Classic competitive multiplayer returns in Spy vs Spy

Spy vs Spy is a new iOS release from Robots and Pencils Inc. The game is a remake of a classic video game from the 1980s “8-bit” computer era, and was developed with the full cooperation of the original developer First Star Software. It’s available now as a Universal download for iPhone and iPad at 50% off its regular price.

Spy vs Spy is a two-player competitive game in which the two mute spies from the MAD Magazine comic strip of the same name square off against one another in a battle of wits. The aim of the game is to locate a series of items hidden throughout items of furniture in the rooms of a maze-like embassy, while simultaneously attempting to outwit the rival player using traps or direct combat. The first player to collect all of the items and escape through the embassy’s “Exit” door is the winner, and is given a score according to how well they performed and how quickly they completed their mission.

The original Spy vs Spy was based around a split-screen display known in the game as “SimulVision.” This allowed players to keep one eye on what they were doing and the other on what their opponent was up to. Failing to keep tabs on one’s opponent often meant blindly stumbling into one of the many comical traps it is possible to set for one’s rival — and indeed, failing to remember where one’s own traps are can cause plans to backfire hilariously. The SimulVision feature is present and correct on the iOS version of the game and works surprisingly well even on the small screen of the iPhone.

It’s possible to play the iOS version of Spy vs Spy in either “Modern” or “Retro” mode. In “Modern” mode, a touch-optimized interface is employed along with improved graphics and sound. In “Retro” mode, the game uses the graphics, sound and interface from the Commodore 64 original for an authentically old-school experience, albeit with new touch-friendly controls. Both modes have incorporated an additional challenge into each single-player level — as well as locating the items necessary to escape successfully, three hidden “stars” may be found scattered in various furniture items. These stars are marked on the in-game map, but referring to it costs the player points off their final level rating.

As well as the single-player campaign mode, Spy vs Spy for iOS offers the facility for players to play a “custom match” on any level against an opponent of customizable difficulty. Alongside this, a multiplayer mode allows for either local play between devices using Bluetooth, or online play via Game Center. Given that the main draw of the 8-bit original game was simultaneous play against a human opponent, it is good to see this competitive element brought firmly into the 21st century with wireless multiplayer that seems to be reliable and stable.

Spy vs Spy is a difficult game to get to grips with for new players, but an extensive interactive tutorial introduces players to the various controls and possibilities for inflicting amusing injuries on the other player. Once the basic concepts are understood, the single-player campaign offers a gradually-increasing challenge, the custom match option allows for a quick game and the online multiplayer allows for the ultimate challenge — attempting to outwit another human.

This new iOS version is a faithful recreation of the original and an excellent update at the same time. The touch controls are well-implemented — particularly in the “modern” mode — and the game is well-suited to mobile devices. Plus, with the number of gamers who are nostalgic for the 8-bit original, the game is likely to find a strong audience while remaining accessible to newcomers.

Due to its recent release, Spy vs Spy is not yet listed on our tracking service AppData. Check back shortly to follow its progress through the App Store charts.