Master Spy is a game that makes you want to find the developer, buy them a beer, and then watch them slowly choke on it. Only once before has a game made me this angry, but for all the right reasons, and that game is Super Meat Boy (Edmund, please never stop being awesome).
Master Spy is a cinematic stealth platformer from TurboGun, a company who has only a single other notch on their belt, a game called Carousel, which was a mini-game homage to Logan's Run—which honestly makes Master Spy that much more impressive.
Jumping in, the first thing you notice is the soundtrack. There is something so fitting about the electro music that really fits the aesthetic well. It almost sounds like you are in an 80's style spy movie. Unfortunately, there is only a single track per mission. According to the OST listing on Steam, there are a total of 15 tracks, but you will spend the vast majority of the time stuck listening to five. They are somewhat lengthy, but they begin to wear on you. Fortunately, this is a game you can play without sound easily, so if they do start to annoy you, you can just mute the sound and put on whatever Daft Punk's newest album is.
Following on with the 80's motif, the graphics are pixel based 2D graphics. The sprites are nice for the style they are going for and are never muddled or blended in too much with the background. The screen itself is also stylized, with the game looking like you are playing it on an old tube TV with bulging top and sides. The effect is just strong enough for you to notice, but not too strong as to become a nuisance, so they really hit the balance right. The other important element about Master Spy is the cut-scenes.
In keeping with the '80s game styling, the cut-scenes are very NES, with very little movement, no speech, and a lot of typed out text. It definitely fits in with the rest of the game, and does add a nice touch of story telling, to a game that doesn't really require any. All-in-all, the graphics work well as a package for the style they were going for, and on that alone Master Spy is worth a look, but that's not what this game is about.
On top of the fantastic graphics, and the nice, albeit small, music selection, the game-play it self is somewhat of a thing of beauty. Before I continue, I will say that the stealth game genre is probably my favorite, and I may be fanboying out a little bit, but I will try my best to keep that to a minimum.
The game is freaking awesome! OK I am done I promise.
The way Master Spy has been designed, to me, is from a place of schadenfreude. This game is great if you are REALLY good at platforming games, or if you like torturing your friends, or yourself. The first few levels are easy enough; the game teaches you some of the basic mechanics, including jumping, using your literal cloaking device, and avoiding enemies, but it does not hold your hand for long. While it only took me about 5 minutes or so to complete the tutorial mission, the second mission took me closer to two or three hours, and that included only one break to change keyboards after snapping it half over my chair. I need to emphasize this: Master Spy is HARD and is most definitely not for the weak of heart. But this is not one of those games that makes you angry because the game it self is bad, no no, this game does everything it can to make the errors you make your fault, and your fault only.
The controls in Master Spy are some of the tightest I have ever used. Jumping is super responsive, moving is fluid, and you can stop on a pin head, which is almost always necessary. Playing through, never once did I think that me getting caught, or getting zapped by a laser trap, was ever anything or anyone else's fault but my own, and that is the most infuriating thing about this game. It is made so well that you can't blame it, no matter how much you really really want to, which is where the comparison to Super Meat Boy comes in.
In the end, I got up to about half way through the 3rd mission, out of five full missions, plus some bonus levels, before I had to throw in the towel for the sake of my desks structural integrity, but with enough practice, I will beat it, and this is where Master Spy truly excels. Like an addictive drug, I honestly can't stop playing. I may not make any progress, but I always want to go back and try. If stealth games or platform games are something you enjoy, I highly recommend checking out the release trailer, as that would be enough to win me over, and I am sure it would do that same for you.
What do you guys think? Will Master Spy break into your library, or will it sneak away? Let me know in the comments.
Master Spy was obtained from the developer and reviewed on Steam.