Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Spy Fox 3: "Operation Ozone"

Two years following the release of Spy Fox 2: “Some Assembly Required” in 1999, as well as a spin-off game called Spy Fox in: “Hold the Mustard” within the same year, Humongous Entertainment would release the inevitable third game, Spy Fox 3: “Operation Ozone”, in 2001. This would turn out to be the final game in the main Spy Fox series, with Humongous Entertainment itself going defunct in 2006. Upon getting to play Spy Fox 3, I found this state of affairs unfortunate, as it introduced a number of gameplay concepts that improved over Spy Fox 2 that contributed to a rather interesting experience.

Spy Fox receives word that Poodles Galore, the Queen of Cosmetics, is attempting to use a giant aerosol can in outer space to destroy the ozone layer, with the goal of making a profit by selling SPF 2001 sunscreen to protect against the sun. The only scientist who can stop the aerosol can, Plato Pushpin, has been captured by Poodles Galore, and so it is up to Spy Fox to rescue him. Once Spy Fox succeeds, Plato is taken to the Mobile Command Center, now located in outer space; from there, Spy Fox must retrieve four items so Plato can create a Congeal Pill to stop the aerosol can.

As with previous Spy Fox games, the story is pretty straightforward and easy to follow. What’s interesting, though, is that between collecting a few of the items, a cutscene will play that expands on Poodles Galore’s backstory, something that seemed to be missing with William the Kid and Napoleon LeRoach. Whether these cutscenes make Poodles a more interesting villain depends on the player, though it does certainly make her more well-rounded. There’s also two different endings depending on whether you perform a certain action at the right time near the end, however I was able to get the ending where you capture Poodles Galore first try.

With this game comes a number of improvements that expand on the previous games’ point-and-click gameplay. Based on a walkthrough I consulted a few times due to the game’s complexity, two of the items are the same in each playthrough while the other two are randomized between a pool of two. To retrieve each of these items, the player now has four different locations to explore, including the starting area. Some of the clues to get these items or advance in a level are even more randomized than in previous games; for example, if one of the items you need to obtain is beauty clay, as I did in my playthrough, you need to know which type of clay you specifically need, the exact type of which is given in a sheet of the items you can consult at any time and the location of which is found on a grid somewhere in the Lake area.

Spy Fox must stop Poodles Galore from destroying the ozone layer
with a giant aerosol can/space station.

Some things even require you to bounce between locations in order to get them. For example, in order to get a piece of chicle from Chiclepichu in the Jungle, one obstacle requires getting the second half of an amulet. To get the other half, you have to get it from a shop in the Lake, however you are given a code phrase that you need to know the correct response to. To get the correct response, you are prompted to see an informant in the Desert, who gives you a makeup kit that can tell you the correct answer. After getting the other half of the amulet this way, you are now free to enter Chiclepichu.

One additional gameplay tweak is the introduction of a deep pocket in Spy Fox’s suit, which makes inventory management a lot easier to deal with since previous games gave Spy Fox a new pocket for each item, which got out of hand in Spy Fox 2 to the point it nearly covered the bottom third of the screen. While my playthrough didn’t seem to take full advantage of the deep pocket, it’s a nice feature that could’ve been put to great use in a hypothetical Spy Fox 4. A couple extra features include the Spy Watch now having a constant readout based on your system clock, as well as an increased character count in the Save files; while the latter might not seem like much, I sometimes used the name of a save file in previous games to give myself a hint on what to do next, since I would play them in chunks, so the added space made this a lot easier for me.

The game retains a consistent art style with previous games, though with some improvements. Building off of Spy Fox 2, Spy Fox himself has an increased expressiveness in his animations, including a wider range of facial expressions, which serve to make him more of a relatable character. Also building off the previous game, Monkey Penny has an increased amount of animations in the Spy Watch, giving her something to do while she talks to Spy Fox instead of recycling the same animation from Spy Fox 1 like Spy Fox 2 did most of the time.

The voice acting is still good, though only Spy Fox, Monkey Penny and Professor Quack return from previous games. Ken Boynton’s performance as Professor Quack, whose role is similar to Q from the James Bond franchise, has been consistent throughout each of the games, though this game seems to be where he is most comfortable in the role. Mike Madeoy returns as Spy Fox in this game from Spy Fox 2, putting more of his own take on the character while displaying his experience with the role. Anita Montgomery voices Monkey Penny in this game, replacing Gina Nagy from every previous game, however her voice was so spot-on with Nagy’s that I couldn’t really tell the difference. Even more impressive is when I found out Montgomery had also voiced Poodles Galore in this game, as their voices and personalities were so distinct from each other that I initially thought they were done by two separate actresses.

Spy Fox 3: “Operation Ozone” is one of the better Spy Fox games in the series, if not the best. On a technical level, this game has the best mechanics and possibly the most randomization, allowing for a great level of replay value and making the game perhaps the most complex in the series. On a storytelling level, the game seems to go to greater lengths to expand on its villain, making Poodles Galore arguably more layered compared to previous antagonists. This game is definitely recommended for Spy Fox and Humongous Entertainment fans, however I would suggest newcomers to start from the beginning with Spy Fox in: “Dry Cereal”.

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