Spy vs. Spy

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Genre: Arcade

Publisher: Kemco

Total time played: 30 minutes

Short review: A short pointless game that is so unintuitive I had to read the manual to be able to play.


Interesting links related to Spy vs. Spy


 

My First Time

I have a vague memory of not being able to find a game I wanted at the local neighborhood video store one Friday evening. My dad had driven there me and was getting annoyed at my indecisiveness. He is not a gamer and never really understood the appeal of the NES. But, he loved MAD Magazine and convinced me to rent Spy vs Spy that night. I’m sure there was a bit of curiosity, but mainly he was just sick of me taking up his Friday night being indecisive at the video store.

We also got a MAD Magazine so I could be exposed to Spy vs Spy. However, all I remember about that magazine was the back cover that you could fold to create a new image. That was the only thing that ever made me want to buy MAD Magazine. Eventually they started sealing the magazines in plastic because so many people were just folding the back cover to see the hidden image and then putting it back on the shelf, or, maybe I was the only one who did that.

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This kind of art was what impressed 8 year old me

My brother and I took turns playing Spy vs Spy against the computer and against each other and never understood what the point of the game was. This was pre-internet and the store we rented from didn’t provide the instruction manual. Unfortunately the game wasn’t fun enough to spend much time learning the mechanics.

How to Play

Thank goodness for the internet. I now officially understand how to play Spy vs Spy and it is a completely original game unlike anything else on the NES. But, that doesn’t mean it is fun or even worth playing.

Title Screen

Select your difficulty between training (level 0) and level 8 (hard). Select whether you are playing against the computer or against a second player and hit start.

Objective

The objective is to search the building you are in for 4 items: a plane ticket, a key, a bag of money and a passport. Put these items in a suitcase and exit through the door with a silhouette of a plane on it before your opponent does and before time runs out.

The Traps

Each player can cycle through traps with the B button and set a trap behind a bookcase, a tv, another book case, a photo on the wall, above a door, etc. If you set a trap and you or your opponent searches the item with the trap you die. But, only a few seconds later you will re-spawn and can continue searching.

All traps have a remedy that can disarm the trap. The only one that was obvious to me was the umbrella which would keep water from falling on your head when you open a booby trapped door.

Since it takes a few seconds to set a trap I found it to be pointless as it only slows down your opponent for a few seconds. So, the time saved by killing your opponent is wasted in setting the trap.

Fighting

Every once in a while you will find yourself in the same room as your opponent. You can either run or fight. I would always run unless I happened to be holding a weapon. If I had a weapon I would quickly kill my opponent and keep searching for items. There is no point to fighting, it just breaks up the monotony of the hide and seek game you are playing.

How to Beat the Game 

It doesn’t matter if you beat the game on the training difficulty or on level 8, you see the same ending. It isn’t a traditional game where you beat level 1 and then go to level 2. Once you beat a level you beat the game. But, after learning the ins and outs playing the first 3 levels (training, 1 and 2) I was getting bored so just ramped up the difficulty to level 8. I figured if I could beat the hardest difficulty that was good enough.

The only difference in difficulty is the size of the building you are searching  and the number of booby traps that appear to be set by default in the level.

Tips and Tricks

  1. As mentioned earlier, I found setting traps to be a total waste of time. So, just start searching.
  2. The map screen is your friend. It is just a bunch of squares. You are the white square and your opponent is the black square. Yellow squares symbolize traps and blue squares symbolize items you need to collect.
  3. I can’t be totally sure because I didn’t play that many times, but it seems that all the items are initially located in the same spot each time you play. Find where the suitcase is and go there first. Trial and error is your friend until you know where the suitcase is. Once you have that just run to the other blue square rooms, collect the items and find the exit.

Complaints

  1. To view the map you have to hit the B button 5 times. This cycles through all of your traps and the item you are holding. If you are holding the suitcase (or any item) and cycle through your traps to view the map you lose the suitcase and have to search an item in the room you are in to get it back.
  2. If you are holding an item and search for another you place that item in the thing you are searching.
  3. While it is realistic that a booby trap doesn’t play favorites I don’t like it that you can be killed by your own traps. The game should give you a warning at least that you set a trap behind that item before searching.
  4. If you find yourself in the same room as your opponent both characters appear on the bottom half of the split screen. If you kill the opponent the screen flashes and your character appears back in the top half of the screen. It is pretty jarring and every time I found myself confused for a second.
  5. If you opponent cycles through their items and views the map the entire screen flashes, again, it is fairly jarring if you are focused on what you are doing and it happens quite often.
  6. The split screen is unnecessary unless you are playing 2 player mode. I never once found looking at the bottom half of the screen useful.
  7. All the rooms look alike making it hard to know where you have been without viewing the map which breaks up the game’s pace quite a bit.

Graphics and Sound

Highly unmemorable. Some of the rooms really mess with your eyes.

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Thin stripes are a no-no on TV and in games. Not good on the old peepers.

Final Thoughts

Once I figured out what I was doing I almost saw the appeal of this game. If all of my gripes above were addressed I could have even seen where the game might be enjoyable. But, when I play games I typically like there to be a beginning and an end. I was never a fan of 2 player games where the goal is to just beat your friend. I was more of a co-op game where you and your friend work together towards a goal. There isn’t much replay in this game, but, I gave it a little love just for being unlike any other game on the system. A for originality, D+ for fun.

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