Spy Chameleon was developed and published by Unfinished Pixel on Xbox One. It was released on May 21, 2015 for $4.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
If you would have asked me what kind of game I wanted to play before Spy Chameleon was on my radar, my answer would not have included a chameleon stealth game. So when Unfinished Pixel's game was announced, it was with a raised eyebrow that I mused, "What is this nonsense?" and expected the worst when it came time to review. To my surprise, Spy Chameleon is unexpectedly fun and well designed (barring moments of chagrin while streaming on the XBLA Fans Twitch channel). I'll venture to say the game will be underrated; many have been quick to dismiss the title without giving it an opportunity to prove its worth. The stealth genre isn't for everyone.
Spy Chameleon has the player controlling a chameleon through many levels in the name of completing objectives. Naturally, those objectives don't factor into the gameplay and are simply excuses to play. Every 15 levels a specific objective ends. Each series introduces more environmental hazards that threaten the safety of the protagonist. Fear not, though, the chameleon has an ability to change into four different colors to blend into the environment and avoid detection. Armed with this talent, the player sets forth to survive another day in the world of corporate espionage. (Note that all of my following comments are tailored to gameplay on hard difficulty; normal difficulty has slower-moving light beams, which makes it feel like a different experience.)
Here's what I liked:
Great introductions of concepts — I'm a fan of games that introduce a concept piece by piece and don't shove everything the game has to offer on a help screen all at once. And while gradual integration isn't a new concept, Unfinished Pixel does a great job of slowly introducing new game mechanics into the mix while still using previous puzzle elements. I was a bit concerned when Spy Chameleon introduced new concepts during the very last few levels of the game, since most games that roll out concepts so close to their final sequences often have trouble executing them properly. Thankfully, the lack of continuity in Spy Chameleon works to its benefit here, and this isn't a problem.
Great value for its cost — Spy Chameleon features 75 competent levels for $4.99. Even if you get tired of the game early, it's difficult not to get $4.99 worth of enjoyment out of it. Cheap games are not, of course, automatically fun, but this one happens to provide a fun, varied challenge from beginning to end.
Here's what I didn't like:
Chameleon's design — To paraphrase what an onlooking friend said, "The chameleon looks like it has a bra on its head and is wearing lipstick." Yeah, it's not a great design.
Milliseconds, anyone? — I've always wondered what you could do in milliseconds in real life but have never been able to figure it out. Here, you pass or fail within the tiny obtuse seconds that can barely be imagined. This problem occurs during normal gameplay but it becomes even more noticeable while attempting to collect ladybugs during the second pass of a level. Unfinished Pixel would have done well to ease up on it a bit.
On a seemingly unrelated note, the last cheeseburger I had tasted rather bland and costed me around $8 for the meal. Those menu pictures always look better than the product actually tastes. Oh well, next time I know not to order it. On a more relevant note, any fan of stealth games or anyone who is curious about the genre should buy Spy Chameleon. Even the most reluctant gamer should try this fantastic title.
Score: Buy It
Achievement notes: You'll have to play on Hard difficulty to get every Achievement. Luckily, the entry point isn't drastic; the difficulty ramps up gradually. The only out of the ordinary thing worth noting is that the level 18 time challenge on Hard is broken with an impossibly low time because the Xbox One version is missing a level that the Steam version had, and the par times have not been properly shifted. The developers are aware of this and plan to patch it at some point. In the meantime, a glitch exists in that same level in which you can wiggle your character through the table and the chair and eventually but unnaturally pass all obstacles to beat the time. Poetic justice, I suppose.