Written by Josh “JP” Perault
Lately, I have had high hopes for indie games; especially those on Xbox Live Arcade. After playing through games like Braid, Limbo, and I Made a Game with Zombies in It (which had a great soundtrack), it dawned on me that some of these indie games have more compelling and substantial gameplay than some full-priced new releases out there. After hearing from fellow writer JDL about SpyParty, a future release on XBLA and Steam, I was instantly hooked on the concept. Attending the playtest at NYU on November 18th solidified my desire to own and play this fantastic, creative, and very simplistic game. What is SpyParty you ask? Well, it is my pleasure to bring you an inside look at this much anticipated future release.
Chris Hecker, creator of SpyParty, took a very simple idea and turned it into an engaging indiegame. The setup is a battle of wits between two very different characters. One player is a spy attending a party with about a dozen guests. The spy must complete all of his or her given tasks within three and a half minutes. These tasks include things like planting a bug on the ambassador at the party, switching out a statue with a false one, moving microfilm from one book to another, and contacting a double agent also attending the party. Doesn’t sound that difficult, right? With the amount of sneaky, stealth-type games available to us, these tasks seem pretty commonplace and easy to pull off. They would be, too, if it weren’t for player two. The second player is a sniper outside of the party observing all of the guests. He doesn’t know who the spy is, and its his objective to figure it out before the spy completes all their own tasks. If the spy cannot complete all of their tasks without blending in with all the NPC party guests, the sniper will shoot his target right in the mouth hole. Naturally, its in the spy’s best interests to observe the guests around him, be one with the environment, get the tasks done, and wait an additional ten seconds after all the tasks are completed before victory has been claimed. If the sniper shoots a poor, helpless, civilian (who probably deserves it anyway), the spy also wins the match. If the spy does not complete all the tasks in time or if the sniper figures out who the spy is and shoots them down, the sniper claims victory. After the match, the players can switch roles if desired and run through it again. In essence, that is the whole game and again, as simplistic as it is, it is very engaging. In my experience, if you are spy, it can also be quite nerve wracking.
The graphics have a lot of work to be done. The playtest that I attended still had alpha-phase graphics, polygon characters, wireframe areas, and other low quality graphics. According to Hecker, the game will be get a considerable graphical upgrade before release, which will be at least a year from now. The audio, on the other hand, did not seem to need many additions or changes. The background noise of the party is really the only noise needed. Well that, a rifle report and the code phrase said by the spy for signaling the double agent: “banana bread.” If the picture and audio quality ends up even close to the level of excellence the gameplay has already proven, it will be a phenomenal title.
Chris Hecker really nailed it with SpyParty. He has a great concept, an easy-to-grasp control system, and quite the potential for player skill growth. I, for one, am highly anticipating this game release and was sad knowing that after I left the playtest, I would have to wait at least a year to play again. Keep tabs on this one, fellow gamers; you are going to want to get a piece of this the instant it comes out. Spies, be careful. Snipers, look and listen carefully. You have three and a half minutes. Good luck.