Sly Spy: The best James Bond game that doesn't have a Bond license
Good morning, Agent Not 0-0-7. Lots to be done.
It's time for my good self to bless your Monday with another video! For today's video, I've got a quick review of one of my favourite Arcade games from back in the day - Data East's Sly Spy, otherwise known as Secret Agent outside the US. It's notable for me not just as a fine slice of good old fashioned Arcade fun, but because of just how much it manages to crib from Britain's finest covert operative, the almighty James Bond. As ever, the video is right here!
This game's got everything - from a Walther PPK to a Golden Gun, appearances from Jaws and Oddjob, a final sequence taken directly from Moonraker and even the ability to enter your own code number in the beginning that doesn't even affect the game -- it just allows you to call yourself Agent 007. It was also a great deal better than just about every other Bond game around at the time, even if that wasn't too difficult -- there's a skydiving stage, deep sea diving, bike riding, and a few good old fashioned side-scrolling stages that bear a not insignificant similarity to the classic Rolling Thunder. While I wouldn't say it's the best Data East game, it's certainly a favourite of mine as it's everything I want from 20 minutes of Arcade entertainment, and it's also got those classic Data East quirks -- posters for their games, a suggestion that Oddjob is related to Karnov, and even the headless corpse of Robocop. Data East are nothing if not self-referential, after all.
Sly Spy is so close to its clear inspiration that when I was making this video, I almost expected to find out that at some point along the line it was meant to be an official James Bond title. And yet that never seems to be the case -- the license for 007 was largely with Domark at that time, and presumably that did not change even though Data East were closely associated with UK licensed game enthusiasts Ocean Software, who you would have thought would have had a crack at the license at some point. Sly Spy was always resolutely unofficial, and in spite of all the clear copyright issues they got away with it scot free! I suppose that this says something about the nascent state of licensed games at the time -- a lot of folks in Hollywood weren't particularly aware of them or their potential, thus allowing things like this to happen or for someone like Ocean to make an absolute killing by buying up the license to something like RoboCop for next to nothing. Data East were even able to repeat the same trick with the Indiana Jones-tastic The Cliffhanger: Edward Randy later on.
Regardless of all that though, I still have a lot of love for Sly Spy -- much like Aliens, another game from 1990 that I covered a few weeks back, it was always a machine that I'd stop to play if I passed by it. It's a shame that it never recieved a console port of any description, although it did get some really good ports for home computers courtesy of Ocean -- the Commodore 64 port in particular features music by Geoff Follin, and is as good if not better than the original Arcade, only let down a little by a punishing multiload system. It's exceptionally rare to find a game that's not only a blast in the Arcades, but where every home port is also a keeper -- from the Amiga and ST to the Speccy and Amstrad, it's a doozy and a game that's very close to my heart. Hopefully you enjoy the video!