It’s not easy being the developer of a 2D platformer on the iPhone after the release of Castle of Magic and the Rolando series. The high water mark has been set, and no matter what you release, it’ll always be compared to those top-tier games. The only choice is to polish up your best ideas, pack them into your product, and see how the game stacks up. With Spy Bot Chronicles, developer IUGO packs in quite a bit, and the results are impressive.
Toy Bot, the intrepid hero of the Toy Bot Diaries series, has been kidnapped by Thief Bot. Your job in Spy Bot Chronicles is to take the title character, a shiny metallic sphere wrapped in a jacket and sunglasses, and navigate him through four colorful, robot-filled worlds, to root out and save the golden boy.
Instead of a full D-pad, you have left and right arrows, plus a jump button. This setup feels natural and is perfectly suited to the game. Spy Bot also has a tiny laser mounted on his head; tap the screen anywhere to shoot in that direction. Unfortunately, the laser is very weak and isn’t upgradeable. It takes several shots to kill even the least threatening of enemies.
Gears of War.
Each of the worlds is home to four regular stages, a hidden stage, and a final stage. The regular stages are sprawling lands full of tried-and-true platforming elements, often with multiple paths to the exit. Hidden stages are unlocked by finding secret exits as you run and hop along. Rather than boss fights, the final stages of each world are situations in which you must battle a string of enemies within an enclosed space. While these present more challenge than the average stage, we would have liked to see more bosses in the game. As it is, the only member of evil robot management is Thief Bot himself.
With unlimited lives and frequent checkpoints, there’s not a whole lot of challenge in the game until you reach the fourth and final world, at which point the difficulty revs up. It never becomes overly frustrating, but we would have liked a more steady increase from one world to the next.
The game’s engine seems to be lifted from the Toy Bot series, so you’ll see some curious physics, like Spy Bot being launched high into the air when jumping off a slowly rising platform. The quirks are easy to acclimate to, and don’t detract much from the game.
Spy Bot is so cool, he wears his shades inside.
We particularly liked that when you fall into a pit, you only lose one point of health and are transported back to the last solid ground you stood on. Because using an onscreen D-pad will never be as precise as an actual one, this lesser penalty for missing a jump seems much more fair. We hope other developers take note.
And what would a platformer be without loads of collectibles? You’ll find trinkets in each stage which, when snagged, are put on display for your viewing pleasure between levels. Each stage also has a slew of floating gears, like the coins in Mario or rings in Sonic. Gather all gears and collectibles in a stage, and your map rewards you with a “100%” marker on that level.
Overall, Spy Bot Chronicles has a high level of sheen. The music is great, the graphics sparkle, and new gameplay elements are sprinkled in at regular intervals. The game isn’t quite as creative as Castle of Magic or the Rolandos, but it offers a satisfying experience, and a cheaper one too.