Yes, I know what you're all thinking. Ocean have been rather quiet on the new games front lately, haven't they? Until just recently that is - last issue we saw the rather excellent Midnight Resistance, and this time round it's the turn of a whole trio of them. There's the mega-colourful and technically very impressive Shadow Warriors, the rather nifty (but a tad too late) Adidas Soccer thingie and then this one, the confusingly double-named Sly Spy Secret Agent. And would you believe it, despite it being an ex-YS Covergame, I really think it's the weakest of the three. (That's not to say it's bad though! Read on and I'll explain a bit further.)
Right. So (first up) what's Sly Spy all about? Well, it's a James Bond rip-off basically. There are oodles of (very short) levels, half of them being your Robocop-style walk-around-shooting-people type things (which provide the real meat of the game) while the rest are your more novelty stunt-type sequences, which add a lot of visual variety, give the game a very strong them, but (but! But!) aren't really all that demanding to play. For instance, we start off with a skydiving scene set over Washington DC (this James Bond is actually an American, you see). It's basically a vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up, though unusually it scrolls the wrong way (ie down the screen). You drop in from the top of the screen in free-fall, while baddies fall all around you - you have to shoot them, keep them from shooting you, and dodge all the new ones falling in from the top of the screen until your parachute opens and you land safely.
Phew! Managed that without losing too many lives, but oh no! What's this? It's a giant statue of Abraham Lincoln, stupid - this is Washington, you know - and those guys abseiling down from the ceiling have all come to duff you up.
One quick fight later and it's into the smooth-scrolling motorcycle chase. Loadsa baddies (mainly blokes on jet packs and other bikers), but the controls are very simple (just shoot and duck occasionally, with the odd wheelie to bring your guns to bear on the jet-packers) and the black sedan you're meant to keep an eye out for is incredibly easy to spot - it's the only car on the road! (And it's not even black!)
Ahem. Right, some more walking about (facing typical James Bond villains, like Oddjob and Jaws lookalikes) followed by the first of two underwater frogman bits. The graphics are all crystal-clear here (except for the bits where you go into underwater caves, when seeing the enemy divers - let alone their harpoons! - is a nightmare) and there are some nice visual touches (like the sharks which float to the surface belly-up when dead). Only trouble is there isn't really all that much to do. Both underwater levels have the same (disappointing) end-of-level nasties - a missile-firing deep-sea diver-type who you chase off-screen to be followed, by a rather more indestructible shark.
And so it goes, until we get to a big grand finale fight set in a missile silo, where all the baddies we've met on the previous land-based levels return to give you grief again. Duff them all up and you've won - the world has been made safe from international terrorism (or something).
There's a fair amount of variety, quite a lot to see, and everything has been very competently put together. But the game has a few problems (and they're mainly the fault of the original Data East coin-op). The most important is that there isn't really enough to do. Each level is fairly short, the controls are pretty limited, and the end-of-level baddies are on the disappointing side. There's no real colour in any of it either (something we may have become used to with many Speccy coin-op conversions, but Midnight Resistance and Shadow Warriors are both so bright that this looks pretty dull in comparison). It's not by any means a disaster then - it's actually quite a good game - but it's too chopped up and disjointed, and perhaps rather overkeen to grab the James Bond feel at the expense of playing like a real trooper. Perhaps the first real disappointment from Ocean in ages (but even then, it isn't exactly what you'd call 'bad').
This is a weird game to have in a re-releases column because, if my memory serves me correctly, it didn't actually get released in the first place. As I recall, it was a conversion of a coin-op with a different name which was written and reviewed, but then withdrawn at the last possible moment just as it actually hit the shops, which meant only a few people ever got the chance to buy it. It's a multi-stage beat/shoot-'em-up featuring lots of James Bond-style antics like skydiving, scuba diving, penalty-box diving (oops, been watching Marco Van Basten in the European Championships a bit too much, I think), motorbike riding and that sort of thing, although for some inexplicable reason the 'picking up implausibly beautiful enemy spy babes with impossibly corny chat-up lines and, er, interrogating them' bit seems to have been missed out completely. What's left is a weird mix of short sequences involving such amusing antics as free-falling through the sky avoiding and shooting enemy parachutists, walking along in front of some retina-melting red-and-yellow backdrops avoiding and shooting enemy agents, riding a motorbike along a city street avoiding and shooting enemy motorcyclists, and... Well, you get the idea. Each of the sub-games is quite cute in its own simplistic little way, but they all end after about 30 seconds and then, despite the tape containing a separate 128K version on one side, it's multi-load time. This means, of course, that Speccy +2 owners have a particularly miserable time. Y'see, after they've used up all their lives and continues they have to rewind, without the aid of a tape counter, to a point somewhere in the middle of the tape to reload the first stage. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is a complete pain in the bum.
Still, the rewinding lark shouldn't prove too much of a bind because, after about three practice plays, you'll find yourself sailing right through to the end without any difficulty whatsoever. You won't ever have to rewind the tape again. Phew.
Seriously though, Spec-chums, isn't it about time we stopped putting up with this kind of stuff? I remember old 48K games with 6,000 locations in one load, why should we have to suffer this ridiculous nonsense for 30 seconds of scrolling shoot-'em-up against a looping backdrop? This could be a decent little game without all the faffing around, but it's almost totally ruined. Lazy programming - I'm sick of it. Just Say No.
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