Spy Bot Chronicles Hands-On

What hath Toy Bot wrought?! The popular series of iPhone platformers officially wrapped with the release of Toy Bot 3 last year, but we had a feeling we hadn’t heard the last of him… and we were right. Kind of.

Last week, we sat down with developer IUGO at the Casual Connect conference in Seattle to take a look at Spy Bot Chronicles, an upcoming Toy Bot spin-off that’s looking very promising in its unfinished state.

Spy Bot don’t take no jive.

Technically, Toy Bot does make an appearance in Spy Bot Chronicles, but only as a kidnapping victim. The real hero is Spy Bot, a peripheral character who ducked into Toy Bot 3 for a few screens’ worth of gameplay.

He’ll play Toy Bot’s rescuer in this game, which is set in the Toy Bot universe, but is really a completely different animal than the other games. Where the Toy Bot series focused on methodical use of a grappling arm to traverse puzzle-like levels, Spy Bot Chronicles is much more of a traditional platformer.

The touch-and-tilt controls have been switched out for touch buttons, allowing the agile Spy Bot to run and jump his way through the game’s stages like a robotic Sonic or Mario. He even picks up bonus gears that seem lightly based on Sonic’s chaos rings, although they’re not related to Spy Bot’s health–he can absorb three hits before dying, no gears required.

Spy Bot’s got some heavy hardware, too. After picking up an item early in the game, you can fire laser blasts from a little radio dish on his head by tapping around the screen. The laser’s good for stunning enemies (or frying them outright). It’s also used to interact with the environment, by severing cables or blasting blocks, for instance. Spy Bot has a similar physics engine to Toy Bot, so there are plenty of environmental puzzles that involve piling up boulders and the like.

Gearing up for a late summer release.

Spy Bot Chronicles has gotten a complete graphics overhaul from the Toy Bot days. That game engine was starting to show its age all the way back in January, but Spy Bot really looks state-of-the-art.

Everything is drawn with a much higher level of fidelity and detail, and it looks like there’s some anti-aliasing in place now, too. The backgrounds, whether you’re playing in a foundry setting or in a cave, are complex, multilayered, and rich with color. As one might expect, Spy Bot is silent where Toy Bot is cute and squeaky, but he does strike some funny poses at the end of a level.

According to IUGO, Spy Bot Chronicles will be out later this summer at a midrange price point (probably $3-4). Assuming the game shakes out well, this should be a good value, because it will reportedly have as much content as the three Toy Bot games combined. We’ll be back with a full review when it’s time, so stay tuned.