Dec 29, 2011
Firemint are an interesting developer to follow in terms of the titles that they have developed. Starting off with the line-drawing/path management game Flight Control, they followed up with the visual powerhouse racing franchise, Real Racing. With Spy Mouse, their latest original title, they return to their Flight Control roots. This is essentially a stealth action game with line drawing mechanics. Players control Agent Squeak, who is trying to collect cheese strewn throughout various levels while not getting captured by those nefarious cats; preferably without ever being seen by them at all!
The game’s use of timing and even patience differentiates it from Flight Control. It does feel odd to sit back and wait for the perfect time to draw a path when Flight Control was all about panicked real-time survival. The multiple medals for each level serve as a great motivation for playing them in different ways, and for trying to explore different solutions to not be caught, or to beat a level using only a certain number of paths. Visually, the Firemint crew deserve recognition for making the game be more aspect-ratio-agnostic than many games that are brought from iOS to Android; there is no stretching, and levels display as being slightly wider than on the iPhone’s 3:2 aspect ratio. As someone who hates stretching, I appreciate it greatly. The animation and artwork are fluid and cartoonish in good ways, as well.
Spy Mouse just seems to be missing something. The line-drawing mechanic just isn’t as much fun with controlling a single character. This is in part because walls get in the way of the line-drawing and makes it not feel as intuitive. That, or maybe just having one character to focus on isn’t as compelling of a gameplay mechanic in lieu of having multiple items to manage with line drawing. After all, the fun in Flight Control and its genre mates comes when there’s many planes to control; just having one to manage, and one that can actually stop in its tracks, just isn’t any fun to control. There are creative elements, but I’d much rather have direct control over the character, which is part of the fun and challenge of stealth games. Knowing the exact path the character in a stealth game will follow takes a lot of the fun out of it.
This is just one combination of gameplay styles that doesn’t quite feel right to me. I felt like I was trudging through the game because of review obligations, not because of any actual desire to do so. Fans of Flight Control may want to check this one out, but it’s not the kind of blockbuster title I expected it to be when I first played it.