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 IPHONE PREVIEW

Gamescom '11: Hands-on with Firemint's Spy Mouse for iOS

The spy that loved brie

Product: Spy Mouse | Developer: Firemint | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Genre: Adventure, Arcade, Casual
For: iPhone   Also on: Android, Windows Phone
 
Spy Mouse iPhone, thumbnail 1
We’re still not sure that Spy Mouse was a good name change for Firemint’s latest iOS title - it was originally unveiled as Agent Squeak before EA bought the company earlier in the year.

But, having played a few levels of the game at Gamescom 2011, we don't think the name will hold it back.

Australian developer Firemint has shown that it's comfortable at both ends of the pool, turning out the ultra-hardcore graphical powerhouse Real Racing 2 and the ultra-casual cartoon land-'em-up Flight Control with equal success. 

You only squeak twice

Spy Mouse paddles in the shallow end with the Flight Control. For example, the line-drawing controls that were so core to Firemint’s air traffic control-'em-up are alive and present in Spy Mouse, with you tracing out a path for your rodent to take rather than influencing his actions directly with a cumbersome D-pad.

Also present is the level of polish that Firemint has made its own in recent years. While the general concept sounds rather simple – guide your mouse through a level, picking up cheese, before reaching the exit – the excellent animations and fluid controls stand out immediately.

The levels themselves are nuanced in terms of challenge. An early level is easy to complete by bundling your way through it, but the three medals – earned by performing a certain action like completing the level without being seen – increase the difficulty dramatically.

Octapussy

As you might have guessed, you’re not alone in these mazy levels. Standing between you and cheesy gluttony are several hungry cats, ready to pounce on your poor mouse should they spot you running about in front of their patrol paths.

You can’t fight back physically – that would be silly. You’re a spy mouse, not a supermouse. Instead, each stage contains a variety of items or features that can help tip the balance back in your favour.

During my hands-on, for instance, I saw a TV set that can hypnotise moggies with its warm glow (as in real life) and a chilli that gives Spy Mouse an extra boost of speed (as in real life).

Meanwhile, coloured mouseholes act as teleporters to other sections of the level, while various other types of cat (including a fast, but incredibly stupid one that runs into walls if you turn sharply) keep you on your toes.

Casino Royale with cheese

It’s hard to see Spy Mouse not being another casual hit for the studio, even just from our short preview. The levels are vicious but fair, and the stylish execution will likely win over a lot of fans.

In a strange way, the gameplay reminded me quite strongly of Commandos – the old PC stealth title – in that it calls for clever use of the environment and items rather than just trying to fake your way through the carefully designed puzzles.

We’ll see if Firemint can keep up the cunning for the duration of the 78 levels when the game launches later in the year.
 

Reviewer photo
Will Wilson 19 August 2011
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