Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
It ain’t easy going undercover when you’ve a nose the size of Concorde. But that’s the lot of Heckle and Jackle, Mad magazine’s espionage rivals, in the comic-strip world of Spy vs Spy. H and J are in an embassy trying to get their grubbies on a bag, passport, cash, a key and some confidential documents. The kit's stashed away in secret hiding places and you’ve got to ransack the place, grab the goodies and high-tail it to the airport, ASAP.
Comic caper city is the result, as the two beak heads race around a maze of rooms, searching like crazy and trying to delay each other in the process. True to Mad form, the two set traps and come to blows in a scramble that has your eyes watching two screens at once while your fingers are firmly crossed, hoping the next thing you touch isn't booby trapped. It's like one of those Vietnam movies, with all the trip wires and unpleasant surprises.
The split-screen 3D rooms of the embassy won't win any awards for interior design, but what do you expect from two guys whose idea of fashion is monochrome trenchcoats and Trilbys? Every room is filled with furniture into which your spy can stick his proboscis to find goodies and traps. Cloak and dagger it ain’t - just meddle and pray, as you scrabble to find the stash.
(Image caption) Whitey's found a nice handbag - and it matches his coat, too!
Both H and J have a ’Trapulater' which allows them to leave the kind of surprise lying around that makes a spy’s life so much fun (and life insurance so expensive). Guide an arrow over an icon to set time bombs, electrocute doors and place zillions of other traps (well, six) to kill anyone not 'expecting the unexpected'. These then slow your opponent down by killing him, which is as good a way of slowing someone down as you'll find!
Death for a spy ain’t the terminal experience it seems for us folks with normal size snifters. A shocking episode with an electric bucket, for example, simply has your hero fluttering heavenward to join that great spy ring in the sky. The reincarnated snooper then restarts the game but with a loss of time.
A spy with the suss can find objects to diffuse traps, like scissors, pliers, brollies, etc, and if you fail to out-trap the other spy-guy then you can always resort to violence and beat him up in a beak-to-beak bout of button pressing, punching his lights out and nose in!
The trouble with this spying lark is that you’re never safe: it's not so much the finding of the loot that's important, but hanging on to them long enough to get to the airport. If your adversary jumps you on your way to the plane and wins the ensuing scrap, he nicks all your stuff. Unsporting, but effective!
There are a variety of options, all fiendishly designed to make your career as the anteating answer to James Bond as exciting and short as possible. You can hide the airport location until one spy has got the five essential objects, and vary the number of rounds and rooms.
Solo spies can opt to play the Sega, but watch out - it's one mean spy and has found it's niche in life if it ever decides to give up being a games console!
The innovative split screen format demands a small playing area, and thus small spies and smaller gadgets. As such it's often tricky to see what you've found while rummaging through other people’s drawers (oo-er missus, etc), and to tell just what’s going on.
(Image caption) H and J resort to personal violence to resolve their differences!
Spy vs Spy takes some getting used to - the trapulater controls are occasionally fiddly - but it's a classic two-player game, guaranteed to cause rifts between family and friends. Up-against-the-clock gameplay with surprises around each corner makes for panic and paranoia; enough to get the grey cells and sweat glands working overtime!
Playing the Sega is a laugh, but you have to be dead good or you’ll just be plain dead!
▲ It's real neat the way the spy laughs and walks!
▼ Interior decor is on the gaudy side with some 'orrible colour schemes
▼ Small playing area means titchy spies and a strain on the eyes
▲ Nice crunching kick sound and rat-a-tat machine gun effect
▼ Boppy jingles all the way, but little variety and not much to get your ears round
▼ Coarse spot effects rely on shrill whistles and beeps
▲ So many traps, so many rooms -this is deviousville central!
▲ Maze layouts for the later rounds get very, very big!
▲ Plenty of game-altering options for some variety
▲ The chance to electrocute a friend in a two-player game is priceless
▲ Split screen fun makes for simultaneous panic
▼ Rather tiresome for the solo spy: play the Sega and lose - repeatedly
▼ Once sussed, the action heads toward monotonous fairly quickly
Unusual gameplay which is reasonably good fun for two head-hunting enemies, but not terribly entertaining for the solo spy.
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