Agent Squeak might be the most low key hero of all time. He is just a generic mouse for crying out loud. Still I feel for the little rodent, and I want to help him collect cheese and avoid being eaten by the feline felons.
SPY mouse comes to us from Firemint, the genius team that defined line drawing games with their Flight Control for iOS. I have been following the development of their latest title for the last year, and I have not really been impressed with the subject matter. Still, this team managed to make something as fairly boring as being an air traffic controller, into an addictive and fun experience. SPY mouse takes the excellent control scheme of Flight Control and applies it to a level based structure. During the first couple of levels it felt like just any other casual puzzle game in the App Store. When it dawned on me that each level has three different objectives to complete to achieve the coveted three stars, only then did the brilliance begin to shine through. This is so much more rewarding than the point system for stars as seen in Angry Birds, or the actual star collecting system seen in Cut the Rope. Mission objectives can be to complete within a set time, with only one line drawn, without being spotted, or without using powerups.
The gameplay is quite straightforward. You control Agent Squeak by drawing a line with your finger. The line can always be redrawn to avoid a rat or obstacle, and feel spot on with immediate response to my touch. For each level there are pieces of cheese to collect before escaping through a mouse hole. Cats patrol the levels, and their paths are shown as dotted lines. Depending on the type of cat, they start to chase you down in different ways: some lunge at you, and can be avoided; others can’t be outrun, and have to be outsmarted by teleporting between mouse holes or pipes. The gameplay has both an element of strategy – where you have to make a plan to solve the level, and get all the cheese – and an element of arcade action – where plans have to be re-evaluated on the spot, and Agent Squeak has to dive into a mouse hole immediately. In many ways the gameplay reminds me of that found in Flight Control, but with the addition of having puzzles to solve beside the flow of traffic. Traffic in SPY mouse is of course the cats walking about.
There is a nice sense of progression to the game because of the use of a map to show the level structure. New elements are constantly introduced, and challenges get more and more zany. Soon I gave up on trying to complete all the objectives, and started to focus solely on surviving. Going back to replay levels to nail perfect scores is really fun since there is a true sense of accomplishment due in part to the high level of difficulty. This means that the game can be enjoyed by both casual, and hardcore gamers. There is a help function where you can skip hard to beat levels should you wish.
Each map has a boss level where you have to follow a cat to the lair of evil. This gives a bit of variation, but generally these are the easiest levels in my opinion. However, I applaud the idea of combining arcade bosses with line drawing mechanics.
SPY mouse comes with a lot of fun to strive for achievements. You can also add squeak friends in a special squeak space, and float about together. I have yet to try this function with someone, but it sure sounds like a neat social addition.
More than 70 levels spread across six worlds gives you hours of avoid’em-up line-drawing fun. Getting all the mission objectives prolongs the gamelife in excess of eight hours. The only thing the game lacks is the addictive high score model that Flight Control has. SPY mouse will end eventually, but Flight Control is still played on my iPhone, iPad and PS3.
The presentation is bright and colourful, with a warm colour palette. There are a lot of little details that transform the simple levels into full featured homes. All characters are well animated, and objects are easy to see on the small screen. The music is not my cup of tea, but much like the simple loops in Flight Control it works. You can play your own music, and keep the sound effects if you like to.
SPY mouse is a perfect fit for iOS, with gameplay that is suitable for the five minute break, or the three hour train trip. It takes line-drawing gameplay to another level, and injects the genre with a level based system. The combination of puzzles to solve, strategic planning and quick arcade action stimulates my little grey cells more than I could have ever anticipated.