Stealth games come in all shapes and sizes. Spy Chameleon opts for the overhead 2D approach which provides a simple and fresh take on the genre, but is it as fun as its 3D counterparts? Activate your cloaking device, we're about to find out.
Spy Chameleon is played by guiding the titular chameleon to the exit of each level without being spotted. Although there are many mechanics that slowly unfold throughout the campaign, the controls are simple. Besides moving around while trying to avoid being noticed by patrols and cameras, you can also tap the four face buttons to change to the corresponding colour in order to blend in with your environment. This is accomplished wonderfully with tight controls and immediate responsiveness. However, just because it's simple to play, that doesn't mean that it's easy to master.
The visuals consist of sharp environments and easily distinguishable areas of interest. This crispness ends up making the gameplay all the more enjoyable since the graphics never get in the way. You can even pan the camera around the level if you want to see what's ahead. The problem with the visuals is that areas lack diversity. Even though you'll traverse homes, laboratories, and offices, they all look the same with very few distinct features. The only significant differences are the colour of the floor and the style of furniture. It would have been great to see more personality in the environments such as silly artwork, experiments gone awry in the laboratory, or office workers that simply don't care that you're snooping around. On a positive note, the featured soundtrack is fantastic. It's lively and funky which matches the quirky vibe perfectly. Also, the songs constantly change so they never become repetitive.
Over the course of the campaign, many elements are slowly introduced. Some floors automatically change colour, different kinds of guards patrol their designated areas, and overhead cameras can always see you and will catch you if you don't hide before they register your presence. You can also collect keys to open doors, slide file cabinets, stand on buttons to move wall segments, eat patrol flies, distract fish from staring in your direction, and hide in a box like Solid Snake. Although these mechanics definitely add layers to the gameplay, it still doesn't change much throughout.
Upon completing each of the campaign's five areas, you'll be surprised that you're done because you'd expect the final level to be some sort of boss, but it always feels like just an ordinary level. It would've helped mix up the gameplay and keep things fresh if there were bosses and challenge levels. In fact, the difficulty doesn't even change much from the beginning of the adventure. Sure, some levels are harder than others, but if you can pass the first set of levels then you'll easily breeze through the rest of the game. In the end, it just feels like you're beating level after level with very little diversity to break up the monotony.
Each level features a few replay incentives in the form of finding all of the collectable flies, beating the target time, and after completing a level once, you can play it again to collect ladybugs. This sounds fun on paper, but what it means is that you have to finish each level three times to achieve 100% completion. This is due to the fact that collecting all of the flies and finishing under the target time is next to impossible to accomplish simultaneously and the ladybugs don't spawn until you've already completed the level once. It makes you wish that you can do everything in one run, but you can't. Besides this, you have the option to play the entire campaign on a harder difficulty if you're up for a challenge. Overall, there are plenty of replay incentives which is a good thing, but their implementation is far from ideal.
Spy Chameleon is a fun little adventure that you're bound to enjoy if you dig stealth games. However, its general lack of diversity when it comes to gameplay, challenge, and environments ends up making it a difficult game to universally recommend.
- + Enjoyable stealth mechanics are rewarding to play around with and master
- + Each level boasts plenty of replay value
- + Very cool funky soundtrack
- - Inadequate gameplay diversity
- - Difficulty doesn't ramp up enough
- - Even though there are different locations, they all lack distinct personality