Will this colorful indie title sneak its way into your game library?
Let’s just get this out of the way, Spy Chameleon is some of the most fun I’ve had on my Xbox One in 2015. To be honest, before I got a chance to play the title, it seemed like a simple phone application that wouldn’t be worth more than a half hour of my time. It wasn’t until I played the game that I realized just how wrong I was. Chameleon has sensitive but sleek controls, fun character and world design, and a ton of personality. Lets break it down.
I absolutely adore the basic color changing mechanics of Spy Chameleon. There are four colors the player can swap to according to surroundings – red, blue, yellow and the default green. Those four colors perfectly pair with the A, B, X, Y of the Xbox controller making some of the most intuitive controls I’ve seen an indie game pull off. The core of the gameplay is extremely simple in Chameleon, yet through the somewhat short 75 levels, I never found myself tiring of the mechanics. Enemy variation, clever puzzle design and gimmicky new gameplay options keep the game fresh in the roughly 2 hours it took me to beat the game on the first run through.
Once you learn the game’s controls in the first 5 minutes of gameplay, you have essentially mastered navigation (so long as you know the Xbox buttons by heart). Instead of adding new controls, the game adds things like button pads that will move and slide to protect you from detection or tipping over gallons of paint for impromptu cover. Even in Chameleon‘s final ten or so levels, a new mechanic that has the player hiding and slowly moving across the level in portable box cover is added to ensure freshness. It would be very easy for developer Unfinished Pixel to stop adding new gameplay variants after the first 30 or so levels, but instead they delivered an expertly executed puzzler that kept me entertained throughout.
Although the controls are quick to master, the game won’t have you feeling confident for long. I flew through the first half of the game in a little under an hour, but after the third mission, the game’s difficulty increased significantly. There are also a myriad of enemy variations that are introduce throughout the game to ensure the player never feels too comfortable in each level.
In short, Spy Chameleon plays incredibly well. Gameplay changes frequently to avoid becoming tedious, getting caught by enemies feels fair and puzzles are as satisfying as they are difficult.
Graphics, Audio and Performance
Unlike the (presumably) much lower budgeted 2009 original, Spy Chameleon is vibrant eye candy. Everything from the way the chameleon moves to each of the various character designs feel reminiscent of video game classics like Banjo Kazooie. To keep it simple, the gorgeous cartoon-esque graphics are lovely.
One of the more surprising aspects of Chameleon is just how spot on the music is. The game takes classic spy music and mixes it with fast paced jazz fusion that perfectly fits the fast faced gameplay and makes for a fitting and memorable soundtrack. The environmental sound effects feel pretty average as well. The soft pitter-patter of the chameleon’s feet, the crunch of flies as the player collects them and alarms bells that ring when you’re busted all feel well done. The audio of Spy Chameleon add yet another layer of polish on an already great title.
Thankfully, not much needs to be said about the game’s performance. I never experienced any framerate drops or pop-in during my time with the title. Things felt buttery smooth and consistent with its 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second. I was quite pleased with the game’s rock solid performance. When controls are as sensitive as they are, even a couple frames lost here and there can be the difference between escape and getting caught.
If you’ve made it this far in the review, you know exactly what the verdict will be. Spy Chameleon is a brilliant game that is simple to play and hard to master. Constant gameplay variation prevents the player form ever feeling bored with the experience. My only actual complaint with the title is the fact that I beat it in a relatively short amount of time. Luckily, the the game does have extra collectibles and a hard mode that unlock only after you’ve beaten the game as an incentive to dive back in. While the game’s modest asking price makes it one of the best deals on Xbox One, I can’t help but wish the game had a feature that allowed players to create their own levels and share them with friends and the community. Even without that multiplayer component, though, leaderboards offer a fun way to compete with friends for fastest level runs which could also add to the longevity of the title.
Although it may be on the short side, Spy Chameleon has enough fresh ideas and polish to make it one of the best indie games I’ve played in a very, very long time.Follow @bearclawgaming