Multi-platform Cold War stealth game CounterSpy [$4.99] has snuck into the app store just scant weeks after it was released on it's other platforms. This is not Sony's first foray into the wonderful world of iOS. As a port of a game designed for more than one platform, you can expect production value to be quite high. Once you get past the face of this title, however, there are some serious hurdles to clear if you are looking to draw out some enjoyment.

CounterSpy mixes classic side scrolling with a cover system popularized by Gears of War. As you make your way through communist bases and launch sites you gather enemy intel as well as components for upgrades and enhancements that can be used in future missions. You will successfully complete a level if you can get to the last room on the map before raising the alert level by being too conspicuous. There are no set number of levels, just a required number of launch plans which means that burning through a level may not be ideal as each level gets progressively more difficult.

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Muscially and visually, the game transports you back to the days of the Iron Curtain. Upon opening the app for the first time I was actually grinning getting a strong vibe of the movie The Incredibles. That same brass and jazz inspired nostalgia flows through the veins of CounterSpy . This theme is powerful enough to overlook a number of issues plaguing the game. One sad bit about the iOS version is that some of the story line text actually makes no sense. As you are basking in the smooth rhythms and sharp artistry, you hear the protagonist state that he could get his kicks stealing from Russians just fine as an American operative. He asks what the point of betraying his country to work for this new agency is. Well for this version of the game, apparently nothing since you only square off against Russia, and not the States like you would on the other platforms.

I've seen various reports of imprecise and even possibly buggy controls on our forums. From my own experience, it took quite a bit of time before I was comfortable enough with the game to advance through the first few levels. The command you use to melee attack someone is the same you use to open lockers, blow up vaults, crash computers, and go into cover with. If you happen to be near any of those things, it is a dice roll as to what the hero will do. If you happen to tap near the top of the screen, there is about a 25% chance you might just jump up in the air, alerting anyone on the map of your presence too. Given the time frame of this game's releases, I don't think it's out of the question to suspect that this version was pushed out the door pretty quickly and to a lesser degree of completeness. Controlling firearms is another annoyance. Tapping to aim will frequently result in no action occurring. When you do manage to bring up the aiming reticle, there is no adjustment for where you tapped. The reticle shows up wherever you last aimed making quick drawing a gamble at best unless you reorient your aim before the action heats up. After investing a few hours I was able to progress through levels if I was very careful to avoid pitfalls like 'oh hey, look a locker and an enemy standing next to each other.' As long as I avoided tapping too close to the top of the screen and making crucial double tap actions near multiple double tap targets I could make it through most missions just fine.

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If you happen to have a good deal of patience and luck, you can get through most levels, but the game has no save points between starting a difficulty and ending it. You also carry your mistakes from one level to the next. The sum effect is that it feels a bit like drudgery. Each buggy mis-tap can lead to your eventual demise but you might not know until an hour after the fact. The maps in the game are procedurally generated, which is pointed out as a positive that even playing the same difficulty will never result in the same experience. I can understand that point of view, but I don't agree that it is as positive as it sounds. I enjoy well constructed levels especially for stealth games that require very precise mechanics in order to feel both realistic and slightly forgiving. I'm not sure if it is the way the levels are generated or how enemies detect stealth, but a single wrong step can sometimes be overlooked and other times alert every enemy on the map. I'm not sure which way is more realistic, but being unable to anticipate the amount of risk that is associated with an action really affected my ability to suspend disbelief.

The iOS version feels like a beta test and I really hope we see some updates soon, because the game could be really good with some control adjustments. Even once I was fully acclimated to the abnormal control scheme, it was just too loose and wonky to really say it is 100% functional in it's current state. With Sony at the helm, I have to believe that there are resources that could be employed if they were so inclined. I'm not sure I have the secret formula to make a successful multi-platform game but CounterSpy is currently missing some key ingredients.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Luciano1084

    Sucks, I really want to buy this.. I'll wait for an update, hopefully they address the control issues soon

    • http://ztj.io/ Zachery Jensen

      There are no real control issues. Some people are just bad at games. I've got this game and am super happy with it. I also own and play the full PS4 version. It's a great little companion. It's fun to throw down a round on the go and know I'll get to use the stuff I found on the console version when I'm at home.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        There are control issues. They are buggy and don't work reliably, to the point that this game is nearly unplayable for me. It seems to not be affecting everyone, but there most certainly is a problem. It's not just "people are bad at games." What a douchey response.

      • anada

        The reason why the "control issues" don't affect everyone is the people who are bad at games blame the controls. Simple stuff

      • YARRRRR

        Yea, the universe truly is yet to see such things as unintuitive controls, flawed gameplays and paywalls, those are just excuses bad players make up, aye!

        Not saying any of those is the case here, since it did not hit my App Store yet, but oversimplifying like that is oversimplifying.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        I'd make a video showing how my character will just randomly stop moving or will jump across the screen when i try to open a locker, but people like you will never change their mind no matter how much proof you show them. Not worth the effort.

    • Based Xatu

      It's on sale now, so it's best to buy it now and then wait for the update.

      • Luciano1084

        Who am I kidding, I'm buying it.. The developer is active here and I'm sure improvements will be made

  • http://ztj.io/ Zachery Jensen

    I've played this on both PS4 and iOS. They interconnect, btw. You earn stuff and it is usable on both platforms.

    Anyway, more to the point, I completely disagree that the controls are a problem. I have had no trouble nailing these levels on the device even after knowing what it feels like to play with full on console controls. You just have to pay attention to what you're doing. In a big way it feels like playing MGS the first time. The controls SEEMED awful in that game too, but, in reality, it was just a little learning curve then bam, they make total sense. The key to this game is taking care to be stealthy. That might seem obvious, but, you can choose to take a more direct approach, especially after you unlock a few extra weapons.

