Superman, Spiderman, Batman. Comic book legends and serious heroes that you can count on to save the day…. Well thanks to Mad magazine, they created a comic strip that has become legend for quite the opposite reason and its popularity is huge. The Spy vs. Spy concept is simple. For those not in the know, two spies, one white, the other black and they hate each other. Both are in the spying game to succeed and make the other fail at any cost. In the Mad comic strip, they have all sorts of contraptions to foil each other and when it looks like one spy has the upper hand the other spy has a counter that wins him the battle. Issue three of the Amstrad’s best selling magazine, Amstrad Action, gave this game a whopping overall 90%, so it’s got to be worth playing.
So now on your Amstrad CPC, it’s white spy against black spy with white being the good spy and black the baddie. At the start of the game, both spies are in an embassy building near an airfield. The mission is to escape the embassy building, with a briefcase and four items: a passport, traveling money, a key, and the secret plans. They then need to get to the airfield, board the getaway plane before the time bomb timer runs down. Sounds quite simple, but remember your enemy spy is out to thwart your efforts. There is only one way out of each embassy building. The exit door is marked with a plane picture. You can not leave without all of the required inventory. The airport guard will see to that!
The screen is split into two, one for the white spy and the other for the black spy. You can keep an eye on the other which is good as it’s important to know what the other spy is up to.
To find the briefcase and objects you must search each room, which involves looking behind each of the fixtures and fittings in a room. This means looking behind paintings, clothes racks, TVs, tables and so on and if an object is behind something then it will be added to your inventory. However, the hunt for these items isn’t easy as they could be anywhere. Your enemy spy is after the same objects and out to stop you getting your hands on them, so be careful, objects may have booby traps and in this case you die rather funnily.
The rooms that you are in are three dimensional. Moving around and through them is easy, you just have to move the joystick in the direction you want to go. If you come to a door, you just need to press fire to go through it and if you want to go up or down a ladder, just move the joystick up or down when you’re on it. The controls are very simple and work well. You can set traps for your opponent by using the “Trapulator” device, displayed on the side of the screen, which shows six icons, the first five of which are booby traps. The icons represent a bomb, a large spring, a bucket of water, a gun and string, a time-bomb with a 15 second fuse (the alarm clock icon) and a map, which shows object locations.
The traps must be set according to their type. The gun and string, for example, can only be tied to a door, while the spring or bomb can be left under any piece of furniture. All of the traps, except the time bomb, can be defused. A fire bucket will douse the fuse of a bomb while a pair of scissors will get you past the gun and string. These defusing items are located around the building, but they can also be moved around by picking them up and dropping them in a different location. One important point to remember when setting traps is remember where you put them!
Once a trap has been set, either spy has can set it off. A Time Bomb will go off in 15 seconds once selected. Any spy(s) in the room at the time of detonation will be zapped. Unlike other traps, the Time Bomb is not set off by the searching of the Spies. Listen carefully for them as they come in handy if you are being chased. The unfortunate spy will lose seven seconds of actual time. Also, 20 seconds will be deducted from his game time, for a total penalty of 27 gaming seconds. The other player will be awarded bonus points for each trap set off by the opposition. If the boobytrappee has been in possession of the briefcase, the other spy can use this time to attempt to locate the victim and grab the briefcase. To add insult to injury, when a player sets off a trap, he gets zapped while the other spy laughs hysterically.
As well as setting traps to blow each other up when the two spies are in the same room, it’s a fight to the death with old fashioned hand to hand combat sword fight. You are unable to search or use traps, in which case you can either enter hand-to-hand combat or leave. The advantage of hand-to-hand combat is that if you win, you will be able to recover your opponent’s inventory, but of course you might lose. This is where you must think strategically. If, for example, you had failed to find any objects, you could wait while the other spy does all the hard work and then ambush him.
The Amstrad CPC version of Spy vs. Spy is so cool. The graphics are simple lines with some colour for the rooms and items and it keeps to the originality of the Spy vs. Spy concept. The controls work well and there doesn’t seem to be any slowness in the game. The sprite movement is good and may slow a little when both spies are in the same room but it’s hardly detectable. There’s not a lot of sound, just some spot effects and some rattling when you’re in hand to hand combat mode.
As games go, this is not about stunning graphics, it’s about the gameplay. It’s about winning the battle and thwarting your opposing spy and getting the secrets out to your headquarters. Being able to do this is fun as you get to beat your enemy spy with six different booby trap methods giving it that true mad magazine cartoon strip feel.
You can set the game up to play against a friend in two player mode or against the computer. Either mode is just as fun. The IQ of the computer can also be set and there are options to change how many rooms to search. This will also determine the time on the clock you have to complete the mission. As you get better at playing this then the game becomes rather too predictable.
Staying Power: 87% (Lots to do, different levels of difficulty)
Grab Factor: 81% (Love those booby traps and sword fights)
Overall: 78% (Original and fun)