Agents! reinvents Spy vs Spy for the 21st century

If you grew up reading Mad Magazine, odds are that you enjoyed the Spy vs. Spy comics that graced its pages. The weird, comically-violent cartoons of two spies trying to kill each other as spectacularly as possible have entertained a lot of people over the years. If you’re one of those readers, then Agents! will probably appeal to you.

The basic idea is that you control a secret agent who has to search for a number of confidential documents. Each level consists of a grid of rooms, laid out in a 3×3, 4×4, or 6×6 pattern. In order to move the agent, you tap on an area that you want him to travel to. There’s a GPS unit that sits in the corner of the screen that will show you where the level’s exit is, where you are, and where your enemy is.

Agents!

As you explore each structure, there are competing agents who don’t want you to find the documents and will shoot you on sight if they wind up in the same room. Thankfully, you’re also armed and can shoot back.

One of the biggest problems with the game is that the shootouts just aren’t all that much fun. Once you tap on your opponent, the fight is fully automated and often over in seconds (especially if you’re armed with either the machine gun or the bazooka, as opposed to the slow-firing pistol). Once you’ve dispatched an enemy, you’ll heal pretty quickly and get a little breathing room, but another hostile agent will spawn somewhere else on the map.

As you explore these rooms, you’ll have to investigate pieces of furniture for the items you’ve been tasked to find. Such furniture is marked by sparkling bubbles that are present until you’ve investigated. While it’ll usually take a while to find the documents, there’s plenty of stuff to uncover as you travel through the various rooms. Ammunition and weapons are plentiful as the levels progress, and eventually you’ll gain access to traps that will throw your enemies off your trail, too.

In terms of graphics, Agents! is a really impressive title. The colors are bright, there’s a lot of detail present in each room, and the game contains a clever 60’s spy aesthetic that looks like it was pulled from Evil Genius, a delightful PC strategy game from a few years ago. The in-game camera can’t zoom in or out, but you can spin it around a room by dragging your finger across the screen, and it generally works pretty well, barring a couple of times that it’ll inevitably get caught on a wall as you play.

Agents!

There are three level themes: castle, lab, and office. While they look great, they do eventually start to feel repetitive.

The music is equally fun, channelling riffs from 60’s spy thrillers in a hammy, over-the-top sort of way. The sound effects – usually gunshots and opening/closing doors – work just fine and fit the game nicely.

There are four gameplay modes: campaign, challenge quick-play, and multiplayer. Most of these are pretty self-explanatory, though the challenge mode allows you to test your skills against other friends and players from around the world. The multiplayer, meanwhile, is only playable over local wi-fi networks, which is frustrating if nobody has the game on an iPhone nearby.

The multiplayer mode is where the game really gains its lasting appeal. The AI opponents just aren’t interesting enough to play against for long (thankfully, the single-player campaign is relatively short), but things become fun when your opponent is suddenly as devious and ruthless as you are.

Overall, Agents! is a game that starts out cute and quirky, but wears out its welcome pretty quickly if you can’t go up against other players. As it stands, it’s a glass diamond: decent, affordable, but only a step above mediocrity. That’s a shame, too, because if it had a little more difficulty and variety, as well as some online multiplayer, it’d be a true gem.