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Game Info:

Assault Spy
Developed By: Wazen
Published By: NIS America, Inc.
Released: Oct 2, 2018
Available On: Windows
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating: Rating Pending
Number of Players: Single-player
Price: $29.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you NIS America for sending us a review code!

I came across Assault Spy when it was in early access. I love action games as they are one of my favorite genres, but as the game was in early access at the time, I simply put it on my wishlist, in hopes it would get a full release. I’ve gotten burned plenty of times on early access games and was not willing to put down money on something that may or may not release. What really caught my attention is the rather unique premise of the game. Typically in action games, you’re either some super powerful human or demigod who may or may not be some chosen one on a grand quest or whatever. In this, you’re simply a salaryman who smashes robots with a briefcase and umbrella. The unconventional weaponry sold me on the game alone and when the game officially came out, I was raring to give it a shot.

Assault Spy is a 3D “stylish" action game heavily inspired by the Devil May Cry series. Our main character is Asaru Vito, a salaryman who is also a corporate spy for the country of “Japam.” He’s actually quite competent at his job — or at least he was until he was forced to have a sidekick, an irritating yet smug little girl by the name of Kanoko Yotsuba. She wastes no time getting in harm's way, while constantly mocking Asaru for every blunder he makes (no thanks to her of course). Their latest mission is for reconnaissance of the Negabot mega corporation, but as they were on their way to the building, Negabot becomes part of a hostile takeover by Mr. Showtime and his assistant, Chidori. Now, Asaru and Kanoko are forced to save Negabot from the unknown terrorists. Along the way he comes across Irene Yoneda, the development manager of Negabot, and Kazama, a rival spy from another organization.

Even though the story is never a selling point of these types of games, the story is actually quite humorous. There were quite a few times where I would laugh at Asaru and Kanoko’s interactions. They roll off each other quite nicely with their constant banter and mocking of each other. The overall story is pretty goofy and pokes fun at the business world, and even though the voices are in Japanese, the voice actors do a nice job portraying the emotions of the characters in this outlandish world. I’d say it's worth checking out at least once, but if you simply want action, you can skip all the cutscenes.

The graphics of Assault Spy are of an anime style. The 2D art in cutscenes is very well drawn and the bright vibrant colors of the characters complement the dull, gray corporate setting. The 3D character models have a plastic, almost costume character look to them, which works fine for the enemy design, but makes the humans looks strange (especially when their lips don't move in cutscenes). Each character, with the exceptions of Amelia and Chidori, share their eye color with their hair color and there are also some small details such as Asaru having bags under his eyes, a cheeky commentary on the overworked Japanese man. Music is also well done, with some of the tracks being dynamic, changing depending on how well you are doing in the fights.

Assault Spy
Highlights:

Strong Points: Fast-paced, freestyle combat; two playable characters with distinct playstyles; humorous story; humanoid boss battles; great visual and audio clarity; a training mode included to practice combos. 
Weak Points: The two playable characters share the majority of their levels; not a whole lot of enemy variety; forced stealth section, twice; the UI can at times get in the way of seeing enemies. 
Moral Warnings: Violence; language throughout with mild swears such as "d*mn," “hell,” "(dumb)@$$," some stronger swears such as "b*st*rd" and "sh*t," and one instance of “f**kin’ b**ch”; one instance of God’s name used in vain; Asaru has some perverted thoughts towards Irene, one of the more well-endowed characters in the game. 

Assault Spy skips the puzzles and platforming segments that many games of the genre have and instead focuses on pure action with a health point system instead of a health bar. Most of the transitions consist of moving from one room to another, and the overall amount of rooms that don’t have action and require precise movement are a handful at the most. Every room that battles take place in are an arena with lots of open room to maneuver around. Sometimes there are destructible environments in place such as glass cube dividers. The scenery is rather unique for action-oriented games since the entire plot takes place in a corporate facility. Levels contain areas such as the general office floors, complete with cubicles, a courtyard, a parking garage, and even the rooftops of the building. Enemies even consists of things that you would expect a business to have, such as traffic cones, drones, electronic signs, and even robotic businessmen (well maybe not robotic businessmen, at least not yet). I adore this style as I rarely see things like this in video games, let alone in the action genre, outside of a specific level or two at most.

