Snake may have some competition this year for stealthiest game character. It’s all well and good being able to hide in boxes, or camouflage yourself, but he certainly can’t change the colour of his skin instantaneously, unless there’s something we don’t know about Metal Gear Solid V.
Created by indie developer Unfinished Pixel, and having arrived on Steam and Wii U last year, Spy Chameleon on Xbox One tasks you with making your way through a variety of courses viewed from the top down, whilst ensuring you remain undiscovered from the myriad surveillance equipment that’s in place. From CCTV cameras through to the slightly more unconventional lab-rats and goldfish in glass bowls, each level has plenty of ways to catch you out.
Spy Chameleon’s key ability as an RGB agent is being able to change the colour of his skin to match the four face buttons of the Xbox One controller – green, red, blue and yellow. A button press sees you switch instantaneously, allowing you to hide from the watchful creatures and contraptions cones of vision on similiarly coloured flooring, with different coloured carpets and panels handily placed around each level.
There are seventy-five levels, split across five different overarching missions which range from taking photos of a celebrity with her lover to stealing the formula for a soft-drink. Fundamentally the story has very little impact on solving each level’s puzzles, though the Spy Chameleon looks extremely happy whenever he completes a mission which makes things relatively satisfying.
Longevity comes via each level’s three challenges. Firstly, there are a number of flies in each level to collect, most of which are also a means of directing you where to go. The second, and potentially the most addictive, is a time limit in which to complete the level. Your time is then also automatically uploaded for comparison with both your friends and the world at large, which during my time with the game saw repeated plays of various levels in order to shave a few more seconds off my best time.
The third challenge only unlocks after you’ve completed the level once, with a return visit bringing the arrival of a number of ladybirds dotted around the level. They’re often positioned in places that are hard to get to, and often require a rethink about how you approach a level. There’s plenty there to keep any player interested, beyond the relatively short time it takes to make your way through the seventy-five levels.
The game’s visuals are bright and attractive, with the jumper and mask-wearing chameleon a very likeable character, given more life by the cartoon panels that appear whenever you’re caught out by one of the game’s ever-watchful devices. Thankfully, being caught and restarting are instantaneous affairs, with larger levels having various checkpoints that make success that much easier to attain.
Aurally the game’s funky and upbeat soundtrack reminded me of the recent Ocean’s Eleven films, with similar instrumentation of energetic guitars, organs and frenetic bass lines lending the game a great atmosphere. Some of the tracks really helped me envision the scene from Ocean’s 13 where ‘The Fox’ makes his way through a laser field in order to steal something or other, with some wonderful comparisons between that and Spy Chameleon’s gameplay nailing the feel and the atmosphere of the crime-caper.
There are peaks and troughs to the difficulty, with some of the levels becoming fiendishly hard, requiring repeated restarts and split-second timing to progress, while others are incredibly simple. Sometimes the game seems a touch unforgiving in terms of the detection vision cones, but it’s not unfair. Levels are surmountable, and the checkpoints in some of the levels are a welcome addition, particularly as they record what you’ve done with each use meaning you can return to them a number of times on your way to completion.
The only problem I had during my time with the game came after I’d used the Xbox One’s sleep function. After restarting the game I had lost my progress through about five levels, including my entries in the time-trial leaderboards, though there’s every possibility that this was due to the Xbox One’s functions rather than the game.
Spy Chameleon is a fun and engaging puzzler, with a likeable aesthetic that will keep you amused throughout its seventy-five increasingly challenging levels. It’s a relatively short experience, but the extra challenges and online leaderboards add length to an enjoyable indie package.
Version Tested: Xbox One