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Spy Mouse has been on the horizon for some time due to the pedigree of creator Firemint, who developed previous iOS smash hits Real Racing and Flight Control. And as expected, this rodent romp takes after the latter favorite by translating its familiar line-drawing mechanic to a stealth-based, cheese-snatching adventure. It works right out of the gate and holds up pretty well across the sizable campaign, plus Spy Mouse's sleek production values are right up there with the best seen on iPhone to date.
But after hours spent zigzagging around living rooms and evading all sorts of devious felines, I couldn't help but feel like I'd been irritated almost as much as impressed by what's on display. Spy Mouse takes cues from stealth-action games like Metal Gear Solid in the sense that you're sneaking around environments with the aim of evading guards (cats, naturally) while completing objectives (collecting cheese, of course). And many of the missions offer clever stage layouts that'll task your timing and reflexes, as well as your ability to utilize helpful distraction items like televisions and balls of yarn, or pipes and cracks in walls that swap little Agent Squeak from one part of the level to another.
But several other stages simply feel like battles of attrition, where you're likely to be seen by the guard cats -- some of which throw ninja stars from across the stage, and others that'll steal any cheese you're carrying -- and then forced to collect the bounty bit by bit, storing it in safe houses to just finish the stage instead of focusing on having one good, clean run. Many of the cats are terribly overpowered, and while the line-drawing approach works fine for sneaking around, you're pretty much doomed once a speedy black cat is on your tail. It's frustrating, and despite the alluring aesthetics, it was difficult to ignore those moments of annoyance by the time I hit the last couple worlds.
The bottom line. Spy Mouse is a meaty and attractive app that's only a dollar, but inconsistent challenge and misbalanced foes detract from what is often a really well-designed iPhone experience.
iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 3.0 or later
Very slick presentation throughout. Line-drawing mechanic works well for sneaking around living rooms. Many clever stages and items to use.
Often frustrating, due to overpowered enemies and drawn-out objectives. Sneaking seems secondary to grinding through goals in some stages. Daily attempts to sell you a cheat feature at same price as the entire game.