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Literature / Be an Interplanetary Spy

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Be an Interplanetary Spy is a series of twelve science-fiction Gamebooks, where the player solves puzzles in the place of making choices. The main character is a member of an organization that hunts down and captures criminals throughout the universe.


Be an Interplanetary Spy provides examples of:

  • AI Is A Crap Shoot: Robot World is about a planet where robots were used to make an uninhabited world livable. Predictably, perhaps, because their programming was to make everything perfect, this also involved getting rid of everything that isn't perfect. Like organic life.
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  • Antimatter: The villain of the 4th book tries to use an antimatter bomb to blow up his hostages.
  • Badass Normal: The reader frequently takes on much more powerful enemies with little more than a few gadgets, but especially so in the 9th book, Ultraheroes, because they accomplish a heck of a lot more than the entire team of superheroes the title refers to.
  • Beehive Hairdo: A villainess in the 2nd book has one. The Fishbowl Helmet of her spacesuit is even pointed to accommodate it!
  • Code Name: The Spy is given a new code name for the mission in each particular book, although the practice died out later in the series. In Ultraheroes the Spy doesn't get one, even though it would've helped their cover as a new member of a superhero team, who all seem to have one note , and only gets a code name when one of their teammates uses the opportunity to try out his new telepathic powers with the Spy.
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  • Continuity Nod: Surprisingly heavy on this for an 80s children's book series. Not only do various members of the Spy's Rogues Gallery get mentioned again in later books, so do various friends and allies he meets on his missions.
  • Cypher Language: Space Pirate Code, Robot Code, Spy Code, and the Planet Hunter's language is just English with all the letters replaced with different symbols.
  • Expendable Clone: Gresh, the enemy spy of Space Olympics, has minions who are clones of himself, and use a special signal to dissolve when they accomplish their goal so they can't be caught. Fortunately the Spy figures out how to use this against Gresh near the end of the book.
  • Evil Twin: Kort is this to Tunk.
  • Fantastic Measurement System: To make things sound more space-y, most measurement terms that showed up were called "kad-"whatever. Kad-years, kad-hours, kad-degrees hot, etc.
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  • Featureless Protagonist: The main character is drawn to not reveal any of their physical features, and not identified as anything other than You or Spy.
  • Freeze Ray: Ultimately used to stop the robot rebellion in Robot World, and then later to stop the escapees encountered in The Red Rocket. Averted in the latter case since the robots immunized themselves against that technology, necessitating a new weapon to defeat them.
  • Full-Name Basis: Most characters are only ever given one name, but if they get a full name they're almost always referred to by that (e.g. Marko Khen and Reeta Indari are always called "Marko Khen" and "Reeta Indari").
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Skystalker always has a cigarette holder in his mouth.
  • Guile Hero: The player's character, since it's a rarity for them to be armed on a mission, requiring them to be solving things through their wits instead.
  • High-Class Glass: The villain Skystalker, who wears a monocle over one of his three eyes. Between this and his cigarette holder mentioned above he was probably intended as a sci-fi version of a classy James Bond-style superspy adversary.
  • Humongous Mecha:
    • In Robot World the rebelling robots are building a giant humanoid-robot spaceship to attack the galaxy.
    • The Megadroid seen on the cover of Skystalker.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The villain Skystalker enjoys hunting intelligent prey. Most of the book he's in involves evading him until the Spy can find a way to even the odds.
  • Identical Twin ID Tag: Kort has a shorter top hair than his brother, the heroic Interplanetary Spy, Tunk.
  • Interface Spoiler:
    • Robot World has a generic bad end where everything blows up, which is used as a bad end for multiple puzzles. If you see a possible solution for a puzzle asking you to flip to that page, you know it's the wrong answer. It's also possible to see which pages lead to bad ends while flipping to different pages in the book.
    • Averted with the first page in The Star Crystal. Most books start with a wanted poster with an image of the criminal, but since the criminal is unknown at the start of that book it instead shows a danger notice with an image of the guy you're supposed to be protecting. The actual criminal is the same guy, making this a downplayed example.
