It often feels like games try pushing the “big” picture for their customers. They want you to experience the big explosions and heart racing action and try to cram as much of this excitement as they can into a game. What tends to happen though in going with the big picture, the smaller, little details are left out. Why worry about the small things when there’s a monster the size of a sky scraper in front of you or a million armed soldiers running down a hill trying to shoot you? What is forgotten is that sometimes, it’s the simple things that make a game fun. SpyParty is a perfect example on how focusing on the small details can be just as exciting and entertaining as the big thrills.
SpyParty is an espionage style game being created by Chris Hecker and is currently in early Beta testing. I’ve been invited to take part in the beta and have the opportunity to share pictures, videos, and impressions of my experience. Time to shake your martini and dive into the party.
On the surface, SpyParty is rather simple. It is currently a 2-player game where one player controls the Spy and the other plays as the Sniper. The Spy is placed in a room full of party goers and must accomplish a set number of tasks before time runs out but must do so by drawing as little attention to themselves as possible. Naturally, as the sniper, you are trying to find and shoot the spy before they are able to do all of their missions. The one thing both players share is that there is little room for error. One wrong move can give the spy away while the sniper only gets one shot and needs to make it count.
First and foremost, do NOT judge this game by the graphics. The graphics may seem a bit retro but the meat of this game is the interaction you share as spy and sniper. While the concept seems very simple, the game is far from it. Both roles play very differently and focus on different things, but what is shared between the two is a crucial attention to detail. At first I thought playing the Spy would be easy, I mean how hard could it be to act like a NPC, right? Apparently very hard I came to realize after playing my first couple of matches. Little things like not making a mistake when you are walking, mistiming a certain action, or simply leaving a conversation too early can give you away. The game does a great job reminding you how human it is to err.
As the Spy, you always are able to see where the Sniper is pointing their gun…but this doesn’t necessarily mean that is where they are looking. This created an intense paranoia feeling for me where I felt I was under a microscope and was always being watched at all times. This in turn makes every mission as a Spy extremely tense and suspenseful. The smallest action easily becomes a tense, hold-your-breath-moment as you cross your fingers and just hope your advisory didn’t just see that statue swap.
The Sniper is equally as intense. Instead of focusing on blending, the greatest tool you must rely on is your observational skills. Hecker does such a great job of making the NPCs more human that it makes it a real challenge to determine whether something you just saw was Spy or intentional programming. NPCs will occasionally make movement mistakes, change directions suddenly, behave odd for just a short enough to make you question if they are the Spy. Often times I would spot something and monitor a character for minutes at a time believing them to be the Spy when they were really just an NPC. There are tells that are dead giveaways for the Spy and when I caught them, I felt a rush of joy and relief while thinking to myself “checkmate”. But these 100% certainties get harder and harder to catch as you begin to play with more experienced players. Just like with the Spy, there is always that suspenseful moment you have right before pulling the trigger where you’re not 100% sure you have the right target and hold your breath to see if you were right or just shot an innocent bystander.
SpyParty truly is a game of psychological warfare. Strategies and style had to change with each person I played. It is incredibly addictive as well. While each match only lasts around 3-5 minutes, it was very easy to get sucked into playing for 2-3 hours at a time. And despite its simple premise, it takes a lot of time and practice to “master” each class making it clear the game is very skill based. It’s hard for a beginner to go against an expert player with 100+ games under their belt but the more you play/learn, the better you become.
Overall I’m really enjoying my time with SpyParty. The concept is unique and provides a much different style of gameplay than what is currently out there. The game has a solid starting foundation and I would even go so far as to say the game, as it is right now, is well worth the $15 admittance fee despite the limited graphics and game options. The great thing is there are a lot of different directions this game can. I can only expect it to improve between now and its release in the future.
SpyParty is currently in a closed beta, but you can sign up and get on the waiting list to be invited (Hecker is now sending out 100’s of invite each week and plans to increase the number of invites as time goes on). The game is playable on both Windows and Mac based computers. As of right now, SpyParty’s beta is in the style of MineCraft where to be in the beta, you will have to pay $15 BUT this also means you will get the game for free once it is released (along with a few other possible goodies…emphasis on the possible). You can sign up for the beta here:
I’ll be sure to keep posting more pics and hopefully some more videos of my beta experience.