26/07/2011

SLY SPY (ARCADE)

Sly Spy: a videogame in which you search for Sylvester Stallone in pictures of various crowed locations. No, of course not: it's an action-packed espionage-em-up by Data East, released into the world's arcades in 1989. It's a game about a spy, so would you care to guess where Sly Spy takes most of its "inspiration" from?

It's James Bond, obviously. Sly is an American version of a British spy created by Japanese developers, so this should be interesting.
Sly gets the call that he's needed for a mission. And what is his mission? I'll be jiggered if I know, because instead of a plot Sly Spy just throws a few random pieces of information at you and then looks at your reproachfully as if to say "what? You want more? Figure it out yourself, tough guy".
In the attract mode, you see the President of the USA and his wife being menaced by some terrorist types.

Gunshots ring out, the screen turns red... and the incident is never mentioned again, because apparently the brutal murder of the leader of the free world isn't interesting enough to warrant a spinning newspaper headline, or even wry comment from Sly himself. Speaking of our hero, what's he doing while the President is being killed?

Why, he's jumping out of a plane! I'm sure this'll be the start of an exciting action sequence!

Well, sort of. Sly skydives his way down to Washington D.C., or whatever fictional analogue replaces it, all the while engaged in a slightly slow and clumsy gun battle with some falling terrorists. So much for innocent people not getting hurt; all those dead terrorists and spent casings have to land somewhere, Sly, and I hope you can handle a lifetime of guilt when you learn a child was killed after the bullet-riddled corpse of your enemy landed on their poor, vulnerable head.

After a while, Sly reaches a low enough altitude to deploy his 'chute. Naturally, it's a giant American flag. Because he's a spy, you see. A sly spy. What baffles me most is why Sly is wearing a tuxedo, besides the obvious reason. "Hey, Sly!" his handler shouted, "don't you want to put on, I dunno, a bulletproof vest? A helmet? One of these experimental stealth suits?" Sly turned, raised his eyebrow and said "not today - I need to be dressed to kill".

He hits the ground running, and the gameplay abruptly changes from falling downwards and shooting things to moving sideways and shooting things. This is the most common amongst Sly Spy's various gameplay styles, and it's the most simple. One button to jump, one button to shoot, and the whole thing is rather reminiscent of Namco's Rolling Thunder series.
Abraham Lincoln looks on pensively. Well, Abe would tend to get nervous around gunfire. As you can see, your enemies are a standard assortment of beret-wearing terrorists, their genocidal tendencies acting as further proof of the inherent evil of all beret-wearing people.

Sly interrogates a baddie at the end of the stage. He misses his opportunity for a Bond-style quip, perhaps something about how he just "dropped in" on their criminal organisation, but at least he gets the info he needs. By threatening a man with a gun, after a pitched battle in one of America's most famous landmarks. I'm beginning to suspect "Sly" is something of a misnomer.

Motorbikes and the spies that ride them next, as Sly burns rubber out of the city while shooting bad guys with the gun on front. As gadgets go, it's hardly up there with Bond's Aston Martin, is it? "Ah, Sly, it's Q here. This is your new bike. We were going to give it rocket boosters, oil slicks and a built-in Martini glass holder, but due to budget constraints we just taped a pistol to the front of an ordinary bike. Enjoy!"
Once you catch the black sedan and shoots the occupants, Sly's bike suddenly turns into a Ferrari and he arrives at the docks to see the valets arguing over who gets to park his car.

Sly shoots them dead. This was the first time I noticed that the enemies make an "uhh" noise when they're hit, so if you shoot a row of them in quick succession it makes an undulating "uhhUHHuhhuhh" noise that you really wouldn't want to hear coming out of your parent's bedroom, but is pretty amusing in these circumstances.
The gameplay in the on-foot sections is the most entertaining, even if it is fairly generic. Actually, genericness is my lasting impression of Sly Spy. Nothing stands out as either being good enough to raise a smile or bad enough to make me wish I wasn't playing, giving the game overall feeling of a bowl of Shredded Wheat; solid, dependable, maybe even occasionally pleasant, but nothing to get excited about.
And when Sly Spy isn't being average, it's stealing from the Bond franchise. For example, the boss of docks...

...is Jaws. Or rather, it's Jaws after he realised that being able to bite things really hard is a superpower of such limited usefulness that even Dazzler was laughing at him, so he had his arms cybernetically enhanced as well. Perhaps "enhanced" is a touch generous, because it seems more like he's simply wrapped them in metal.
Notice the billboard for Bad Dudes at the top of the screen. There are a few more Data East games in the background, like Chelnov and Karnov. A nice touch in this fight is that his Jaws/Arms hits you, he knocks your gun away and you have to beat him with a variety of kung-fu kicks instead. Whichever way you do it, Jaws/Arms isn't much of a challenge, and Sly can move on to the first underwater stage.

Given that Sly is based on James Bond, I'm going to assume that "harpoon" means "penis".

Another Bond reference is your ability to collect the "Golden Gun", awarded to you for collecting enough of a certain power-up. Unlike the original, this Golden Gun is a rifle that fires huge energy bolts, which is as close as Sly gets to having any gadgets.
Not much else to say here, except these sharks are either particularly well-trained or extremely fussy eaters because the villains can freely swim amongst them while Sly becomes so much chum. I usually hate swimming-based stages in videogames, but this one isn't as bad as it could have been, mostly because no attempt has been made to recreate the sensation of being underwater.

