Thanks to Flying Tiger Entertainment for the review code
Title: Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Sly Spy
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 05/03/2018
In the early 90s, the United States is infiltrated by a terrorist group, and the president and his aides are captured! You take control of a spy that must hunt down and stop the terrorist group before they gain control of the US Nuclear Missile system and destroy the world!
Released as part of the same arcade line that Gate of Doom was, the menu features and other aspects are the exact same as in that title, meaning you have the same range of filters to choose from and the two different aspect ratios to choose from. As for the game itself, it looks very similar to Bad Dudes in terms of perspective and tone, to the point I wouldn’t be surprised if it was on the same engine as that game. It’s not as colorful as some other games from the time period, but its a serviceable presentation at the very least, with some decent music and solid voice samples.
Sly Spy doesn’t even try to hide the obvious sources of its inspiration, with themes akin to James Bond movies along with most of the stages playing exactly like Namco’s Rolling Thunder, in that you move from left to right, dodging and shooting at enemies without getting damaged before reaching the end of the stage. There are a few differences from Rolling Thunder to make it not a total 1:1 ripoff though, from the inclusion of boss battles and a few stages that take place underwater, along with an auto-scrolling one on a bike, although the core goal of the stages remain exactly the same, with you heading towards the end, avoiding death, and then beating a boss before repeating a few more times to beat the game.
Rolling Thunder was known for being a downright evil and punishing game, requiring absolute precision and being careful with your ammo in order to successfully make it out of a stage alive. Sly Spy is quite tough as well, but not on a consistent level compared to Rolling Thunder, especially since your ammo barely runs out, as you start off with a bunch of it and enemies drop it very frequently, to the point I only ran out of ammo twice in the game. Luckily, unlike Rolling Thunder, being ammo-less doesn’t make you shoot bullets at the speed of molasses, and instead it gives you physical combat moves to work with instead, shifting the gameplay to a beat-em-up akin to Double Dragon, at least until you get some more ammo. In fact, the brawler attacks can even make some bosses easier than if you used your weapon, which makes the power-down not completely worthless.
That being said, this game is still an arcade game in the end, and thus there had to be some level of limiting the game from being too easy. In Sly Spy, your one life is your entire credit, that’s it. So after a few hits from enemies you’ll be done for and the invasion will begin, unless you choose to use one of the infinite credits you have. Sadly, unlike most arcade titles, continuing won’t reset your score, which means if you choose to abuse the power of credit-feeding, there’s nothing stopping you from getting really high scores and beating the game in the 20 minutes it would take, making this something that you have to limit yourself on if you want to just play for hi-scores after you beat it. As with Gate of Doom, there’s also no DIP Switch option for some confusing reason, which means that sadly you will not be able to make the game harder if the earlier levels are too easy for you, or easier if you don’t like the low health bar. I still don’t get why they don’t at least allow you to disable the continue option so you don’t have to wait for the game over timer to run out every time if you aim for hi-scores, but that’s the one oddity of this re-release.
In conclusion, Sly Spy is a decent entry in the Johnny Turbo Arcade lineup, bringing a decent action game to home systems in a more cost-efficient method than the out of print Data East Wii disc. Like Gate of Doom, you won’t be able to adjust any of the DIP Switch settings, which means you can’t make the game easier or harder, rather annoyingly. If you go and credit feed with this game, it’ll take you only 20 minutes to beat, which seems laughable, especially since continuing doesn’t reset your current score and thus makes limiting your continues for a higher score harder to do.
Still, despite these shortcomings and how this rerelease could be handled much, much better, the core game is still a lot of fun and even with the short length, it’s engaging enough to pick up and play through every now and then to challenge yourself with a higher score. For being a dollar less than the standard retro release, it’s a good deal, too, but it could have also been a bit better by adding DIP Switch features and maybe some historical information as well, akin to how The Disney Afternoon Collection includes tons of history and production art about each of the included games.
I give Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Sly Spy a 7 out of 10.