I like to consider myself a fan of stealth-oriented games, even if I’m typically terrible at them. What brings me to the genre is not just the non-violent approach to the action, but the amount of different worlds it covers. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to play games featuring ninjas, raccoons, and Cold War-era secret agents. With all of that said, I’m not sure anything is as inherently odd as Spy Chameleon.
Developed by the rookie team over at Unfinished Pixel, Spy Chameleon tasks players with stealthily navigating 75 different levels as the titular RGB Agent. While there is a vague goal described at the beginning of each mission, which are comprised of 15 levels, the main task for each level is to collect the 10 flies around the room. This makes sense, of course, because you are a lizard, after all.
Eating bugs isn’t as easy as just running over and gulping them down, however. Each level is littered with assorted creatures and guards tasked with stopping you on sight. You literally are forced to stop as soon as you are spotted by their cone-shaped line of vision. Unlike other stealth games, you can’t go back into hiding once they are aware of your presence. Whether it be stationary drones, muscular rats, or fishbowl-trapped goldfish, there are no shortage of baddies out to stop you.
Thankfully, our amphibian friend has several methods for progressing through levels. Players will have to utilize mechanics such as nudging fish bowls to sway their vision, pushing cabinets to hide behind, and tapping a sonic distributor in order to freeze mice in their place. Taking a page from the book of Solid Snake, our hero can also crawl underneath a cardboard box in order to hide in plain sight.
The most important mechanic, and the one that makes the most sense, is the color-changing ability of our hero. While he typically walks around in his traditional green skin, he can also turn blue, red, or yellow with the simple press of a button. By changing his color, he can blend in with colored rugs, or in later levels, color-shifting panels. What’s particularly nice about this feature is the fact that each color is mapped to the respective colored button on the Xbox One controller. So if you hit “A” you will turn green, and so on.
What makes Spy Chameleon such an enjoyable experience is not the fact that the gameplay is deep, because it isn’t, but rather that it does simplicity so well. The game is very straight forward with what you are doing, and thanks to tight and responsive controls, it never seems as boring or tedious as it could be.
One of the other things I appreciated about Unfinished Pixels’ game is the fact that there is a real sense of progression across each level. They introduce new mechanics and wrinkles to the gameplay at regular intervals, but never overwhelm you with too much at once. It would have been easy for the studio to throw everything at you over the course of the first mission, but by holding out mechanics over the course of the full game, the burden is lessened. With all of the proper training developed over the previous levels, by the end of the game, you are skillfully navigating highly guarded locales with little trouble.
While the sense of progression is mostly consistent across the entirety of Spy Chameleon, I was a little disappointed with the last batch of levels. It’s during these final 15 levels that they introduce two of the easier gameplay mechanics, that of the cardboard box and the security guard flies. The box is easy to abuse, as it turns what should be tricky sections, into merely slow-paced ones, and the flies are easily dispatched, as unlike every other guard, you can just eat them.
There also isn’t a ton of additional content for you to take on once you make a run through the main campaign. My first run on medium difficulty took me between 2-3 hours to finish, so even the original content doesn’t last for too long. Ideally, Unfinished Pixel would want you to play through each level again, not only on a harder difficulty, but to also complete it in a faster time and find every hidden ladybug. If you are a gamer who likes to compete with others, or one with a lust for achievements, this probably sounds better to you than to me.
Of course, it’s easy to look past these flaws once you realize that the title will only set you back a cool $5. I don’t typically go into how much a game is worth relative to its cost, unless it is something particularly egregious. However, I think that the cheap cost of admission is a major benefit here. I
Going into Spy Chameleon I wasn’t sure what to exactly expect. The budget price, I admit, was eyebrow-raising, as was the relatively bland look of the game. However, after spending mere minutes with it I was hooked by its addicting gameplay. One more level eventually turned into one hour later, which is shocking considering the wonderful weather we are currently experiencing. The game just scratched an itch that I didn’t know I had.
It seems rare to get your full moneys worth from a game nowadays, but I believe that Unfinished Pixels’ debut more than justifies its cost.
This review was based on the Xbox One version of the title, which we were provided with.
Boasting addicting gameplay and tight mechanics, Spy Chameleon provides more than enough content to justify its cheap price tag.