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Hands on with Spy vs. Spy for iOS

Keep on spying

Summary Preview Review Screens Videos Articles Tips  
Product: Spy vs Spy | Developer: Robots and Pencils | Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment | Genre: Retro, Strategy | Networking: wireless (adhoc), Bluetooth
For:   Also on: iPhoneiPad
Spy vs Spy iPhone, thumbnail 1
Spy vs. Spy is a bit of a classic for anyone brought up on the 8-bit home computers of the past.

Based on the Mad Magazine comic strip, the game pits a white and black secret agent (with a passing resemblance to a Womble) against each other in a race to find and claim a selection of items before then escaping on a waiting plane.

For retroheads, this new iOS version looks set to bring back some warm and fuzzy memories, as - while it may sport upgraded graphics and new touch controls - it's effectively the same game you remember bashing away at on your C64 or ZX Spectrum.

Spy harder

The game is played in split screen no matter if you're playing alone, against the AI, or with another human opponent, and each map is spread out across a series of rooms.

These rooms usually contain one or more features - a painting or a set of drawers - that you can scour for the precious cargo.

Being spies, and slightly naughty ones at that, you're not limited to just poking around in furniture. Each player has a selection of nasty traps up their sleeves, which you can use to disable your opponent for a limited amount of time and force him to drop anything he's carrying.

These traps range from the odd gun-on-a-string, which you can set up to fire at people opening a closed door, right through to the classic bomb, which should give anyone poking around the wrong item some food for thought (read: 'a swift and painful death').

As each spy can only hold one of the four required items at once unless they also carry the briefcase, plotting how best to minimise your losses while also making sure to give yourself a good chance at getting to the exit is the main thrust of the game.

Spy break

This iOS remake comes with both a Modern and Classic graphics mode, so those who don't like the (more accurate) depiction of the spies can go back in time to when visuals were drawn pixel-by-pixel.

There's also the ability to change the rules of the game, with the Campaign mode playing around with hiding the exit until all items are found, as well as the size of the maps themselves. Needless to say, the larger buildings offer up a lot more opportunities for skullduggery.

The touch controls on the early build I played still need a little bit of work - the game can sometimes get confused when you want to open an object - but they generally work well, with movement handled by sliding your finger over the screen and interaction handled by tapping.

Fighting the other spy in hand-to-hand combat, meanwhile, takes the form of a series of thought bubbles at the top of the screen, each representing a different move.

In practice, as with the original, you'll just end up mindlessly hammering away at them hoping for the other spy to drop first (direct combat was never SvS's strong point).

The original's strong point of trap-based gallavanting, however, is alive and well. It should be interesting to see if the old veteran can wow a new generation with its tricks when Spy vs. Spy launches on iOS later this summer.

You can watch me smash the AI in the video below (I'm the white spy). If you skip to 5:20, you'll also get a glimpse of the game running in 'retro' mode.

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Reviewer photo
Will Wilson 24 July 2012
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