CounterSpy

Game review by
Michael Lafferty, Common Sense Media
CounterSpy Game Poster Image
Entertaining yet violent parody of Cold War-era threats.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The overall tone is upbeat, and the spy receives positive reinforcement for completing assignments. Still, the game's purpose is entertainment, and there are no clear-cut choices between right and wrong. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The "hero" has the option of shooting it out or using a more stealth-like approach, such as intimidating enemy officers. But the choices ultimately fall in the lap of the player. The game tends to poke gentle fun at the Cold War era but doesn't take sides. The agency the protagonist works for is out to sabotage both the Imperialist and Socialist factions.

Ease of Play

A tutorial level gives players the opportunity to get familiar with the controls, but the game is rather intuitive. The menu interface is easy to navigate. Gameplay can be "twitch" focused, so players may be asked to target, fire, and reacquire another target quickly. There can be lots of enemies in an area, but cover doesn't always do a great job of stopping enemy bullets. 

Violence

The hero infiltrates enemy strongholds and can either choke an enemy character (with a little neck snap at the end) or use a variety of guns that result in bloodshed and spurts of blood when enemies are struck by bullets. Players can target enemy body parts, including heads. As players advance, enemies get stronger and require more than one or two shots to kill. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that CounterSpy is a two-dimensional, side-scrolling downloadable action-adventure game that involves strategy and counterintelligence themes. The levels are randomly generated, which gives the game replayability value, and online leaderboards let players see how well they stack up against others. There are four difficulty levels, but harder levels need to be unlocked. Violence includes use of a variety of weapons (primarily guns) to shoot enemies, who spurt blood before dying. The game looks like a stylized cartoon with themes of the Cold War era. 

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byandrewh3 August 25, 2015
Fun to play, looks amazing and is the perfect balance of easy and hard. For me counterspy was a fun stealthy spy game with clever use of cover and angles, but... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byPhilidk November 3, 2016

What's it about?

COUNTERSPY explores a time when there was a race for "the biggest and pointiest missiles," and the threat of nuclear annihilation was real. Instead of setting the game in the real world, CounterSpy inserts the C.O.U.N.T.E.R. agency into an alternate world, sabotaging both the Imperialist and Socialist schemes. The game uses mission-based scenarios and randomly generated levels to challenge players, with harder difficulty levels that need to be unlocked. One nameless and faceless agent is the protagonist sent on missions, and he can dispatch enemies using stealth tactics or go in with guns blazing. The game also incorporates minor platforming elements into the overall mix, which requires some strategy to get at all the hidden elements and the main mission elements.

Is it any good?

CounterSpy is a stylized side-scroller that looks great; has a nice, bouncy musical theme; and is just plain fun. It's intuitive to play before the challenge ramps up as players progress. Lots of games promise to put you in the shoes of James Bond-like spies, but very few attempt to capture the spirit and flair of the Cold War the way this game does. The angular lines of the nameless spy provide an innate sense of stealth that oozes from the screen during each base infiltration. You can choose to be stealthy or go in guns blazing, but you still feel like a super-spy in possession of secret weapons and gadgets to help you achieve your mission.

The clever hook of searching through bases for documents and secret plans will scratch the covert itch for many players as they try to prevent both the Imperialists and Socialists from achieving their goals. What's even better is the surprising competitive play; based on how well players do on a mission, they receive an overall score for their campaign, which factors into a global leaderboard. At any time, you can attempt to best the score of a particular mission, giving you the opportunity to earn bonus cash and gear. It's this element that adds a sense of multiplayer competition in a game that's really a single-player experience. Overall, CounterSpy is big on personality with a nice mix of fun thrown in; it doesn't take itself or its time frame seriously but focuses on an entertaining spy experience. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difference between cartoon/animated violence and real-world violence as shown in CounterSpy. Which has a stronger impact? Why?

  • Talk about the Cold War era and the different perspectives of the countries involved. Why did diplomacy fail on both sides?

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