Firemint’s Spy Mouse [$.99] probably won’t spawn a billion copycats like Flight Control [$.99 / HD] and it lacks the jaw-dropping 3D prowess of Real Racing 2 [$4.99 / HD], but it’s a mechanically solid and visually pleasing game that, in addition to being flat-out entertaining, breaks down a lot of stealth game barriers of entry. Basically, I'm just saying it's really good.

Stealth games are notoriously fickle things; genetically linked to arcade stock that treats players like quarter-pumping cattle, stealth’s central conceits have revolved around failure, punishment, and the gaming of its systems instead of things like fun and rewards. Spy Mouse mitigates a lot of the not-so-fabulous parts of its mechanics by being pretty up-front about its moment-to-moment stealth: it clearly shows you enemy pathways, its top-down perspective quickly gives you a handle on what you can do and when, and it’s mechanically simple, which eliminates the need to execute grand schemes or interact with complicated systems in second-long bursts.

In a couple of words, it’s strikes me as a ‘balanced’ game. It isn’t super action heavy and as forgiving as the new Splinter Cell title, but it’s also not as stringent as an early Metal Gear or a Hitman. It’s challenging without being stupidly hard; its AI is predictable but capable; its level design allows for autonomy without sacrificing a vision; its boss battles are tough while simultaneously entertaining; and it gives you just enough information to succeed without overloading you.

It’s also pretty pure. This is a game about a mouse grabbing cheese underneath cats’ noses. The cats patrol on highlighted pathways, while you move around similarly to how you draw a plane’s path in Flight Control. It’s indirect movement, but it serves the game well and keeps pacing on an even keel, ensuring few stealth "Oh Crap, Get Behind The Wall Quick" messes.

There are times in which I really, really want more direct control over my character, but those are few, and frankly, it’s because I’m approaching situations in stupid ways. Just like Flight Control, Spy Mouse is all about economy of movement and good planning; it’s not about dancing in front of cats and stumbling away in the nick of time, even though you can, if you want, do just that.

What strikes me as odd is that the core mechanic isn’t its biggest draw. I’ve been having more fun with the situational content that you apply movement to, as opposed to drawing raw joy from stalking behind corners. For the better, Firemint has loaded Spy Mouse with oodles of levels, all of which have something fun or strategy-light to offer. It even throws in a bunch of power-ups, side cheese, and hidden areas into the mix, brightening up and differentiating the overall offering, while still maintaining a cohesive feel.

And, sure, while Spy Mouse does a great job of tossing out a lot of stealth game garbage, trial and error are still very much a part of the package. The catch is that it does a fantastic job of putting you right back in to the action in a snap, Super Meat Boy-style.

Artistically and visually, I love what I’m seeing. I’m not the kind of dude who usually reflects on this stuff, but it’s hard to deny the appeal of the soft, Disney-like overall aesthetic. It oozes character without beating you over the head with it, and, you know, its colors and contrasts also look pretty sharp on ‘HD’ devices.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty pleased with Firemint's latest offering. It’s a neat change of pace from a talented development house, and more importantly, it’s a fun and good game. Give it a try, especially if you're into stealth without a lot of the mess.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Duffman

    I got it and what this article doesn't tell you is that this game is mainly for kids. There is no challenge.

    • Macaroon

      Speaking fo challenge, there are challenges, but instead of just letting you play them, you have to float around 'squeaking' in virtual space with other players in your local. In other words, if there is no one else playing SPY Mouse in your area, then no challenges for you. Seems pretty lame to me...

  • Anonymous

    Sadly, the influence of EA is now apparent. The game features a "cheat" character that can be purchased within the app (like the super bird in Angry Birds), and constantly tries to upsell you even when you're not having any problems finishing the levels. Even worse, there's no way to stop it from pestering you every couple of levels or so (it keeps asking, and there's no setting to disable it).

    This is something Firemint would have never done when it was an independent studio. It's unfortunate to see EA's corporate agenda of greed corrupt the products of another great game developer.

    • TokyoHam

      This, in addition to the lack of iPad support makes this a 'pass' for me. I wish EA hadn't been involved ... 🙁

      • Eli Hodapp

        Firemint never released a "standard" and "HD" release simultaneously before EA got involved, so how exactly does this relate to EA in any way?

        Here are their release dates:

        Flight Control: Mar 05 '09
        Flight Control HD: Mar 29 '10

        Real Racing: Jun 08 '09
        Real Racing HD: Mar 29 '10

        Real Racing 2: Dec 15 '10
        Real Racing 2 HD: Mar 11 '11

        Firemint was acquired by EA on May 03 '11, after these six staggered releases. ...But don't let me be the one to spoil all the "ARGH EA!!!" fun going on here. 🙂

      • Anonymous

        I don't think he ever blamed tha lack of iPad support on EA...

      • Daniel Skatter do realize that the iPad came out in early 2010, yes? So your points on the first two apps are 100% meaningless in the first place, since the original Flight Control and Real Racing came out BEFORE THE IPAD EXISTED.

        Just saying.

    • Eli Hodapp

      Every interview I've read since the acquisition from Firemint CEO Rob Murray stresses that it's been business as usual for them, and EA hasn't been meddling in their affairs. Why don't you apply Occam's Razor to this situation? In that case, what makes more sense, Murray has been completely lying to the entire gaming press and EA overlords are forcing them to shoehorn in extra functionality... Or, that they saw the success Rovio realized with the Mighty Eagle and decided to implement something similar?

      Note: Answering this question might require you to remove your tin foil hat. 😉

      • Ashflow

        I agree with you about EA's involvment, except for the lack of GC. That really is their fault.

