While Thai-ing one on at the bar in the Bangkok Hilton, you overhear two KGB agents discussing secret plans - so secret that each part of the plan is hidden on a different floor of the Russian mission at Pyongyang. That's the premise for Spy's Demise, a thriller that
could just as easily have been called Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Elevator Operator.
The mission itself is a tribute to functional socialist architecture, namely a simple grid. You move across the grid while embassy guards ride elevators up and down. Run into a guard and you die in what looks like a mushroom cloud. Along the way you pick up pieces of microfilm, not-too-well-concealed weapons and other spy paraphernalia. You don't have to go out of your way to collect these goodies - they're just there, waiting for you to run over them. A few appear and disappear at random and quick action can net you a bonus.
At the bottom and top of the screen, it's pretty easy to get across. You have lots of time to determine your moves as the deadly elevators ascend and descend. In the middle levels, however, you're attacked from both sides with dreadful insistence. You can't stop your spy - you've got to master the art of trying to hold him in one place by swift back-and-forth joystick action if you're going to survive. Get to the top of the screen and you're rewarded with a portion of the encoded message. Decode the entire message and you may be eligible to win a Spy's Demise T-shirt.
The graphics are good, the action is nervewracking (though somewhat monotonous) but the music is outstanding. Your spy plays a bit of the James Bond theme, then you hear nothing but Russian melodies. Last month in the article "Roll It Over, Beethoven", I told you about "Vniz po matushke po Volge" but I neglected to mention "Vniz po Volge-Reke" in which a young oarsman begs his comrades to "Throw me overboard to Mother Volga. Drown then deep in her all my pain and woe." Seems there was this girl, see...
Don't be afraid to backtrack rather than stand still. It may be your safest way out of a tough predicament.