I was originally going to make this a Retro Review a la the one I did for Bad Dudes, but I was informed that since I have played Sly Spy¬†from the Switch eShop, it is much preferred I give it a review akin to a Switch game instead. It was then I realized I didn’t actually elaborate on the emulation setup the folks at Flying Tiger developed for these arcade re-releases. I brought up that they released Bad Dudes on Switch, but didn’t mention anything beyond the fact that it is a direct emulation.

In a similar fashion to Hamster’s Arcade Archives and Zerodiv’s re-releases of Psikyo-developed shoot ’em ups, Flying Tiger Entertainment has been giving the Switch a taste of Data East’s arcade catalog under their own banner. Alongside Bad Dudes, they previously released Gate of Doom on Switch. In their emulation shell, you could save and load files, insert as many “quarters” as you want, and choose to view the game through a variety of classic-style filters (VHS, composite, RGB, etc) Nothing too out of the ordinary, but nothing unwelcome either.

Story

Obviously based on James Bond, this game takes place in the year of 199X. As the titular secret agent, you must rescue the President and First Lady of the United States from terrorists. Are you a sly enough spy to rescue them and save the entire world?

Graphics

Classic 16-Bit goodness is present in this 1989 arcade title. It’s worth noting the only console to come close to obtaining this kind of technological prowess was the then-brand new SEGA Genesis. The game takes great advantage of the hardware of the era via its vastly detailed pixel art. Some of the city backgrounds and set pieces like the Lincoln Memorial are especially impressive. The 16:9 widescreen display in Flying Tiger’s emulation shell is pretty ugly, though. I always make sure to set it back to 4:3 when playing one of these.

Audio

It’s no surprise that the audible capabilities resemble that of the SEGA Genesis as well. Sly Spy‘s soundtrack is more cinematic than it is catchy on its own, but it effectively ties in with the secret agent theme. It could have used more different pieces in its levels, though. There is already a small amount of levels, and a lot of the soundtrack is repeated. The voice samples get a special mention for not sounding at all muffled or compressed.

Gameplay

Sly Spy seems to be a spiritual successor to Bad Dudes in every way but name. You progress through a series of levels that are mostly hallways with two different levels of height; bad guys make up the bulk of the game’s obstacles. The game does have some more interesting locales this time around. One level has you fighting on what appears to be a cargo ship, and another has you skydive from a helicopter before landing into the ocean. And unlike Bad Dudes, you’re not using your fists to sock punks – rather you are using a gun to shoot anything that moves. This makes combat a lot more flexible, even if your control is still limited to two directions and a few bullets onscreen at once.

With it being more intriguing and engaging, you’d think Sly Spy could be a really good game. Unfortunately, it still falls into some of the same traps as its predecessor. The enemy spam is as obnoxious as it does cheapen the game’s difficulty. In a way, it’s even worse here thanks to the player only ever having one life to use. The heath bar also has no means of replenishing other than the rare power-up that does the job. You could insert as many credits as you want to make death a slap on the wrist as mentioned earlier, but that takes all the fun out of playing through the game. I don’t mind if the feature is there (It is commonplace for these arcade re-releases, after all) but I’d prefer it not be the only method of getting to the end of the game.

Verdict

As such, Sly Spy is more fun as a historical curiosity than it is a game. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it lacks the proper balance to get there. Fans of the era will likely get the most out of it, especially with its approachable $6.99 price and portability of the Switch. As for everyone else, you may want to see what else there is for your money’s worth.

Review copy provided by Flying Tiger Entertainment