By William Chandler
Counterspy – Purchased on PSN and played on Vita and PS4
I’ve been constantly on the go as of late and this has led to me paying much more attention to my poor, often neglected handheld homies. A couple weeks ago I picked up Counterspy as a cross-buy title on the PlayStation Store and I instantly found it to be pretty damned charming thanks to the cool 60s spy era aesthetic and accompanying music reminiscent of some less bombastic Team Fortress 2 tracks. I played a couple of levels on the PS4 and thought it was a pretty fun side scrolling shooter that, regardless of the name, really has less to do with actual spy sneaking and more to do with the brutal murder of hundreds and hundreds of missile base guards, and the subsequent looting of their file cabinets. While it is certainly possible to sneak your way through a level, bypassing as many guards as possible in order to give you that tingly spy-like feeling of completing your objectives stealthily, this method of play appears to actually be discouraged because you can get a vastly higher score by just straight capping people in their dome. Not to mention the fact that non-lethal weapons are few and far between and are often times not terribly effective. Like the sleep dart gun which alerts nearby guards because the guy you just darted will likely have wondered aloud what just pierced his flesh, moments before he tucks himself into bed.
Counterspy’s art style is really nice and the game still looks great on the Vita, but the frame rate takes a pretty big hit, which proved to be annoying when I first switched to the handheld version. That said, I was admittedly bothered less and less by this the more I played of it. The gameplay is unhindered on the Vita version and continued to be enjoyable far into the game but, ultimately, rests pretty comfortably on the easy side of things from start to finish. The missions never really became any more difficult despite the game’s attempts to simply stuff a room full of an absurd number of guards, many of which are armed with various weapons that one would likely not find to be held by base guards. I’m no military expert but I really don’t see the need for three guys with rocket launchers to guard a catwalk that is suspended inside a nuclear missile silo. That shit is just wildly inefficient, yo. Aside from my usual gripe with 2d side scrolling shooters that insist on having enemies in the background, a tradition which this game dutifully upholds, there really aren’t many problems present in the gameplay. Although, the level design can become a bit samey after a while considering that they are randomly generated, providing me with a pretty strong feeling that I’d seen everything the game had to offer after only a couple of hours.
The story is barely there and filled with shrug worthy “We tried” humor and the gameplay is simple, functional, and very enjoyable. Counterspy knows exactly what it wants to be and accomplishes that pretty handily, providing a pretty decent five hour distraction from the needlessly complex and padded out titles that we often surround ourselves with. I’d say it’s worth fifteen bucks but, then again, I’d play just about anything while trapped in a hotel room.