The story of a British spy on an adventure to save the world is one that's been told a million times. Played straight, it's a story of a daring hero fighting against a threat to the world, using their skills, gadgets and wits to overcome the odds. Catland Studios has taken that premise and satirised it (like we've seen done before in films like Austin Powers and Johnny English). Does this small team of Finnish developers capture the spirit of the spy parody?
The Spy Who Shrunk Me is a first-person stealth puzzle game which puts the player in the shoes of Audrey Smoothspy, a British operative infiltrating the lair of the nefarious General Bolscotchkovich in order to stop him from turning up the heat on the cold war. The game at no point makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously, instead, it plays to every stereotype and cliché in its arsenal. Audrey, armed with an appropriately posh accent, will waste no opportunity to make a pun or crack a joke at the situation she's found herself in.
That's not to say humour is the only tool at her disposal. At the start of the game, you're given a range of weapons that'll help you fight your way through General Bolscotchkovich's forces. Your primary weapon - and the game's namesake - is the shrink ray, which can be used both on yourself and any unfortunate guard you happen to come across. Need to dispose of a body? Just shrink it and find the nearest paper shredder to make sure no one's any the wiser. Alongside this, you're given bananas and airbag mines to help sweep guards off their feet, and a short-range teleporter which acts as your ace in the hole when caught in a tricky situation. Having these tools at your disposal would feel like enough in a finished game, so the fact that Catland has more weapons planned bodes well for the final release.
Each level has you complete certain objectives while trying to be detected as little as possible, all before you can make your way to the exit. To complete the level quickly and discreetly, you'll need to determine whether shrinking yourself is the right option or not. This dilemma is where the game's depth lies. While it's safer to be smaller, allowing for you to hide behind all manner of objects to avoid detection you're far slower while small, which makes crossing big open areas perilous. On the other hand, while being bigger might have its advantages (like increasing the range of your teleporter), you can be seen much more easily. For those wanting to beat missions in record time, figuring out the optimal time to shrink yourself is going to be key.
The game controls are pretty responsive too, and at no point were we ever frustrated when teleporting to precarious ledges or when hiding from patrols. It's clear the developers understand exactly how to make a stealth game like this feel not only fun to play but also fair. Not once did we feel cheated, and the freedom given to us to complete missions in whatever method we saw fit made each mission fun to play through. Sure, there are a few bugs - we once teleported through the floor right into the path of an unsuspecting guard - but that's to be expected in Early Access. Here's hoping the studio can iron out some of the kinks before launch, otherwise a badly timed glitch could spell a frustrating end to a mission.
Upon completing the level you're ranked on the time you completed it in and are awarded bonuses if Audrey managed to do her work without being detected and/or killing anybody. In terms of replayability, it's getting the fastest times that'll keep people playing after they've beaten the game. Because of this, however, it's a bit of a shame that there's no online leaderboard feature included. While we're sure passionate players will upload their best times through other means, it would be nice to be able to compare our times to other players in-game. Here's hoping they include that at some point before the game launches.
The only major problem - and one addressed in-game as the protagonist boasts that her adventure was just above the two-hour Steam refund policy - is that it's quite short. We had quite a lot of fun traversing the game's eight levels, but just as we were getting comfortable the game concluded. Overall, we managed to complete the game in roughly 90 minutes (which is under two hours, so in your face, Audrey), getting SS ranks on all the missions and unlocking all the endings which we highly recommend, as they contain some of the game's funniest moments. Now, while they are planning on adding two more levels before the game's launch, we're worried that's not a substantial enough addition to ensure that players feel satisfied by the end. The game is great to play, we just wish there was more of it.
However, that's not to say the game isn't worth picking up. We can say with absolute certainty that we were entertained the majority of the time. If you've got a love for speed running, going back through the levels and discovering the optimal way to race beat a game, The Spy Who Shrunk Me will give you added hours of amusement. The real question you've got to ask is if you're fine spending £7.19 for an experience that's short but sweet and still unfinished.
In our opinion, this game is well worth the price. For that amount, you get a solid adventure that's sure to give you an evening's worth of entertainment at the very least, and a game you can return to over and over again at best. With a VR version, additional levels, and new gadgets and obstacles being added in the coming months, we're happy to recommend this game to any would-be secret agents out there.
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