  • Kill It with Water: The Planet Hunters will dissolve if they get wet. The end result was the protagonist forcing the gigantic leader of the trio to surrender by threatening him with a tiny puddle of water.
  • Luke Noun Verber: The titular villain of the Skystalker.
  • The Many Deaths of You: There's a puzzle every two of three pages, and guessing wrong usually gets you killed in some bizarre way.
  • Mineral Macguffin: The titular Star Crystal, which is meant to be the prize for an interplanetary art contest, but which gets stolen.
  • The Mole: You're called in to help in Ultraheroes when acts of sabotage convince Spy Center that one of the recruits is a double agent. There is one, but not willingly.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: In the 2nd book your spaceship is destroyed by one of the villains, but their organic robot you just reprogrammed into helping you conveniently has the power to fly fast enough to get to other planets and can carry you where you need to go.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: Especially early in the series, computer displays look just like 80s arcade games. Early 80s arcade games. This probably has to do with how the first half of the series marketed itself, with the back covers always having a huge legend saying "More than a video game!"
  • Planet Spaceship: Skystalker has a spaceship the size of a small planetoid that's modeled to resemble a city.
  • Pseudolympics: The 4th book, Space Olympics, obviously. The Spy has to go undercover to protect one of the athletes from an assassination attempt, while also competing in the events.
  • Robot War: Robot World takes place on a world where the robots decided that humans where imperfect and needed to be destroyed.
  • Save the Villain: One of the puzzles in Skystalker involves saving the villain from an ambush. This is done primarily for pragmatic reasons though, as the villain is the only one who knows the location of the artifact you've been sent to retrieve.
  • Secret Test: In The Star Crystal, one of the other characters is also a spy working for the same organization. They don't identify themselves because they're there to decide if the player gets promoted. Although there is an ending where they inadvertently kill the player for botching something their cover should know...
    • That's a disturbing trend with the Interplanetary Spies, actually! When you're due to be promoted again you have to pass a bunch of tests to solve a mystery. If you fail on almost any of them, you get killed!
  • Shoe Phone: Perhaps as is to be expected, the Spy is outfitted with a lot of gadgets disguised as innocuous items (at least, innocuous for its Space Opera future).
  • Shout-Out:
    • In ''Monsters of Doorna" the Spy flies to Doorna in an X-Wing spaceship.
    • In Robot World the Spy has to play through the levels of an arcade game to get vital information. One of the levels is clearly Robotron: 2084 with the roles reversed — the player defending helpless robots from violent invading humans.
  • Shrink Ray: Used to get onto the miniaturized planet in Mission to Microworld.
  • Space Pirate: Marko, the villain of the second book. His wife and daughter prove to be in the same line of work in a death scene in the following book (and pretty eager to get even with the guy who busted him, needless to say).
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Dr. Cyberg the cyborg.
  • Suddenly Speaking: When he first appears in The Star Crystal, Tunk acts like the mute pet of one of the artists on the ship. Later he reappears in Ultraheroes, and is suddenly treated as a seasoned agent overseeing the mission and giving the reader their orders.
  • Superhero: The 9th book, Ultraheroes, is about the player saving a team of alien crimefighters with special powers and flashy costumes. Since the hero of the book's a spy with no superpowers, though, they don't really make that much difference to make sure the reader doesn't feel overshadowed.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Used a lot to get from place to place (and usually another excuse for the book to throw a puzzle at the reader). In Ultraheroes one heroine has the power to teleport.
  • Thriller on the Express: The Star Crystal is a murder mystery on a spaceship called the Mobius Express.
  • Time Master: One of the Ultraheroes has the power to speed up or slow down time.
  • Tricked-Out Gloves: For the 2nd book all of the Spy's special gadgets are built into a bionic glove.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: The first page in each book is usually a wanted poster showcasing the criminal of the story.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The Star Crystal plays an awful lot like a sci-fi version of Murder on the Orient Express.

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