Asaru’s playstyle is fast and smooth, almost like a ninja. In the beginning, he only starts off with his briefcase which acts as his light and medium attacks, and exploding business cards as projectiles. A little into the game, he gains access to his umbrella, which acts as his heavy attack with a wide arc. The umbrella is great for crowd control, but can potentially leave him open for attacks. His dodge and dash button are combined with tapping to dodge and holding the button to run. If an attack is dodged at the right time, the dodge will have invincibility frames. Asaru revolves mostly around just frames, a technique and term adopted from Bandai Namco’s Soul Calibur and Tekken series. In Assault Spy, the technique is appropriately named JUST, and when an action is performed during a specific frame, the following action will do increased damage. Unlike Tekken/Soul Calibur, the timing for JUST attacks are pretty generous, and even have a visual cue as a shine on his briefcase. With a press of a button, Kanoko will come to Asaru’s aid, acting as a decoy to attract enemy attention. Asaru also has access to an “Overdrive” mode where he gains increased speed, as well as invulnerability for a short time.

A bit more into Asaru’s story, you unlock Amelia Smith, a reckless CIA agent from “Mamerica” who is a great combatant, but is terrible at the actual spy work. She also likes to squeeze in random English words into her Japanese from time to time. Amelia does have similar control to Asaru in movement, but her fighting style is vastly different from his, with heavier concentrated strikes. She uses a form of martial arts enhanced by her shock gloves and shoes. Her gimmick is that with every attack from her fists, a meter builds up which, depending on how full it is, will give her charge attacks various properties or greater damage. She also has a pistol as a projectile and a halberd-like weapon which acts as her heavy attack.

Like most action games, Assault Spy has an in-game currency which can be used to buy upgrades, and depending on the ranking you earn for each battle, you gain a bonus amount. Both characters only have a handful of moves at their disposal in the beginning. When more moves are purchased is when the game really starts to shine. Whoever Wazen is, they did their homework quite well. Almost every move and action can be chained and canceled into each other. Combos can cancel into a jump, which can be chained into a charged attack, which can go into a dodge, and so on and so forth. The control of the game is so buttery smooth and seamless that it’s an absolute joy to get into, and gives off a sense of progression as your skills and reaction time increase and lead to some crazy and stylish action, zipping across the field like an absolute madman. Controllers are the preferred option for me, but keyboard and mouse is completely usable and has the better potential if gotten used to. Both can be remapped to your liking which is always great.

The visual and audio clarity play an important role as the camera stays in place when in battle, unless you manually operate it. Even if enemies are off the screen, there are indicators from both the user interface and in the game itself that give you notification that an enemy is going to attack. All your attacks and actions have distinct sound and visual effects that pop out and are very noticeable to indicate if an attack connects or whiffs. There is one instance of the UI kind of getting in the way, and that is the points section. There were a few moments when all of those points were racking up, I couldn’t exactly tell how far or close the enemy was to me, which led to me getting hit, but it didn’t happen often enough for me to get annoyed with it. Going back to the corporate office setting, you would think that all those cubicles and objects would be visually impairing, but if an object is in the way, the character and enemy gain an outline that gives off a distinctive glow. I really love this choice as there were many action games that I’ve played where I couldn’t tell if an enemy was being obscured by an object. The developer adds all these small aspects to their game that add to the overall enjoyment of the product.

