A game of cat and mouse. No, really.
If Electronic Arts were to ever license Tom & Jerry (god forbid!) and decide to make an iPhone game out of it, it would be pretty similar to Spy Mouse – only with familiar faces and hilarious slapstick comedy, we guess.
Developed at Firemint (Real Racing), Spy Mouse is, in soul, very much like the classic cartoon. There is, of course, the mischievous mouse, the cats of the house, and the always troublesome cause of having the cheese. There is a bit of twist to the story, however. You take control of the mouse, who unlike the cartoons, is more of a spy than a regular home mouse (though maybe not as beloved…yet?). He is called Agent Squeak and his mission is to collect various pieces and sizes of cheese from as many households as possible.
There are 6 worlds in total, with at least 10 houses to explore, or err, steal from. Every house, suspiciously vacant of the owners, is patrolled by a number of menacing cats guarding valuable pieces of cheese scattered around the territory. As the player, you must guide the little tot around the area, collecting cheese and other items while remaining out of the watchful eyes of the cats.
The gameplay is quite simple. There are no controls per se; it’s just your finger and your immaculate drawing skills that are required. To control the mouse, you must draw a path for it to follow. What and how the path is remains up to you – not that the game encourages any risky propositions. You have to be brief, quick, and precise, choosing the shortest path possible, to the cheese, around the cat, and finally to the exit door.
Of course, it is not as easy as it sounds. While you will probably breeze through the first world without much challenge, the game starts to get progressively ‘clever’ as various elements are introduced. The cats, unlike Tom, are not complete idiots or romantic fools (albeit they are fans of the television). They are sharp and ready to pounce, and are as dedicated to the job as any. And to make matters worse, there are different types of cats. Some are blind but sharp on the ear, some are extremely agile and can get to you within seconds, and some even throw projectiles! Collecting cheese also gets tougher. Not only do you have to dodge these cats, you also have to collect multiple pieces of them to complete a level. Some pieces of cheese are booby-trapped, requiring a journey across the four corners of the map to steal a mouse toy to slaughter instead.
What’s more, every world is punctuated with a boss fight that not only requires high precision with the finger but also ‘on-the-toes’ thinking and quick maneuver ability. Thankfully, you are not just left to battle it all alone. You have your set of tools which you must use to get through. Firstly, there are, of course, the mouseholes where you can hide or pop out from another part of the map. You also have access to buckets within which you can go about doing your business without raising an alarm (cats are unable to comprehend a moving buckets, we guess), albeit for only a short period of time. There are also these ‘safes’ in maps which stores cheese collected by the mouse after it reaches its carry capacity. Storing pieces of cheese in such safes frees up the mouse to collect more of them to complete the level.
My only gripe with the whole system is that sometimes, due to my thick finger, the entire screen gets covered up, leaving me in blind spots to draw a winning path. This is a trouble with many a games, so the gameplay is not to be blamed entirely. Other than that, the controls are so simple and the levels so well-conceived, it manages to deliver a good dose of excitement and thrill, either in small sizes or even for longer hauls.
And the game is just so well presented that it caters equally to all kinds of audiences – small children, adult gamers and even the casual Angry Birds captives. At $0.99, Spy Mouse is a lot of content, and its achievements for each level should lure the completionist in, too. It’s effectively simple, and its short level format makes it ideal for situations where boredom is all for kill.