    If you're actually curious about this game, then get it. It's fun. And if you have been playing it on console, then this game will let you boost up your supplies when you're bored on the go.

    • curtisrshideler

      Is this also available on PS3? If so, I may bite. Otherwise, not sure if the partial iOS title on its own would be worth it in its current form.

      • the_rebel14

        It's cross buy between PS4, PS3, and Vita. It's been out on those platforms for nearly a month now.

  • kyriakosmp

    I have heard everyone in the forums (and this review) talking about the controls and how bad they are... Honestly, I had no difficulty whatsoever adjusting to the control scheme. Obviously a mistap or two may happen, but after the first one-two levels you become fairly accustomed to how you're supposed to tap and swipe. Only gripe is that the game seems to have half the content of the console version, and that is a bummer.. But here's hoping the rest finds its way to iOS soon

    • http://ztj.io/ Zachery Jensen

      One half the content for one third the price seems more than fair to me.

  • worldcitizen1919

    Thanks for the honest review. I didn't realise it was that bad. I've taken it off my watch list and won't be bothered with it. Also Ive read that half the game is missing, the USA part. Not much more than a beta I agree. I won't be waiting for this to appear on the Aussie store. They can take all the time they want. Saved $6.

    • http://ztj.io/ Zachery Jensen

      The reviewer is wrong, it's not bad at all. And half the game? It's less than half the price. Think about that for two seconds.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Wait, is the point you're trying to make that someone's opinion on a video game can be objectively wrong?

      • Andrew Fretz

        Hi Zachery,

        Thanks for your interest in the article! I'm glad you are enjoying the game, I had fun playing but as you can read, I found there was some room for improvement. I'm not sure I would label the game as "bad", but like I said, room for improvement. I didn't have a problem with the price for the amount of content, but I thought it was weird that less was being offered in this version than, for instance, the vita version especially since the story line is predicated on the content that didn't make it onto iOS. I've seen some strong sentiment in support of this game and I agree that with some work this could easily be an outstanding game. Regards,

      • the_rebel14

        The reviewer stating his opinion cannot be wrong in his opinion. It's his opinion. You may disagree but you cannot say that he's lying when it is HIS opinion.

    • NFCT

      The difference between your opinion and the reviewers is that he actually played the game.
      It would be like you telling everyone that grapefruit taste bad when you haven't even eaten one.

  • oranicus

    I haven't had any major issue with controls, tho they can be slightly buggy sometimes, still completely playable and more importantly it's well fun!:) also the story text on iOS version does make sense, as in the first bit of text it does say that you won't have to infiltrate the US. Point is if you can't read a small bit of story text properly I doubt you put much time into the game, certainly not enough to write a full review of it 😛

    • Andrew Fretz

      My first impression of the game was much more negative than my final opinion. I definitely read the text properly, the logic doesn't follow why an agent would defect just to do the same thing he has already been doing. After investing many hours into the game, the controls were manageable but still got in the way for me. Hope this clears up your concerns, thanks for your time!

      • oranicus

        Ah fair enough, well I suppose the protagonist defected because C.O.U.N.T.E.R pay more or something aha.

  • Sebastian Gomez

    Bought it, played it, got used to it, liked it, wish it gets additional (missing?) content (even a fair priced IAP works for me)... 😀

  • Andrew Fretz

    Hey Dave,

    Yeah, I was definitely holding down waiting for the reticle to show up but it didnt occur every time and it seemed like it occurred more frequently when I tried to hold down near the top of the screen. Very awesome of you to follow up!

    • http://www.dynamighty.com DynamightyDave

      This is very strange. It definitely should not be affected by screen space. What spec hardware were you playing on? I just went back and was playing on my 4s to check and was not seeing any issues. I wonder if I've just got attuned to playing....

      • Andrew Fretz

        iPad 3

  • Andrew Fretz

    Ah ok, the game text after the tutorial never mentions that he is kicked out of the CIA, I thought they were attempting to get him to defect. Because he says he isnt quite ready to go against the states it doesnt seem to make sense to ally himself with an organization that is stealing from both sides. I guess as a man with no country it would make more sense.

    • http://www.dynamighty.com DynamightyDave

      Yes it sounds like we didn't do a good job with making the setup clear. Thanks for the feedback! Definitely good to know.

  • HansHeinen

    Wow. Reading all these comments, and I have to respond.

    There are so few games on IOS that are the complete package: gorgeous graphics, unbelievable art style, cool combat/stealth mechanics AND the levels are random? Are you serious? I sat there looking at the screen and half the time I was thinking, "I can't believe I'm playing this on my iPhone!"

    I think the touch controls are actually quite elegant. You can pull off some streamlined moves after a little practice. Was there a learning curve? Absolutely. But after a few hours zipped by, I was rocking some levels. Super satisfying, and a total steal for five bucks. I hope the developers add the USA portion and any more content they want. GREAT f*cking game!

    • http://www.dynamighty.com DynamightyDave

      Thanks so much Hans. We really did want to think about how to make a game like this, which is a more typical console game, work with a control that made sense for touch. It does seem like a lot of people have preferences. Lots of feedback asking for virtual sticks (which we did not want to do). I'm definitely interested in ways to improve the existing system we were kind of hoping we could show a new way to play these games on touch.

      • YARRRRR

        Are you planning to introduce MFi controller support in the future updates?

  • gamerman333

    Australian version? Not on our appstore

  • malaheart

    Not on the Australian App Store.

  • PoloBaquerizoH

    This game really works perfect for me on my ipad, dont agree with the rating, is just great to see more consoles games coming to ios, this one was a 5 stars for me, having already played it

  • hylang

    Bad controls
    So Sony is out in my mind

CounterSpy™ Reviewed by Andrew Fretz on . Rating: 3