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Title: Spy vs Spy
Author:First Star Software Inc.
Rom Player: NESticle
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie

Synopsis: Back in the eighties, Mad Magazine lent its namesake to a few toy companies and the like. The results were things like the Mad version of monopoly, and this games, capitalizing on the magazineís most famous comic: Spy vs. Spy. For all you neophytes out there who have never seen a Spy vs. Spy comic (for all three of you), in each strip, one spy would try to steal some sort of top secret thing from the other, or just flat-out try and kill him. The novelty of the comic was that one of the spies would wind up killing the other in a strange and sometimes elaborate manner. For instance, in one strip, the white spy stands be hand a tree as the black spy walks by. The black spy, seeing a snare that the white spy had planted on the ground, grabs a tree branch and swings over it. Seeing another trap, he swings over it too. Then, he sees an ďXĒ on the ground in front of another tree, so he tries to swing over it, but instead he pulls down half of the tree with his own weight and smashes his head in while the white spy laughs in the background. Funny, no?

The actual game maintains the same gripping plot as the comic, sort of: Both spies break into an embassy, and must recover several items (a key, a passport, a bag of money, some secret documents, and a briefcase to carry everything) and escape through a specific door before time runs out. In order to stop your opponent from getting said items and leaving before you, you are given a small assortment of traps you can set, as well as the opportunity to obtain a weapon, which you can use to dispose of him. As in the comic, however, death is fleeting, and after a short time, a dead spy will come back to life and renew his bid for the items.

Of course, this is a game, and dying does have consequences. Both spies start with the same amount of time to find the four items. When a spy is killed, they immediately lose thirty seconds off of their total time, plus they have to sit out for about ten seconds. Once a spyís time limit is up, theyíre out for good, but the remaining spy still has to gather up everything and leave before their time runs out. Attempting to leave before youíve gathered everything will result in your spy being killed.

It all sounds relatively simple, and it is. Each level consists of several rooms with a few pieces of furniture in them. You find the items you need by searching behind the correct pieces of furniture. Of courses, searching blindly for the items would take a while, so you are given a map that shows not only where the items are at all times, but also the location of both spies and any rooms that contain traps. Viewing the map can be sort of tricky, however, as you canít move or do anything while you have it up, and since the game uses a split screen format, the other player can simply glance onto your half to check on the map without wasting any time.

There isnít really a difficulty setting, per se. Instead, before each match, you get to select the difficulty of the level, which will determine how large the level is, how direct access is to each room, and whether or not the level has two floors. Unfortunately, there is only one level for each difficulty setting, and there are only eight difficulty settings. What the difficulty setting doesnít adjust, however, is the intelligence of the computer. Rather than searching for the items and planting the occasional trap, the computer will slowly make its way from one room to the next, planting traps and searching the furniture on rare occasions. This, combined with the computerís simplistic movement pattern, makes it fairly incompetent opponent, so your best bet is to find some other person to play with.

Now, to kill the other player, or the computer if you donít feel like being challenged, youíve got a choice of a handful of traps and a couple weapons. Each spy comes well prepared with an infinite number of each kind of trap, but you have to find a weapon, unless you want to simply punch the other spy to death. There are a total of four traps: dynamite, giant springs, a bucket full of what I can only assume is acid, and a time bomb. The dynamite and springs can be hidden behind furniture so that, when searched, they will kill the spy in question. The bucket of acid is placed on a door so that it dumps on a spy when they enter or leave a room through that door. The time bomb is the easiest to use, however, as you can place it anywhere in a room so that, when a spy enters the room, the bomb will go off after a few seconds, killing them.

These traps are generally easy to avoid since they show up on the map, but sometimes, they will be placed in a way that will prevent you from obtaining an item. To balance this out, there are some tools in the levels that will help you deactivate the traps. The trick to using them is that you can only carry one at a time, and you canít search for anything or place traps while you have one or youíll drop it. Plus, unless you happen to see which trap was set there by either glancing on your opponentís half of the screen, or if you had placed it yourself, youíll simply have to guess which trap is in a room shown on the map as having one. Anyway, a pair of bolt cutters is used to disarm a spring, a bucket of water is used to stop dynamite, and an umbrella is used to disable the bucket of acid. The time bomb doesnít have a tool for disarming it because when a spy enters a room with a time bomb in it, their face will turn purple, for some reason. To avoid certain death, all they need do is leave the room before the bomb goes off. The bolt cutters and water bucket are obtained from these boxes on the walls in some rooms, and the umbrella is taken from a coat rack that has an umbrella on it. Because of that, you may find yourself setting off traps, simply because it would take longer to go and get the corresponding tool.

Should you find yourself in the same room as the opposing spy, you may be called upon to get your hands dirty. Punching the other spy to death takes precious time, however, so there are two different weapons located somewhere on each map. The first weapon is some sort of white pole that you use to jab the other spy with. The other, and far more deadly weapon is a knife. With only a few quick stabs, you can bring down the other spy for a short while.

Sound for this game is another of the gameís flawed areas. Music consists of the title song and the one and only in-game song that will drive you to madness, given time. The sound effects are also short in number, and are nothing more than annoying beeps, buzzes, and different kinds of ringing.

Still, the game is fun, in its simplicity. It wonít necessarily change how you look at games, but it should entertain you for a short while. Itís either this, or Mad monopoly. Fa fa fa!

Best Cheats: Invincibility - After winning the 8th level, press Down, Down, Right, Left then press A+B at the same time.

Game Play: 8
Graphics: 6
Music/Sound: 5
Originality: 9
Overall Rating: 7

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