Spy vs Spy Hands-On Preview

The Spy Vs Spy comics, which debuted in Mad Magazine in the early 1960s, played on America’s fear of state-sponsored killers wearing hats and trenchcoats. The upcoming iOS game Spy vs Spy is based on the 1980s Spy vs Spy computer and console games, making it feel like a Cold War-era throwback as well.

In both the 1980s strategy game and this 2012 remake, you play as either the black or white spy as you search an embassy for five pieces of loot: a key, passport, bundle of cash, secret documents, and a briefcase to hold it all. Then, you have to escape the embassy before your opponent can steal it all back.

At the same time, the opposing spy will be in another room, setting traps or trying to find the same five items. Traps can include electrifying water buckets placed on top of doorways, explosives and guns hidden in dressers or behind paintings, and spring-loaded boxing gloves that pack a punch. Or, you can just walk into the same room as your opponent and beat them with a bat.

Spy vs Spy is essentially a real-time strategy game. You can watch your opponent’s moves unfold at the same time as yours, and if you pay attention, you’ll learn which rooms and items are booby-trapped. You can then seek out a defense– like an umbrella for the water bucket, or wire-clippers for the spring-loaded boxing glove– which will let you evade their traps.

This new version of Spy vs Spy has updated graphics, which are more in keeping with the style of the comics and animated shorts than the original games could manage. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can also toggle on “retro mode” for the old-school visual and audio style.

Another notable addition is online multiplayer. When the game launches this summer, you’ll be able to play locally through Bluetooth, or online via Game Center. Even if you can’t find online opponents, there is a 24-level campaign mode, and you can customize your own quick matches with adjustable AI difficulty.

We were hoping that this new Spy vs Spy game would offer a different style of gameplay– running around the embassy can feel repetitive and random, and the game is hampered by limitations, like how you can only hold one item at a time. You’ll probably have to know and enjoy the original game, or similar games like Chillingo’s Agents!, in order to get your money’s worth from this remake. Spy vs Spy will be available on the App Store later this summer.