Apple Watch spy game brings clever twist to retro format

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There's a trick to creating a compelling game on your wrist. Photo: Bossa Games
There's a trick to creating a compelling game for your wrist. Photo: Bossa Games

From James Bond’s laser Rolex to Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone, spies have always been suckers for wearable tech.

To salute secret agents’ fondness for the latest gadgets, the makers of Spy_Watch crafted their new game for the latest cutting-edge device — the Apple Watch. And, like clever spymasters, there’s a twist: They paired this super-modern smartwatch with a vintage videogame mechanic to make a compelling game suitable for a gadget the size of Dick Tracy’s famous wrist radio.

“The idea is to immerse yourself in the idea that you are a spymaster controlling a spy out on missions,” Vince Farquharson, COO of Spy_Watch developer Bossa Games, told Cult of Mac. “To make it feel like they are a real person and that this is really happening.”

Photo: Bossa Games
Send your secret agent around the globe. Photo: Bossa Games

Games have been an overwhelming success on the iOS platform, making up more than 20 percent of App Store titles and bringing in tons of cash for developers. With Apple Watch coming Friday, many game makers are vying to produce a breakout hit for this new device.

While the iPhone and the Apple Watch will be inextricably linked, creating games for the two platforms require radically different approaches and ideas.

“With the phone, we’re used to interacting every few hours, for a few minutes, and the games on those devices have conformed to the same model,” said Farquharson. “With a watch, you’re actually talking about interacting a couple of times an hour for just a few seconds — a radically different experience.”

With Spy_Watch, Bossa Games has created a interactive fiction game where players must make choices just as they did in classics of the text-adventure genre like Zork and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Some of the energy mechanics shown off in Spy_Watch screenshots mimic the free-to-play style commonly seen in games with in-app purchases. But the gameplay is truly simple, as befits a new Apple Watch gaming app: You’ll use the smartwatch to send and receive notifications, completing missions and earning money that you can use to improve your spy’s capabilities.

Train your secret agent and get more rewards! Photo: Bossa Games
In Spy_Watch, you train your secret agent to get rewards. Photo: Bossa Games

You guide your secret agent through undercover missions by communicating just like you would with your buddies in a messenger app.

Programming an app for Apple Watch is similar to creating one for iPhone. All Apple Watch apps must have a companion app on the larger device, utilizing a logic system that Apple calls the “Watch extension.” This is a part of the iPhone app dedicated to communicating with the Watch.

“This allows the app to use all the phone functionality like background download, internet connection, GPS, etc.,” said Bossa’s CTO Sylvain Cornillon. “The Apple Watch is only in charge of displaying the user interface. The actual functionality of the app on the phone is up to the developer.”

You can purchase Spy_Watch for $1.99 and play on your iPhone now, but the game will be far cooler to play on your Apple Watch. Here’s hoping a mysterious spy agency doesn’t intercept your wrist-size Apple device before it arrives.