In the popular imagination, spies and gadgets go together like strawberries and cream. The reality of spying is probably much more mundane, involving stacks of paperwork and the occasional bit of lying to a state official. But when it comes to books, films and games, we've been trained to expect state-of-the-art tech that's also wildly impractical. A Large Hadron Collider concealed in a hair-dryer, for example.
That's the hook with SpyCorp, a platform game for iOS that provides a veritable avalanche of gadgets and gizmos for you to play with. It's the diversity of the tools that makes it so much fun, providing multiple ways to defeat enemies and compete objectives. There's a pedigree for this type of game, harkening back to Ratchet & Clank and Metal Gear Solid, and it's been cleverly implemented for the iPad and iPhone.
How does it play?
The eponymous SpyCorp is a "stealth startup" with only a handful of employees, but what they lack in manpower they make up in smoke-bombs, rocket-powered jet-packs and suction-cups. Playing as one of two of their front-line spys, Katt and Shark, your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to stop a mad-scientist from taking over the world with his augmented army of super-soldiers.
The action is platform based, infiltrating enemy territory and dodging hazards like shark-infested paddling pools, security cameras and armoured guards. Your spy can run, jump and sneak their way through each stage using the tools at their disposal, which make a significant impact on how they progress. A basic grappling hook and bungee cord makes climbing up and down platforms a cinch. But another way is to strap on some triple-jump boots and leapfrog over every obstacle in their path.
Collecting bonus items that are scattered around the game will supply you with various benefits. Cash credits allow you to buy even more gadgets from the shop, whilst magnifying glasses will up your "fame" quotient in the SpyCorp. Elsewhere, fragments of a secret code offer hints at the password for a locked door. An interesting feature of the gadgets is that most of them have limited use, which brings in an element of resource management so you don't run out of a critical gadget at the time when you need it most.
Why do we like it?
We like the crazy cartoon bombast of the whole enterprise. The ragdoll physics at work, the witty banter between characters, the sixties spy-themed music; it all adds up to a classy package. In an ideal world, the game would be adapted into a Saturday morning kids' TV show.
Also, developer Wicked Games have demonstrated their commitment to SpyCorp's continued success by rapidly responding to feedback about the game. The most recent update stripped out an in-app purchase scheme that many players (ourselves included) felt had marred the overall experience. Typically, games are thoroughly play-tested long before they're bought to market, so rolling out updates based on customer comments lends SpyCorp the air of being a collaborative – and fascinating – work in progress.
SpyCorp is available now on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, 69p.