The boss is a man in a deep-sea diving suit, which comes with all the drawbacks that you would expect from trying to fight in a full-body suit made of three-inch-thick steel. In fact, all this chump can do is extend a claw at you, so if you position yourself correctly, you can fire away with impunity. After a while he summons a slightly larger shark, but it's really not much of a threat.

Next up, a visit to a warehouse. None of Bond's exotic locales for us, no balmy evenings on tropical beaches or nights amongst Monaco's high roller; nope, just grubby warehouses filled with colour-coordinated terrorists. Maybe this was Data East's attempt at subtly highlighting the dirty and dangerous nature of a real-life spy's work? Perhaps, but more likely it's the standard game design philosophy of "when in doubt, stick a warehouse in there".

Deep in the warehouse, there's a woman that needs rescuing. She hasn't been mentioned before and is no way connected to the plot, so I guess it's just her good fortune that a secret agent happened to wander through the base where she was being held hostage. Imagine if Sly hadn't shown up, she could have been there of a) days or b) until those tigers figured out how to get up there. Yes, the boss is a stream of tigers. Go ahead Sly, endanger their species some more!

Thanks, anonymous lady who has no bearing on the plot and is never seen again! Please collect your memorial Sly Spy collector's plate on your way out.

The next stage starts off in a cave but quickly becomes another warehouse: in its defence, at least this one has some kind of submarine, possibly an "advanced" one with "stealth tech" that can "hack the mainframe" or something.
The main purpose of this level is to reinforce the (surprisingly effective) tactics of the villains: just flood the room with as many troops as possible. Your bullets don't travel through enemies, so while this strategy may be a little harsh on the first meat-shields that make it to you, their comrades behind them will honour their sacrifice by killing Sly, possibly by crushing him under a mountain of dead bodies.

The boss is Oddjob in all but name, (because he doesn't have a name,) content to try and kill the gun-toting, highly-trained super spy by throwing a hat at him. Yeah, Sly Spy doesn't have the most difficult bosses. In fact, I'd go as far to as to say that Sly Spy has the easiest set of bosses of any arcade game I've ever played, so if you want a bit of arcade action but don't want to be dying constantly, this game might be a good bet.
Actually, with those red trousers and that jacket, Fraudjob here looks like he's dressed as Michael Jackson.

There's another brief swimming stage, and this time you can destroy the deep-sea diver once and for all. He's no tougher than last time, and he's soon condemned to death by drowning as his suit crumbles. My suggested Bond-style rejoinder? "He couldn't handle the pressure!" Although, I'm underwater so there's nobody to hear it, and even if they did it'd sound like "wbb wbbnnb hwnbbl wb bwebbw!"

Time for the final stage, and Sly reaches the nuclear bomb which apparently the terrorists are going to use for something. If you guessed that the final stage was simply a cheap way to pad out the game by making you fight all the bosses again, I'd say you were terribly cynical. Utterly correct, but cynical. Jaws, the tigers and Oddjob all return, and they're no more difficult than they were last time. Well, I tell a lie; the tigers were more difficult, but that's because I hadn't regained my gun after losing it in the second Jaws fight. I don't care how good an agent you are, engaging in a fistfight with a tiger is only going to end in pain, failure and a slightly fatter tiger.

Once you climbed the missile and re-defeated the bosses, your final foe awaits. It's a fat dude. Yep. I've never seen him before; presumably he's the leader of the Council for World Domination, but who knows? He could be the bloody janitor. His fiendish trap designed to finish you off is even worse than Magneto's in the NES Wolverine game - all it is is a forcefield and a descending spiked ceiling. Shoot the forcefield until it disappears, walk out, kill leader of global terrorist organisation. The end!

So, the President did survive his assassination attempt, unless the vice-President received a sudden promotion. Whoever it is, they appear to be having a stroke. As far as I'm aware, there's nothing extra to see in Sly Spy and his line about things I "missed" is simply a Total Carnage­ Pleasure Dome-style tease to get you to chuck more credits in. For shame, Data East, for shame. For his part, Sly celebrates his victory over international terrorism the only way he knows how...

...by getting a group of women to kiss his fully-clothed body on the White House lawn. Hey, he saved the world, it's his perogative.
That's Sly Spy, then. Worth playing? Well, it's sort of difficult to say. It's managed to land itself in a perfectly gray central zone, with nothing either bad enough to discourage you from playing it nor good enough to recommend it. Graphics are average, the music's average, and while the gimmick of having several gameplay styles seems like a good idea, they're all very similar. On the whole, give it a go if you're a big Bond fan - otherwise, stick to Rolling Thunder.

2 comments:

  1. ha, as a 007 this game looks awesome. Can't believe I never heard of it before. I wish they had put a Blofeld analogue in.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The one thing about this game I thought was memorable is how you're allowed to shoot the boss shark even after he dies to rip apart its corpse. Makes me wonder how many other games allow us to brutalize defeated bosses like that instead of just watching them explode.

    ReplyDelete

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