Assault Spy
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 76%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 3/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Everyone understands that the human or human-like boss fights in action games tend to be the best bosses in the genre. A test between two similar foes, equal in power. Fights like these are fondly remembered by the community and for good reason, like the bouts between Vergil in Devil May Cry 3 and the conflicts with Jeanne in Bayonetta 1. Luckily, the developers took note of this and make every boss battle in the game a human-like fight. Most bosses in the game have a guard meter below their health bar, which gives them super armor (the ability to not be flinched when attacking) in the front. If attacked enough times from the front, their guard will break for a limited amount of time, which gives you free reign to wail on them as much as possible for as long as the meter is depleted. Slapping around the bosses in the arena and seeing how far and long I can juggle them in the air is almost a euphoric feeling. The boss fights are easily my favorite part of the game and human-like bosses are my favorite to fight in action games as they demonstrate the best the combat system has to offer.

But of course, like every action game, the developer has to add something completely stupid and unnecessary. For Assault Spy, this is stealth sections. Don’t get me wrong — I like stealth and stealth games. I just don’t like stealth sections in non-stealth games because they are always implemented poorly, and are also a lazy way to pad games with content. I didn't like them when I was a kid, and I still do not like them to this day. It’s bad enough that Asaru has a stealth section, but you have to do it again as Amelia and it's the same exact thing. Fortunately, in subsequent playthroughs on a completed file, you can skip the section entirely and just continue on with the action. There are also some minor annoyances like the enemy variety and that Ameila sharing a lot of the same level design as Asaru, but at least every enemy (except for one) is unique from each other and Amelia plays so differently from Asaru that it manages to not feel repetitive.

And now we’re finally at the morality section. Of course there is the obvious violence and some of the violence is directed towards humans. There is language in the game and it starts off with mild forms of language such as "d*mn," “hell,” various usages of "@$$," and one usage of "sh*t" in Asaru’s story. In Amelia’s story, the language is a bit more frequent as "sh*t" is used numerous times, and one instance of “f**kin’ b**ch.” I assume Amelia’s story has more swearing in it due to the stereotype that Japanese (and I guess everyone else when you really think about it) have towards Americans, in that they swear a lot. There are other F’s uttered, but are all bleeped out by the game for comedic effect. God’s name in vain is also used once. No blood is present in the game as the majority of the enemies are robots. When Asaru first sees Irene, he does have an inappropriate thought, which Kanoko obviously teases him for it as she notices him staring at Irene’s breasts.

For a relatively unknown game with a budget and production nowhere near the titles it took inspiration from, the small team at Wazen managed to create a work of art that is nearly on par with its stylish action brethren. Assault Spy is a great game that I can easily recommend to fans of the genre, at least if they are around a teen age. Thankfully, most of the flaws are minor at best such as some grammatical errors, some wonky translation at times that the more savvy anime consumers might catch, and one moment where Asaru and Kanoko switch voices for a brief moment. Most of these can be fixed in a future patch. It also runs great as long as shadows aren't set to "MAX" (shadows are notorious for killing performance in many games). I personally haven’t run into any detrimental bugs or crashes, though I've heard that some players ran into issues with Asaru where he would lock in place, and the only way to recover is to restart from a previous checkpoint.

The campaign may take only 4-6 hours to complete for each character, but there is plenty to come back for such as a boss rush when the game is completed once with either character. There also exists a gauntlet of battles called the Death March, where you will tackle 50 challenging stages as a timer counts down to zero, and they must be beaten all in one sitting. A tag team mode unlocks when you beat the game as both characters where you can switch between both characters instantly, further adding to the combo potential. After the game is completed with either character, there are two unlockable difficulty modes which not only change up enemy placement, but also makes enemies more aggressive and gives you less health, as well as other extra goodies once you beat those modes and difficulty levels. $30 may seem like a lot for an indie game, but it has content that comes close to its $60 counterparts. I would really like to see Assault Spy come out on consoles in the near future as it is crazy fun — furthermore, in what other game will you ever get the chance to beat things over the head with a briefcase?

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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