Spy vs Spy Review

By , on July 26, 2012

Spy vs Spy
Download on the AppStore
3 out of 5


  • Multiplayer mode brings back a flood of happy memories; being devious isn't encouraged, it's necessary.
  • Free upgrade to 'Retina' graphics for iPad 3 users; nominal change, but still worthwhile.


  • Larger areas don't really make for better maps; stretches out the gameplay time without adding depth to make up for it.
  • Switching from half to full screen for fights can be disorienting and awkward to control, especially on the iPad.


Spy vs Spy is a tidy package of nostalgia that will help you to relive the classic moments of your gaming past - and you'll need these memories to soften the blow of the otherwise limited gameplay.

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Spy vs Spy is the kind of retro game that was always bound to have a sequel on the iOS platform in one form or another. First Star Software's 1984 classic formula has already been aped on the App Store, but thanks to Robots and Pencils, the original game in all its glory (as well as all new levels) are now available for the iPhone and iPad alike.

You, as well as your rival spy, have entered an embassy and your goal is to escape with all of the items in the level, hindering or temporarily killing your opponent while you're at it. Each level is split in to a series of rooms that can connect to each of the the four walls. Objects generally litter each room, with either traps; the items you're looking for; and in a modern 'twist', hidden stars, can also be found.

Spy vs Spy places a strong emphasis on your ability to create mental maps as you navigate its labyrinthine layouts. A map can be used to identify where you are and where the items you require are hidden, but your score is penalized each time you do so. So, your best bet is to sprint through each room, checking each object, laying a trap if you think to remember it, and continuing on.

This makes for a genuinely interesting dynamic as you attempt to outplay your opponent - collecting the various objects and hiding them until you can collect the all-powerful 'briefcase'; the last object required to hold everything before you exit. While the AI does an admirable job of laying traps and generally being a nuisance, it's the multiplayer mode that makes the game a true treasure - should you actually manage to win a game then you're not laying enough traps; it's a troll-gamer's dream come true.

However this does bring a rather painful point in to focus - the gameplay is not only dated, but the controls have also only gone through a cursory transition (swipe to move, tap to select). This could almost be forgiven as it's a thirty-year-old title, but the game also includes a 'classic' mode, so it begs the question of why the game hasn't been better updated for modern audiences.

Spy vs Spy attempts to pander to 'retro' gamers in their late 20s and onward who can remember the sheer frustration, and also elation, that comes from playing a game that gleefully rewards backstabbing. As gorgeously rendered as the update may be, without those rose-tinted glasses the game becomes a briefly entertaining, but shallow reminder of the limitations of the past.


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