Nick DeMarco

TURN TO CHANNEL 3: Uncover ‘Sly Spy’ for some Bond-style secret agent action

TURN TO CHANNEL 3: Uncover ‘Sly Spy’ for some Bond-style secret agent action
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Today, we finish this month of action titles with one that may have slipped under the radars of a lot of gamers, especially those who were not frequenting their local arcades back in the day.

Now having a resurgence under the series of Johnny Turbo Data East collection games on the Nintendo Switch, we find ourselves in the dangerous world of one “Sly Spy!”

“Sly Spy” (arcade, 1989)


It only takes mere seconds into this game to realize just what certain popular action movie series this game is paying homage to as you put in your 00 spy number and go to work. The music as you fall from the skies, taking down bad guys before you parachute (complete with American flag parachute), sounds oddly familiar, without breaking any copyright laws, that is. The soundtrack throughout the game continues this trend with songs that sound like those you’d hear in a James Bond movie.

The sound effects are OK, with enemy deaths just simple grunts, bullets whizzing by and, of course, the necessary explosions. At the end of the first level on the ground, I thought it was someone using the Lincoln Memorial to say “Great job!” but it was just a voiceover that plays at the end of every level that just so happened to be playing in front of said memorial. You mean Honest Abe doesn’t care about the efforts of our highly patriotic spy?


You won’t be totally blown away by the graphics in this game, but that isn’t to say they are terrible either. While your character and bosses aren’t anything too inspiring, I found the level design, while cliché, pretty awesome for the time. I don’t recall many games like this having you parachute out in the first level fighting bad guys or chasing down enemies in a sports car. I particularly liked the underwater level best.

It can be difficult to ignore the lack of variety in this game, but you can get past it when you realize just how fluid the graphics are as the screen fills up with enemies but doesn’t slow down. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me!


With weapon upgrades and level variety of fighting in a car, in the air, and underwater, there’s a lot to really enjoy about “Sly Spy.” However, while it is graphically impressive to have so many enemies on the screen at once without lag, it also makes you vulnerable to some really cheap hits, as some enemies appear almost right on top of you or in situations where it is impossible for you to avoid them.

The boss fights were OK, but I never found myself frustrated or struggling to face one, almost making the whole thing kind of anticlimactic after busting my butt through waves of enemies. Most of all, and I won’t give a full spoiler here, let’s just say that the end boss is one of the cheesiest, easiest, and disappointing end boss fights in the history of gaming. Seriously.


Considering all of these factors, perhaps one could call “Sly Spy” average, but I wouldn’t go that far. In many ways, this was both an homage to spy movies and pushing the envelope in what a game like this could be. “Sly Spy” is available these days on the Nintendo Switch for download and, if you have this console, I would highly recommend scooping it up for a rainy day of retro gaming.

Well, that finishes up another month of reviews for me. Next time, we jump back to the days of the Atari 2600 for another Atari August here on Turn to Channel 3!

This weekend, mix yourself a martini, shaken not stirred, and game on!

Tune in to NEPA Scene’s gaming column, Turn to Channel 3, every Thursday for new perspectives on retro gaming as well as fresh twists on the classics from the owner of Nick D’s Video Game Vault in Mayfield. All ratings for Turn to Channel 3 are based on a scale of 1-10.