Your Sinclair1st September 1990
Published in Your Sinclair #57
Sly Spy: Secret Agent
Yes, I know what you're all thinking. Ocean have been rather quiet on the new games front lately, haven't they? Until just recently that is - last issue we saw the rather excellent Midnight Resistance, and this time round it's the turn of a whole trio of them. There's the mega-colourful and technically very impressive Shadow Warriors, the rather nifty (but a tad too late) Adidas Soccer thingie and then this one, the confusingly double-named Sly Spy Secret Agent. And would you believe it, despite it being an ex-YS Covergame, I really think it's the weakest of the three. (That's not to say it's bad though! Read on and I'll explain a bit further.)
Right. So (first up) what's Sly Spy all about? Well, it's a James Bond rip-off basically. There are oodles of (very short) levels, half of them being your Robocop-style walk-around-shooting-people type things (which provide the real meat of the game) while the rest are your more novelty stunt-type sequences, which add a lot of visual variety, give the game a very strong them, but (but! But!) aren't really all that demanding to play. For instance, we start off with a skydiving scene set over Washington DC (this James Bond is actually an American, you see). It's basically a vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up, though unusually it scrolls the wrong way (ie down the screen). You drop in from the top of the screen in free-fall, while baddies fall all around you - you have to shoot them, keep them from shooting you, and dodge all the new ones falling in from the top of the screen until your parachute opens and you land safely.
Phew! Managed that without losing too many lives, but oh no! What's this? It's a giant statue of Abraham Lincoln, stupid - this is Washington, you know - and those guys abseiling down from the ceiling have all come to duff you up.
One quick fight later and it's into the smooth-scrolling motorcycle chase. Loadsa baddies (mainly blokes on jet packs and other bikers), but the controls are very simple (just shoot and duck occasionally, with the odd wheelie to bring your guns to bear on the jet-packers) and the black sedan you're meant to keep an eye out for is incredibly easy to spot - it's the only car on the road! (And it's not even black!)
Ahem. Right, some more walking about (facing typical James Bond villains, like Oddjob and Jaws lookalikes) followed by the first of two underwater frogman bits. The graphics are all crystal-clear here (except for the bits where you go into underwater caves, when seeing the enemy divers - let alone their harpoons! - is a nightmare) and there are some nice visual touches (like the sharks which float to the surface belly-up when dead). Only trouble is there isn't really all that much to do. Both underwater levels have the same (disappointing) end-of-level nasties - a missile-firing deep-sea diver-type who you chase off-screen to be followed, by a rather more indestructible shark.
And so it goes, until we get to a big grand finale fight set in a missile silo, where all the baddies we've met on the previous land-based levels return to give you grief again. Duff them all up and you've won - the world has been made safe from international terrorism (or something).
There's a fair amount of variety, quite a lot to see, and everything has been very competently put together. But the game has a few problems (and they're mainly the fault of the original Data East coin-op). The most important is that there isn't really enough to do. Each level is fairly short, the controls are pretty limited, and the end-of-level baddies are on the disappointing side. There's no real colour in any of it either (something we may have become used to with many Speccy coin-op conversions, but Midnight Resistance and Shadow Warriors are both so bright that this looks pretty dull in comparison). It's not by any means a disaster then - it's actually quite a good game - but it's too chopped up and disjointed, and perhaps rather overkeen to grab the James Bond feel at the expense of playing like a real trooper. Perhaps the first real disappointment from Ocean in ages (but even then, it isn't exactly what you'd call 'bad').
Clever James Bond parody capturing much of the series' feel, but disappointingly disjointed.