Master Spy on PC
Before I get into this one, I want to get something out of the way: Master Spy is not a stealth game. While it’s got elements of stealth at its core, it’s a high-skill puzzle platformer that uses these trappings to tell its story. Players take on the role of the so-called Master Spy as he infiltrates a number of locations, performing missions for shadowy benefactors. Your repertoire of spy skills consists of movement, jumping, and cloaking — and that’s it. Using this limited skillset, players will have to navigate increasingly-difficult stages, relying on precision and rote repetition to get through to the next room.
Master Spy isn’t necessarily a bad game, despite the misleading label. It is, however, a brutally difficult game that players should be prepared to fail at more times than they can count. Like the popular Super Meat Boy, this is a game with no room for errors. What’s a bit frustrating about this is the single-path approach that drives most, if not all, of the gameplay. There’s no clever way to go about things, no quick-thinking alternate routes, and no creative solution. Instead, players must find the right way to go about each portion of each stage, and follow that with laser precision and perfect timing.
As players navigate the unforgiving world of Master Spy, they’re given pretty simple tasks and obstacles to overcome. Human enemies and cameras can be avoided by cloaking, while animals and lasers must be dodged. Of course, these things will compound on each other, and soon players will have to avoid lasers in camera-guarded areas. Since cloaking limits your movement speed and jumping skills, it’s tough to make the most out of it all at once, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. It’s about as close as it can be, though, without crossing that line. I can’t stress enough just how certain the slightest misstep will result in being “caught,” which is the game’s equivalent to death.
What Master Spy really has going for it, more than anything, is its design. The retro-styled aesthetic and spot-on chiptune soundtrack are really well-done, and the extra-cheesy plot and hamfisted dialogue really brings back the 1980’s in the best way. With NES-era Ninja Gaiden-style cut scenes to really top off the stylistic flair, it’s got a ton that those of us who grew up in an era where pixel art and punishing challenges were par for the course. If you’re more of a modern-minded gamer, the nostalgia won’t really bring much to the table, though it may have its own charm — I can’t really say, as I’ve only got my own lens to look at that from.
All told, Master Spy might be a pretty solid outing that suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. If you’re a big fan of the hyper-precision platforming genre, it’s got a pretty good take on it with some great dressing. If you’re looking for an action-oriented stealth experience, though, steer yourself elsewhere. It’s tough for me to say it’s really worth the $9.99 price on Steam, but with the great showing on overall visual and audio design, it’s not necessarily overpriced. If you’re a masochist looking for the next brick wall to slam your head against, then maybe Master Spy has exactly what you want. Me? I’ll be on the lookout for stealth games that stay a bit more true to form.