A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.