able to upgrade and purchase implements of destruction by spending the "bux" they earn from killing opponents. Set booby traps around the maps and/or buy a rocket launcher and lay waste to the competition. Not only will players have to contend with booby traps and flamethrowers from other equally sneaky spies, but there are numerous environmental hazards waiting to take you out if you aren't paying close attention to your surroundings.

Spy vs Spy will be available as a budget priced title in early April. Keep your eyes peeled and for once, we really, really meant that.

Features:

  • 3rd person multiplayer action game with platform gaming elements
  • Wacky weapons aren't all that makes up your Arsenal. Outlandish traps and hazards abound.
  • Broadband networked and split screen multiplayer options allow players to outwit three of your best friends...or worst enemies
  • Unlock features such as disguises, levels, weapons, and items.
  • Fast paced, fun and funny
  • Spy vs. Spy game concept art is hidden away in Story Mode throughout the games uniquely absurd levels
  • In Mod-A-Spy Mode, go deep undercover donning the unlockable disguises and fooling your foolish opponents
  • Eight Game Modes including: Modern, Classic, Story and 5 multiplayer modes such as Death Match, Armed and Loaded, Get Mad, Last Man Standing and Run and Gun.
  • Badger your opponents online using the optional Xbox Headset
  • Groovy Soundtrack by Combustible Edison.
Click For Media
System: XBOX
Dev: Vicious Cycle
Pub: Global Star
Released: April 2005
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.0
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
4.0