      • MrFouSix

        Maybe its a little bit of both, but no GameCenter support?! :O
        Now that's proof EA is pure evil

      • Anonymous

        You're missing the point. Regardless of whose decision it was, the constant pestering to upsell a cheat character -- whether you need/want it or not -- is annoying and ruins the game experience. Evidently you haven't read the reviews in the App Store.

  • Lurker

    This isn't really a comment about the game, but more the review -- please read through and edit your reviews before you submit, this review is packed with typo's.

  • Travis

    Nah, EA is just money hungry you crazy hipster.

  • Ahiru Nakamura

    EA publishing = no Game Center, therefore not buying it as for now

    • Flaco Boy

      agree idk whats EA problem with Game  a free service so why not use it? im just saying 

  • firemint

    We're really glad you like it Brad 🙂

    • Flaco Boy

      what happen to game center support? dont lie saying is coming soon if is not just to get ride of us you r loyal customer that pay for your games

      • Ahiru Nakamura

        I believe EA won't allow them to use Game Center, as they [EA] are probably trying to insert their "Origin" service in iOS, I don't know... this plain sucks, as I loved Flight Control and Real Racing... Makes me wonder, wasn't Flight Control "the" Game Center showing off app in the 1st place?? Curse you EA...

  • Chris1a

    How does it look (and play) on iPad?

  • Alex

    Yeah, where the hell is the GameCenter support and why the hell did you throw in EA's really crappy Origin service instead which is CLEARLY buggy (I can't adjust settings in Origin) and just so terrible to use. Seriously.  If you can come on here and complement a review, leave some answers as well.

    Also, Brad, why did you fail to mention anything about the lack of GameCenter and EA's terrible Origin support?  I see nothing bad mentioned here AT ALL.  Talk about biased.  Were you paid to leave this overly flattering review?

    How about how you can achieve each individual goal separately, but it should be made so you can only accomplish them together (which the majority of them can be done that way).

    How about that if you start playing the game and play say 30 levels in, THEN go to sign in to Origin, you have to start from level one again, but if you sign out your gameplay to level 30 is back as though it is saving different profiles (in that case they should have created a profile setting so as not to confuse players who now think they lost all their progress).

    Or how about the fact they if you don't have anyone near you with this game and an iPhone, you can't unlock some features like Challenges in backpack (where is GameCenter support).

    I like this game.  It's fun, a little bit too easy, but fun none-the-less.  Very much the same sense of satisfaction I get from playing Cut-the-Rope.  However, there are flaws.  You failed to mention anything negative which is suspicious.

    • Alex

      This was directed towards firemints post above:
      Yeah, where the hell is the GameCenter support and why the hell did you throw in EA's really crappy Origin service instead which is CLEARLY buggy (I can't adjust settings in Origin) and just so terrible to use. Seriously.  If you can come on here and complement a review, leave some answers as well.

      • firemint

        There have been a couple of bugs reported to our support site that we are addressing in the first update soon.

        Feel free to suggest any extra features at our support site, or forum:

      • Alex

        Thank you.  That is exactly what I'm going to do.  I love your software titles.  You put detail and refinement where others do not.  Sadly, EA's influence is clearly there in this release.

      • Ahiru Nakamura

        Only suggestion here, add Game Center... EA's Origin is crap... they are even removing games from Steam just because of Origin... 

        Come on, Flight Control practically launched the Game Center service... Soon all EA games won't even have Xbox Live achievements nor PSN trophies...

      • Daniel Skatter

        At least this won't happen for PS3 games. Sony requires Trophy support in all new games, so...

      • Daniel Skatter

        At least this won't happen for PS3 games. Sony requires Trophy support in all new games, so...

      • Ahiru Nakamura

        I know, and I believe MS also requires achievements to be implemented in every game whatsoever, but just saying how EA wants to take over...

      • Alex

        Brad doesn't seem to like negative comments.  My comment was constructive and added to the article as well as called you out on your editorial mistakes. I will be sure to let other forums know about your post removing as well.

  • Andy

    Unfortunately Firemint will go the same way as other all the other developers that EA buy out - they will milk all the IP dry and then eventually discard the empty husk that was once a great development company.

    • Alex

      Bang!  Right on the money!  A sad reality, but I'm sure firemint will have made a mint in the process.

  • Summer

    How long before EA have PopCap spewing tired sequels...oh wait PopCap don't need a publisher for that they've done it for years. 

    Maybe EA will force PopCap to make a new game? 😛 

  • Dave

    I guess it is just me...but I think this game is horrible. It's not fun to play and the usage of screen real estate is criminal. How that ever got past QA is beyond me. And I have yet to figure out why they would have chosen to implement the screen board this way.

    It seems everyone is smoking the Firemint hash-pipe...but for me this is a big misfire (that unfortunately is paying big dividends for the developers). Thankfully I'm only out $.99. But I was expecting a whole lot more from this game and from Firemint. I'll be more wary the next time.

  • Dave

    I should add...shame on you Toucharcade for posting those misleading screen shots. That is not what the screen looks like... on any of the levels that I've played 25-30% of the screen real estate is wasted with a useless boarder making drawing with your finger a chore rather than a pleasure as it usually is on the iphone and ipad.

    • firemint

      We recommend playing past the first world to find the larger, more complex levels.

  • Justin morris

    Just bought it and I must say it's pretty awesome. A very good take on the line drawing genre. For me it's one of the best game coming on iOS in the last months, filled with content and gameplay and all that for just a buck. Excellent, congrats Firemint!

  • Fa

    Where's Game Center?

  • David Nguyen

    For the longest time i've been wondering why this game was the top paid app on itunes because EA tried (and failed) with their 99 cent game strategy a few years ago. Then I realized that firemint made this game and snatched this right up 🙂

SPY mouse Reviewed by Brad Nicholson on . Rating: 5