Retro-Spective: Spy vs Spy

In this series, I plan to wax nostalgic about the more obscure games I played growing up and hopefully introduce some of you to new gaming experiences with old games.

Spy vs. Spy
Developed by First Star Software
Published by Various (depending on platform)
NES and various other platforms, 1984

As a kid, I was MAD about MAD Magazine (haha, see what I did there?). My mom had a once had a boss who was looking to get rid of all his vintage MAD paperbacks and my mom gave them to me (because yes, they had books somewhere back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Also, I was probably in my early tweens or teens and the fact that she let me read MAD Magazine but wouldn’t let me watch MTV was strange, at best).

Spy vs. Spy was a game released in the ‘80s on multiple platforms (seriously, it was eventually released on a total of 16 platforms) The game was based on the titular spies that were so popular in MAD Magazine. Much like their comic counterparts, the spies don’t talk, and gameplay is focused on each spy trying to outmaneuver the other to gather items and maybe even blow their opponent up with a trap.

The spies, known as Black and White, work on a split screen view and you can either play one player against the computer or two player versus. The level consist of floors within a building in a sort of grid pattern, like what you see above. Items are hidden throughout furniture or behind paintings in these rooms, and its the spy’s job to find them and gather all four into a briefcase, then get to the helicopter to make their escape.

One of the most fun parts of this game (for me at least) was the stabbing battles you can have when you finally encounter each other. You can sometimes find weapon upgrades, but no matter what, you always have the dagger and therefore the option to stab at your opposing spy to try to take them out. This buys you time to continue your search or set up traps for them while they waited to respawn (that’s what the kids call it these days, right?).

If you manage to catch your opponent in a trap, they die and ascend to whatever heaven silent, violent spies go to.

In the end, whoever finds the items and escapes first ends up getting in a plane and soaring far away to… wherever it is silent, violent spies go when they complete their mission. The remaining spy gets to run around wildly for a seconds before they die (from failure, I guess?).
This is another game I liked to play with my sister because why wouldn’t I love a game where I can chase my sister around with a dagger (I swear, I was a well-adjusted child.) The computer player was pretty slow and dumb, but there was also a long period of time where young Kelso didn’t have any CLUE what she was supposed to be doing in this game anyway, so it still won.
I’ve been able to find this game once in a while in second hand shops but it’s definitely one of the harder ones to find, so if you see a cartridge, you should snag it. A retro remake was released for iOS in 2012 but the iOS 11 update broke it due to the exclusion of 32-bit apps (thanks Tim Cook).


Aww, look, they’re making a heart. Kind of.

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About Kelso Rowland

Kelso Rowland is an artist, podcaster and long-time gamer who resides in the Twin Cities with her husband and three fur children. She watches too many horror films and has sold her soul to Bioware. You can find her on Twitter @kellyinacan.
View all posts by Kelso Rowland →

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