Sly Spy (Arcade) review
"There is a glee about Sly Spy, a maniacal urge to so blatantly steal and simultaneously disrespect the source material it pays cynical homage to, the wonderful 007 canon, that makes it a grotesque spectacle, somehow both irritating and intriguing at the same time. Iíve always appreciated poorly made side-scrolling action games that are in obvious replication of the James Bond saga (Iím one of six living fans of the campy and tedious Rolling Thunder), and I couldnít help but ..."
There is a glee about Sly Spy, a maniacal urge to so blatantly steal and simultaneously disrespect the source material it pays cynical homage to, the wonderful 007 canon, that makes it a grotesque spectacle, somehow both irritating and intriguing at the same time. Iíve always appreciated poorly made side-scrolling action games that are in obvious replication of the James Bond saga (Iím one of six living fans of the campy and tedious Rolling Thunder), and I couldnít help but see Sly Spyís protagonist through to the end of the adventure, but it is abundantly clear that a halfway decent espionage-themed 2D action game simply isnít in the cards. James Bond: The Duel, the 007 licensed version of this game, was probably more tolerable, but the appeal of sticking this one out is seeing how much Data East permitted themselves to borrow.
The poster/actual arcade cabinet for Sly Spy displays a collage of action scenes and reads across the bottom:
MANY LAUGH IN THE FACE OF DANGER BUT QUAKE IN THE SHADOW OF SLY SPY SECRET AGENT
I doubt Sly Spy will be immortalized with a theme by Duran Duran, but thereís no way to resist playing after seeing something like that.
Before this unnamed heroís (weíll call him Jim Borne) quest to prevent perhaps too-frankly named Council for World Dominationís attempt at, uh, world domination,, players are given the opportunity to assign their likeness a THREE DIGIT AGENT NUMBER. I couldnít possibly guess what this is in reference to, but I went with 129.
So, letís get going with JIM BORNE, AGENT 129: LICENSE TO KILL!
The first twenty seconds of SS offer some surprising theatrics Ė Jim Borne jumps out of a plane and is in a dead fall as generic henchmen accompany him downward. Youíll plug fifteen or so with your small black handgun (not a Walther, Iím sure) before your parachute is deployed, and youíll notice something else, too: when an enemy gets even slightly close to Borne, he twitches into a motionless horrified state; the mere touch of a CWD operative leaves him stunned and open to attack. This is going to be quite a crippling problem, the gameís worst, given the fact that the characterís large sprites take up a good portion of the screen, and itís possible to be bombarded by twelve charging enemies at a time.
A red, white and blue parachute opens as Jim Borne lands atÖ.The Lincoln Memorial in Washington. As heís being assailed by twenty standard henchmen, a couple rotund Iraqis throwing barrels, others casting down ropes from the roof and sliding down, one wonders exactly why the U.S. capital, being infiltrated by a small army, is relying on a chirpy British guy in a formal wear while the Bad Dudes are pumping iron in their daily routines.
Weíll get the fatal flaws of the adventure out of the way early, because they reveal themselves early and persist throughout.
a.) As mentioned, coming into contact with an enemy results in Borneís sudden and temporary comatose state, freezing him while simultaneously hurting him.
b.) Borne possess zero proficiency in hand to hand abilities while heís in possession of a firearm. You have a limited number of bullets, but not limited enough that youíll ever involuntarily run out and resort to Borneís hand to hand skills. He possesses no defense for close-range attacks.
c.) When enemies (henchmen, countless dogs and tigers) lunge at you in packs, close up, they cannot be shot. They must be at some distance to be struck by your bullet.
These facts taken in combination, given the ridiculous number of enemies attacking at any one time, make completion of the adventure nearly impossible.
There, thatís out of the way.
Surprisingly, itís the boss encounters that prove to be the absolute easiest, probably because there arenít twenty different attackers who refuse to acknowledge your bullets. Following a motorcycle highway ride where enemy bikers surround you and jetpackers drop hand grenades from above, youíll face a solitary black sedan, where
1) a goon sticks his head out to be shot;
2) a second goon sticks his head out to be shot;
3) a mohawked goon shoots two rockets at you and then waits to be shot;
4) and the sedan explodes.
Other faceoffs include the high ranking enemy PECULIAR CHORE, the painfully underwhelming apprentice of 007ís formidable Odd Job, whose bowler-toss isnít nearly as deadly as the Bond villainís. Youíll meet this goofball twice in your travels.
Perhaps youíll enjoy more your pair of confrontations with ARMS, the equally proportioned yet less intimidating younger brother of Bondís Jaws. His metallic limbs would, youíd think, pose some threat, but even when Borne uses mere punches and jumpkicks, he is easily the victor.
Sly Spy loves serving up its disappointments in pairs, and two clunky underwater outings that I wish reflected Thunderball more than they actually do are the most painful sequences. Spearing sharks and enemies is okay for a short break from slaying entire packs of tigers I have to shoot, but giving me two levels of them is a little much. Tack on a boss character, DEEP SEA DIVER, who takes two bullets and then summons his BRAIN CONTROLLED SUPER SHARK to finish Borne off, and Iíd rather be watching a crusty Sean Connery play that giant world domination video game that shocks his hands in Never Say Never Again.
But, as much as I complain, I am equally aware that I enjoyed playing Sly Spy and reflecting upon it Ė not because it was in any measure good or respectful of the source material it crudely recreates, but because it does attempt to recreate it. The background themes, all subdued wanna-be Bond orchestrations, the attention given to some of the less fortunate members of Bond enemyís families, a meeting with the president of the United States as only Data East would imagine itÖ
Itís all in dayís work for Agent 129, Jim Borne.
Community review by dogma (September 10, 2006)
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