Electron User


Spycat

Author: Chris Nixon
Publisher: Superior/Acornsoft
Machine: BBC/Electron

 
Published in Electron User 5.10

Spycat, Superior's latest release for the Electron, is based very loosely on the recent Peter Wright "Spy Catcher" fiasco. In it, you play the role of a shady character going by the name of Spycat. After loyally serving MI4-and-a-half for more than 50 years you hear that you are soon to be retired with only a mere pittance of a pension.

This has something to do with the ministry's cash shortages and the government's recent budget cuts. You feel humiliated and betrayed, and resolve to steal three important classified research documents before fleeing to Greenland to write your memoirs.

To give you an idea of the thread of humour which runs throughout this extremely well-written arcade adventure, you will at some point come across the following locations: Blackhall, 10 Drowning Street, the sewers, Heathrow Airport, Greenland and a location so secret that no one even knows where it is.

Spycat

During your endeavours you will come across some familiar faces - enlist their support if you can. But watch out for the technical wizard Q, and his many strange and dangerous creations.

Several objects are scattered about, and the purpose of some is rather dubious to say the least. Among the items to be found are a Sinclair Z88, a pound coin, some US secrets and a passport.

During the game you control a small, cloaked figure, which is presumably a car in a trenchcoat. It is animated quite smoothly and responds tightly to the control keys.

Spycat

The best bit of animation is when you leave the keyboard alone for a while. After a few moments, Spycat will flash at you, revealing a kinky penchant for polka-dot boxer shorts.

To use certain items, you must be standing on one of several platforms which are scattered at various useful locations. And that brings me to the worst feature of Spycat.

Every action in the game, apart from the movement of the main figure, is controlled from a small panel of icons at the top of the screen. Picking up, replacing and using objects, opening doors, turning the game sound on and off and more are all done by moving a pointer to highlight the relevant icon, followed by pressing RETURN.

This seems silly. In a different game with a different scenario it would be a perfectly acceptable way of controlling parts of the action. In Spycat however, with its already crowded Mode 5 screen, it quickly becomes tiresome and slows down the action.

This is a shame, as it's my only complaint in an otherwise excellent game. I can see the temptation to add more of a high-tech feel to a game of this type, but the programmer has succumbed to using positively unhelpful gimmickry.

All in all, though, Spycat is an excellent arcade adventure with a strong vein of humour underlying all the action - seeing Maggy at her desk in number 10 Drowning Street really tickled me.

If you can get used to the unwieldy icon system, this game is certainly worth the cash - it will puzzle and amuse you for days to come.

Chris Nixon

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