It may sound hyperbolic, but Spy Mouse is almost the ideal iPhone game. It’s casual-friendly but challenging enough for core gamers. The gameplay starts off basic but slowly gains complexity and nuance as you progress. It’s charming, it’s appropriate for kids but not childish, and it comes packed to the brim with content. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a blast to play, either.
As you can probably guess, in Spy Mouse you play as a mouse. The goal of each level of is to collect the scattered pieces of cheese and make it safely to the exit. The catch is that cats are on patrol in each level, pacing along a set path, always on the lookout for a tasty morsel like yourself. When a cat spies you, first it gallops toward you with curiosity, and when it gets close enough it pounces. Get eaten, and you start over, either from the beginning of the level or the most recent checkpoint.
The path to glory.
This would be a highly frustrating game if the controls were clumsy, but thankfully it controls like a luxury car. To move, you simply place your finger on the mouse and draw the path you want him to follow. If he’s about to reach the end of the drawn path but you want him to keep going, you can continue the path from the end. If the path is about to lead the mouse into trouble, just tap him and he stops on a dime. That’s all there is to the controls. They’re simple and intuitive, but they allow for a great deal of complex gameplay as you progress through the levels.
Soon powerups start to appear, like a chili pepper that makes you run fast, a bucket you can hide under, and a balloon that lets you carry lots of heavy cheese without slowing down. Then new elements are introduced, like pipes, switches, blockades, and mousetraps. New types of cats show up as well, like blind cats, fast cats, and projectile-throwing cats. All of these new elements are added gradually, so you never feel overwhelmed. Part of the fun of the game is seeing what’s in store for you next.
And just when you think they’ve run out of ideas, you’ll stumble into a hidden room or a secret exit that leads to a bonus level. You’ll also encounter automatically-scrolling levels and cleverly conceived boss fights. It’s incredibly rare to find an iOS that with this much content, much less one with such a high level of polish.
Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it?
And if you beat all of the levels and want to give yourself a serious challenge, you can try to get the three achievements in each level. These vary, but they cover things like clearing the level within a certain time limit, or by only drawing a limited number of paths for the mouse to walk, or completing a level without being seen by a cat. Getting all of the achievements usually requires you to play through each level several times, so there’s plenty of replay value packed in here if you want it.
The only annoying thing about the game is that it occasionally tries to sell you on in-app purchases to skip levels. These are easy enough to decline if you don’t want them, but we’d rather not be bothered with what’s essentially an advertisement in the middle of a game we paid for.
Spy Mouse is a tense, thrilling, and incredibly fun game. The level design is excellent, and the difficulty rises at a perfect pace. There’s so much going on here, it’s a wonder they can sell it for a buck. The only question is whether you want to buy the iPhone version now or wait for it to come out on the iPad.