Spy vs. Spy (1984 video game)

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Spy vs. Spy
Spy vs Spy cover.jpg
European Commodore 64 cover art
Developer(s)First Star Software
Publisher(s)Beyond Software (UK)
Tynesoft (BBC, Electron)
Wicked Software (Amiga, ST)
Kemco (NES, GBC)
Robots and Pencils (iOS)
Designer(s)Michael Riedel [1]
Programmer(s)Commodore 64
Michael Riedel [1]
Atari 8-bit
Jim Nangano[1]
Composer(s)Nick Scarim
Hiroyuki Masuno
Platform(s)Acorn Electron, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 64 / 16, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, MSX, NES, Master System, Sharp X1, ZX Spectrum
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Spy vs. Spy is a video game written by Michael Riedel for the Commodore 64 and published by First Star Software in 1984. A port for the Atari 8-bit family was released simultaneously. It is a two-player, split-screen game, based on Mad magazine's long-running cartoon strip Spy vs. Spy, about the slapstick antics of two spies trying to kill each other with improbably elaborate traps and weapons.

It was ported to the Apple II, ZX Spectrum, Acorn Electron, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 16, MSX, Amstrad CPC, Amiga, Master System, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Nintendo Entertainment System, which was emulated on the Game Boy Advance.


White Spy has just found the briefcase (Atari 8-bit)

The object of the game is to collect various secret items in a briefcase and exit the building through a door to the airport, either before the opposing player exits or before the timer runs out. While searching for the items, traps can be laid to take out the opponent (or the player himself, if careless). Each spy has a personal countdown timer which depletes by 30 seconds upon each death.

The arena is an embassy, constructed from a series of interconnected rooms laid out on a grid pattern. Higher levels have more rooms and therefore a larger play area. The spies can engage in hand-to-hand combat (achieved by wiggling the joystick or directional pad left and right or up and down when the spies are in proximity to each other) as well as place traps on the furniture and doors which occupy the playing area. These traps are triggered when a spy searches a piece of furniture or opens a booby trapped door, resulting in a cartoon-style animation showing the subject being shot, blown up, etc, and floating up to heaven as an angel.

Strategy is introduced by limiting the numbers of each trap a spy can use and by allowing the traps to be triggered by either spy. Some pieces of furniture also contain 'remedies' which match up to specific traps; these allow a trap to be defused, but can only be fetched one at a time.


Video magazine described it as "a rousing action-strategy contest" and praised the game's "excellent" graphics as "befit[ting] a game so rooted in a visual medium." The reviewer also noted that "no one has more successfully captured the original feel of the source nor offered a more satisfying result".[4] Ahoy! agreed in its review, calling it a faithful adaptation of the comics and praising both the simultaneous two-player and one-player options.[5] Antic called it "one of the most original and clever games for the Atari computers yet". The magazine praised the simultaneous two-player display and concluded, "I cannot recommend this game highly enough."[6] The ZX Spectrum version was rated number 20 in the Your Sinclair Official Top 100 Games of All Time.[7]


Spy vs. Spy II. When in the same room, both players use the same screen, leaving the other blank.
Spy vs. Spy III

A remake including the original version was released for iOS in 2012, but is no longer available.

Two sequels to the original 1984 game were produced: Spy vs. Spy II: The Island Caper and Spy vs. Spy III: Arctic Antics. The third game was also released for the IBM PC. These kept the basic gameplay while tweaking some core features.[8]

Spy vs. Spy II: The Island Caper[9] adds a side-scrolling play area.[8] Spies no longer start with a fixed number of traps but must collect the raw materials to build them

Spy vs. Spy III: Arctic Antics[10] switches the location from a tropical island to the arctic. The spies fight by throwing snowballs at each other and setting traps, which decreases their body heat bar. Tools include a saw to cut holes in the ice for the second player to fall into. Lost body heat can be restored by moving into a heated igloo.


  1. ^ a b c Hague, James. "The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers".
  2. ^ http://www.gamingrebellion.com/2014/12/spy-vs-spy-nes-release/
  3. ^ http://uk.gamespot.com/sms/action/spyvsspy/similar.html?mode=versions[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Kunkel, Bill (February 1985). "Random Access: Spy vs. Spy". Video. Vol. 8 no. 11. Reese Communications. p. 35. ISSN 0147-8907.
  5. ^ Fried, Greg (March 1985). "Spy vs. Spy". Ahoy!. pp. 33–34. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  6. ^ Bernstein, Harvey (May 1985). "Spy vs. Spy". Antic. p. 81. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  7. ^ "Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time". Your Sinclair. September 1993.
  8. ^ a b Farrell, Andrew. "Spy vs Spy II Review". The Australian Commodore Review. Saturday Magazine Pty. 2 (7): 6. ISSN 0816-5874. OCLC 217544012.
  9. ^ http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-400-800-xl-xe-spy-vs-spy-ii_6757.html
  10. ^ http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-400-800-xl-xe-spy-vs-spy-iii_6197.html

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