If there’s one thing every video game could be improved with, it’s mayor Mike Haggar from Capcom’s very own Final Fight. Even the crappiest of games would become instant stunner deals (Streetwise never happened) with his inclusion. Just… pile-driving everything non-stop. For example, imagine Data Design re-releasing Billy the Wizard as Mike Haggar the Wizard. He’d spin that entire castle right into the Earth’s core, before beating up on some garbage bins to restore his stamina with filthy, discarded roast chicken.Sadly, Spyborgs has a distinct lack of Haggar, but it is at least in the same genre as Final Fight. Side-scrolling beat ‘em ups are a rarity in this day and age; especially ones that actually make it to retail. This final product is actually nothing like Bionic Games’ original vision for the title. It was initially unveiled as a ‘comedy’ adventure inspired by early 90s cartoons and what looked to be rather large bags of steaming horse urine. Thanks to a huge amount of internet backlash, Spyborgs’development went into chaos and somehow mutated into this no-nonsense, bog-standard brawler.
There’s a story, but it’s not very important and rarely ever gets in the way (this is a good thing). Essentially, someone’s being a dickhead and it’s up to the remaining members of the ‘Spyborg Initiative’ to save the day. See, just how much cooler would that have been as the ‘Haggar Initiative’? You better believe there’d be chest hair everywhere. Alas, there are three characters here, each with their own strengths and weaknesses (urr hurr no way) – a quick but fairly weak ninja, a slow but insanely powerful robot, and some guy with a gun fused to his arm to impress the ladies. While Spyborgs is best played with a friend in co-op, each stage will always have two of the three playable characters in action during single player. The CPU does its best to help out as the second player, and you can freely switch between the two at any time.
Controls consist of mashing buttons to destroy all the enemy robots that happen to walk by your flailing fists and feet. It’s a convulsion party, let’s dance. A variety of light and heavy blows are mapped across both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. There’s also a jump button and the ability to block almost anything. Wow. Oh, and a flashing power bar which allows the two characters to team up against a single enemy in a bullet-time style finishing move. This involves various wiggle waggle gestures, but you can turn that off and just use regular button combinations if the idea of motion controls makes you want to punch Garfield in the bladder.
Obviously taking place in a future where crates are the new cane toads, every level has hundreds of them to smash. They tend to contain a variety of delicious sparks. Blue sparks restore health, green sparks grant you a limited increase in power and red sparks go towards your ‘experience’ which helps with attribute upgrades at the end of a stage.
As if being overwhelmed by regular crates wasn’t enough, the game has hidden crates as well. Get your best ‘why did they do this’ frustration-face ready, as you’ll be forced to point the Wii Remote at the screen to uncover them. It acts as ‘spyvision’. When you’ve stumbled upon one, pressing the A and B buttons together will reveal them. It’s not an amusing novelty, at all. Really Bionic Games. Come on now. As you get further into the game, there are actual enemies cloaked in mystery, and you can’t harm them until spyvision is used. It only serves to awkwardly interrupt the flow and leaves you open to attack. Perhaps this is the result of a disgruntled development team seeking revenge for having to change their game completely.
On a technical level, Spyborgs is an impressive title. The graphics are crisp, clean and make use of some excellent lighting and particle effects. Nuts and bolts will shower the screen when enemies explode (very reminiscent of Ratchet & Clank, which makes sense, as Bionic Games is/was comprised of ex-Insomniac employees) and there’s generally a fair bit happening on-screen without a hint of slowdown. Everybody glows in the dark too, just to remind you that, yes, this takes place somewhere in the future – and robots are super cool.
At about four hours, it’s fairly lengthy for a mindless beat ‘em up. Unfortunately, Spyborgs doesn’t have that special something it so desperately needs. While the graphics are nice, the level design is repetitive and lacking in any imagination. There’s just nothing here to really keep the player going – no charm, no hook. The generic butt-rock soundtrack that only picks up during key moments also fails to get the adrenaline pumping.
Spyborgs has its moments (the boss fights are pretty fancy), but for the most part it’s not even worth the button-mashing effort. You could be making a sandwich instead, or chewing on the end of a pen. The possibilities are endless.
FUN FACT: Capcom proooobably hold the record for the worst ‘core’ Wii launch debut with Spyborgs. Ashamed of its very existence, the title launched in America with zero fanfare and sold just 500 copies during its opening month. Five hundred copies.
FUN FACT 2: Spyborgs hit Australia for the full oz-rape insanity of $99.95 (roughly $105 US). Just two weeks later, retail chain Big W dropped it to $30. Others quickly followed. It still failed to shift copies. This is quite possibly the most drastic local price crash seen in the history of forever.
FUN FACT 3: Spyborgs developer Bionic Games no longer seem to exist. This was their first and only game.
FUN FACT 4: Fellow Pietriot Deguello loves Spyborgs. It is one of his favourite games. Please send him more copies.