Spy vs. Spy Xbox
Published by Global Star Software
Developed by Vicious Cycle
Release Date: Out Now
Spy vs. Spy, an introduction.
If you're a gamer in their thirties the chances are you remember, and indeed have fond memories of, Spy vs. Spy. For four decades the shenanigans of the white and black spy have appeared in MAD Magazine and although their creator, Antonio Prohias is no longer of this world, Spy vs. Spy continues to be highly popular. Spy vs. Spy first appeared on a gaming system back in the early 1980's with the game being developed by First Star Software. The first time I played the game was with the ZX Spectrum 48K version published by Beyond Software that appeared in 1985. Back then of course it was a 2D, side-on experience but here we see the game move into the 3D and with a few extra features too.
What's the game about?
The game offers a story mode, modern mode and a classic mode. As you would expect it's the same item collecting, trap setting and spy pulverising experience that the Spy vs. Spy series is famous for. The story mode allows you to play through a series of chapters, playing as White Spy, in an attempt to foil the evil machinations of Black Spy. Playing through this mode will enable you to unlock items for MOD-A-SPY mode as well as multiplayer levels. Modern mode allows you to sample the Spy vs. Spy experience with modern gadgets, power ups and weapons. You have to be the first to grab all four secret items and escape the level in order to win. You'll also notice that in this mode each spy has a hideout where they can buy weapons and replenish health for free. Classic mode, as the name suggests, allows you to play Spy vs. Spy in its original format with none of the new objects. Both the classic and modern modes can be played as single player or multiplayer games. On the multiplayer side of things there are four game types including the traditional Deathmatch and Last Man Standing modes.
What's good about the game?
The multiplayer aspect of the game is definitely where the game's appeal lies. Four-player battling can be had either on one Xbox, over System Link or on Xbox Live. Playing against human opposition is much better than playing against the AI, which does seem to be rather erratic in its behaviour at times. Pitting your wits against human opposition is much more satisfying although it's a shame that the online and System Link modes didn't allow for a greater number of players. It would have been fun to have 8 vs. 8 team based games and such like. On the subject of the AI you can modify how the AI behaves thanks to three behaviour adjusting slider bars. You can adjust the AI for its tendency to hunt players, hunt other AI and to set traps. This is a nice touch and makes a change from simply choosing one of three difficulty levels as you can tailor the AI to suit yourself. There is also a MOD-A-SPY section where you can change the look of your spy. This doesn’t make any difference to how the game plays but I suppose some will appreciate it.
What's not so good about the game?
Suffice to say the single-player game is weak, very weak and the chances are you'll grow tired of it far sooner than you anticipated. The story mode never really got going in my opinion and if it had been left out completely I don't think the game would have suffered for it. The modern and classic modes, whilst better than the story mode, will only hold your attention for a certain amount of time. The low asking price of £19.99 compensates for this lack of replay value to a certain degree but even so the chances are that it's not going to be a game that you'll want to play that often.
How does it look?
Obviously there's a bit of difference between this Xbox version and those early versions of Spy vs. Spy. Here we have a modern looking 3D affair that not only looks but feels different from those simplistic 2D games of yesteryear. The graphics are OK but are hardly an example of what's possible on the Xbox console. Personally I would have preferred it that the game had remained 2D. I appreciate that there seems a desire to make everything 3D nowadays but it would have been possible to have kept the game in 2D and still have given it that modern visual charm. A quick look at games like Paper Mario proves this point. Still what's here is not bad at all and the 3D doesn't really cause any problems.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Spy vs. Spy won't cause deaf gamers any problems. The spies only cackle and snigger to themselves so subtitles aren't really necessary (although captions would have been nice). All tutorial messages are shown in text and you can access your journal, current mission objectives and closed mission details at any time during the game. Should you attempt to open an item for which a key is needed you'll be notified in text of this. You'll also receive text notifications when other spies have been killed and such like. The game manual consists of just over 20 pages but contains all you really need to know about the game and lists all the weapon, power ups, safe and explosive types etc.
Your opinion of Spy vs. Spy will really depend on how you plan to play the game. If you aren't going to be playing against human opposition then it will a tedious experience very quickly and in all honesty probably should be avoided unless you're a Spy vs. Spy enthusiast. As a multiplayer experience it's a decent game that can offer a change of pace from the other Xbox Live and System Link games out there. I suspect most gamers will want a decent single-player experience though and it's here that the game is at its weakest and, ultimately, fails to cut the mustard.
Overall Game Rating: 6.0/10
Deaf Gamers Classification
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It's rather tricky to rate Spy vs. Spy. As a multiplayer game it's worth a 7 but as a single player game it would struggle to earn a five. Our rating is an average of these two scores but we have to say it's probably not worth it for the single player alone.