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Master Spy Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . With little more than an invisibility cloak, the Master Spy sets out on what looks like an impossible mission. Sneak through 50 diverse stages filled with crazy obstacles to overcome. The gameplay may be a bit shallow and the difficulty can be frustrating at times, but the twisted story and brilliant cut scenes are enough to make Master Spy an easy recommendation. Rating: 78%
Master Spy
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  • Review Score:

  • B+
Of all the things I love about old 8-bit games, it was always the pixel cinema scenes that stood out. From Ninja Gaiden to Vice: Project Doom, these brief cut scenes were more than just a way to advance the story; they were often the only way to see the characters up close. It allowed us to see the hero as somebody who can hold a regular conversation, not just run, jump and kill bad guys. Although primitive by today's standards, these scenes are special and I appreciate the work that went into making them.

Believe it or not, I hadn't really put that much thought into old school cinemas before playing through Master Spy. I went into this 2D stealth game expecting a lot of platforming action, but came away with a real appreciation for pixel cut scenes. Without them, this game would have still been a retro-inspired throwback worth playing. But by employing more than 30 minutes of cinemas, the Spy's world is opened up in fascinating ways.


As a 2D platformer, Master Spy is fairly straightforward. Our hero doesn't carry a tranq gun like Big Boss, but instead chooses to sneak around undetected. He does this with a special invisibility cloak, not unlike what the kind of thing Harry Potter has been known to employ. He can turn it off and on at any time, with the only drawback being limited mobility when fully cloaked.

The Master Spy's goal is simple: Grab the keycard and make it safely to the exit. Of course, that keycard is normally located behind a series of guards, surveillance cameras, laser traps and attack dogs. And sometimes the stages will require more than one keycard, forcing a level of precision you may not be ready for. The challenge increases exponentially from one mission to the next, and there's never a point where the traps and guards get easier.

Master Spy (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Like Super Meat Boy and N++, this is a game built around picking at seemingly impossible platforming puzzles. Although he's known as the Master Spy, our hero will get caught and killed dozens, if not hundreds of times. But don't worry about that, because it only takes a second to jump back into the action. This speediness removes a lot of the pain from of every death, since there's never any time to dwell on your failure.

The game's 50 stages are diverse and will take you to exotic locations throughout the world. Each mission introduces a set of new obstacles, which are then expanded on throughout the next series of stages. It all leads to our hero gathering intel and assassinating those behind the criminal conspiracy. All this is couched with gorgeously created cut scenes that add a layer of intrigue you don't normally see in 2D platformers.

Master Spy (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

That said, the spike in difficulty is going to turn some gamers off. Master Spy goes from friendly to punishing in a matter of levels, and some of the later stages are more frustrating than they are fun. It's also disappointing that the game doesn't give our hero new skills throughout his journey. The basic gameplay gets the job done, but for a guy who claims to be a master of spying, he still has some room to grow.

The graphics are a throwback to a different era, reminding me of the games I used to play on the TurboGrafx-16 in 1990. The presentation mimics an old CRT television and the scan lines are used to great effect. It's absolutely gorgeous at times and captures the look of that era better than most games. What's more, it has a killer soundtrack provided by RAC remix mastermind Andre Allen Anjos.

Master Spy is an example of neo-retro done right. It not only looks the part, but goes the extra step by fleshing out the story with captivating cut scenes filled with mysterious characters. While simple, the gameplay is easy to master and the invisibility cloak is a lot of fun to toy around with. I just wish our hero had mastered more spy moves.
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