Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
My uncle Jim is a big James Bond fan, and some of my earliest memories involve the two of us watching the classic films on VHS. Tracking issues permitting, we’d binge on Dr No, Diamonds Are Forever, You Only Live Twice and, well, all of them really, and I loved it.
Which might be why I so fondly remember Data East’s shameless 2D run-gunning platformer clone Sly Spy.
Set in the unspecified year of 199X (how edgy!), the US president and the First Lady have seemingly been assassinated by terrorists working on behalf of the Council for World Domination - a shady force whose raison d'être is general unscrupulous activity and, um, dominating the world. Our man Sly Spy gets wind of the hit and, instead of catching the next flight to Washington National Airport, decides to skydive into the US capitol while murdering loads of CWD terrorists who’re also skydiving on his way down. Standard practice for secret agents, I believe. Licence to kill and all that.
Anyway, so begins Sly’s campaign of redemption as he slaughters umpteen CWD crooks by land, air and sea (of course there’s an obligatory underwater level) in some solid, if a little clunky, 2D platforming that’s pretty reminiscent of Rolling Thunder. The Bond influence is felt beyond the suits and reckless killing too, as a couple of end-of-level bosses bear remarkable resemblance to/are carbon copies of The Spy Who Loved Me’s Jaws and Goldfinger’s Oddjob. Sly can even be temporarily equipped with a Golden Gun but instead of firing pissy gold-plated bullets, this thing fires huge egg-shaped death beams that decimate all that lies in front of it.
If you make it to the game’s final level, you’ll end up clambering up a Moonraker-esque launch pad to fight the CWD’s leader. Before you get there, though, you’ll have to fight the end-level bosses from the previous eight stages again which is a pretty remarkable design choice. And then it turns out the pres isn't dead. Because nothing makes sense in this copycat world.
Nonetheless Sly Spy is good fun. Ahead of its time? Hardly, but it’s still one of the best Bond games ever made.