Review: Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?!28 Mar 2019 0
Review: Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?!
Released 28 Mar 2019
Having previously taken command of a spaceship in Holy Potatoes! We're in Space?! and catered for the adventuring needs of fantasy heroes in Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! our valiant potatoes are back. In a title replete with the usual abundance of punctuation, our resourceful tubers have decided to now turn their hands to building their very own spy headquarters in Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story?!
Twins Ren and Rexa are on a mission to uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of their parents by infiltrating the shady spy corporation that they feel is responsible. You oversee the twin’s enterprise; hiring spies, building facilities, decrypting files and designing the kind of gimmicky gizmos that would make Inspector Gadget green with envy. A spy agency obviously needs spies, ideally, spies with silly names that are parodies of well-known figures. Your basic spy will fall into one of four different categories of expertise. Brainy analysts are excellent code-crackers, whilst fighters favour a more direct approach to problem solving. Charmers are your typical James Bond style smoothies and thieves rely on some good old-fashioned skulking around in the shadows. Spies also have special skills and four characteristics, which improve with experience and training. These are fighting, intelligence, stealth and charm. It doesn’t take a genius to work out which class of spy favours which characteristic. As your reputation increases, famous spies with their own unique skill sets may also offer their services to your agency.
The fun really begins when you embark on a mission. These assignments require you to overcome various obstacles whilst taking care not to alert your target. Some missions will give you the choice of different paths and you can reduce the risk further by spending cash to carry out some preliminary reconnaissance. This will provide you with more information about the strengths and vulnerabilities of the challenges that lie ahead. For instance, you may discover that a solid security door is resilient to physical attack but vulnerable to hacking. Sometimes, an obstacle can remain stubbornly obtuse, forcing you take a lucky guess. Missions start off simple enough, an early one will have a spy sneaking into a bully’s bedroom and planting a spycam disguised as a bogey. This gives you an idea of the silly, off-the-wall storylines that you will encounter as the game progresses. When tackling a mission, the trick is to ensure that the agent you send is the best suited to deal with that particular set of obstacles, keeping detection levels low and reducing the risk of failure.
There are mission paths that will require a spy of a particular class; others require the use of additional gadgets. A spy can also take a vehicle on a mission which will allow them to carry even more gadgets, although don’t get too excited as your first mode of transport is a shopping trolley rather than an Aston Martin. Upon first sending a spy on a mission you will probably feel a little let down by the graphical representation of proceedings. A small window will open with tiny icons depicting the positions of your spy and any adversaries and obstacles. Your spy will make their way to the target, dealing with any problems along the way before reaching their goal. There are a few special missions that will require you to take a team of spies. To be successful your team should have a well-balanced range of abilities. These sections switch to real-time decision-making as you attempt to discover the weakness of your adversaries and defeat them before your energy bar hits zero. These intermissions are quite jarring, replacing the considered decision making of the rest of the game with a much more hit and miss approach.
When spies are not away on top-secret missions, sipping Martinis and seducing enemy agents, there are plenty of other less glamorous tasks that they can be assigned to. If you are going to stand a chance of completing the tougher missions then you will need to put your team through rigorous training regimes. A large range of different training facilities will become available as you play; you just need to have the funds and space to build them. Often, when you complete a mission you will find some form of encrypted digital media. Allocating a spy to the lab will let them unlock these secrets, maybe earning some cash or blueprints for new buildings. You can also allocate a team member to build or upgrade gadgets and vehicles.
You don’t want your HQ to look like a building site, so building a few decorative features is also a good idea, not only do they look nice but they also earn some nice bonuses, especially if you discover the best combinations. Be careful though, because if you give a spy too many domestic duties rather than missions then they are likely to become disillusioned. You can try and cheer up a member of your team with a gift, but if a spy is particularly grumpy then it may be best to retire them – after all a cranky spy could turn out to be a treacherous one.
In terms of playability, A Spy Story doesn’t stray too far from the template used in the previous two releases; the same cartoon-style graphics, crazy subplots, awful puns, popular culture references and catchy tunes. Thankfully, it also contains the same addictive and engrossing gameplay. Although it is very rewarding to oversee the development of your spies and HQ, the constantly ticking clock means that there will soon be 101 things clamouring for your attention. It can become very intense and possibly a little too chaotic. A criticism that can also be levelled at all of the games in the series is that when the story missions get tough, progress stutters to a halt and you are forced to spend time grinding up levels which becomes a bit of a chore.
Despite the undeniable silliness the Holy Potatoes! games still offer a surprising amount of depth and challenge, this probably explains why the developers take an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach. The problem is that veterans of the series may feel that the format is becoming a little over-familiar and apart from the new theme and story (which are both great) the game doesn’t really bring anything new to the party. If you love the series then you will be reassured to discover that A Spy Story is another high-quality entry in the series. If you enjoy management sims but haven’t played a Holy Potatoes game before then, don’t be put off by the silliness, just choose your favourite potato dish (space, fantasy or spies) and tuck in.