As a new initiative for Gearburn I’ll be doing a review of the iOS game of the month going on the ratings of aggregator site Metacritic
February has just wrapped up so it somehow makes sense to start there, and so with a whopping 93 out of a possible 100 our February iOS game of the month is the rhythm-based puzzle game Beat Sneak Bandit.
Game developer Simogo’s latest offering is so cheesy it shouldn’t be accessible. With Beat Sneak’s polished, yet kitsch, presentation along with its ambitious concept to play to the beat, it could have easily tripped over its own feet. But there’s something about this game — it makes you want to play it — and for an iOS game that’s saying something.
The dominant iOS titles are mostly casual games á la the almighty Angry Birds. They are all time-wasters at heart; something to do at a boring party or while pretending to listen to your mother. Beat Sneak challenges this notion – it’s that rare feat: an engrossing casual game.
Time is Running Out
All of the clocks in the world have gone missing. That’s right, all of them. No one knows when to stop brushing their teeth or when to take the trash out and no one knows how long their mother’s been talking at them for.
It’s safe to say it’s chaos. All evidence points to the evil Duke and his groovy mansion. And so the bandit and his trusty amphibian sidekick (Herbie) break into the Duke’s mansion only to discover that the clocks are all there, waiting to be taken back. All that remains is to groove through the obstacles and get the clocks, four small and one large at a time.
The concept is simple, tap tap tap… to the beat of the soundtrack, tap in time and you’ll sneak, tap incorrectly and guards, cameras and clocks will find you, see you, or blow up. You have to see it to believe it, so here’s the trailer.
Each stage has four platforms or levels, one above another. Everything is alive, and dancing to the beat. Trap doors open and close at 128 beats per minute while guards patrol rhythmically. It is tapping within this beat that makes you literally… sneak.
You’ll start on any of the four levels of a stage — you may have to drop right down before making your way back up, or you may have to take care of the upper two levels before moving down. This is where the variety comes in.
Once you’ve planned out your route, you may have a couple of trial and error rounds, especially in the early game when you’re working out the mechanics. One instance of using a guard’s head as a platform gave me a: ‘will this work? Oh my god it did and that is awesome‘ moment. And it’s moments like that that give gamers great pleasure.
The real trick behind Beat Sneak Bandit is that it actually goes against gamer intuition; if you focus too much on the visuals — looking at the cameras, the guards and other such obstacles — you are bound to fail. It is when you let your proverbial hair down and just groove that the game becomes a whole lot easier. Listening to the music is the key to success, so much so you might even want to try planning your route and then closing your eyes to just… tap.
That didn’t work for me, but let me know; maybe I just have the rhythm of a fox on roller skates.
Later levels throw in teleportation which unfortunately hurts the level design as you are forced upon a set path; these stages suffer by being more rigid than the earlier ones. However this is a puzzle platformer with rhythm at its soul, and so even though you may feel like you are limited to a specific route, performing the exact movements to complete a stage is still a blast.
Polish doesn’t even begin to describe the look and feel of this game. The graphics are slick, with a comic book quality and there was no lag, even on my far too old iPhone 3GS.
The game’s learning curve is a bit tougher than others. Getting through the stages is easy enough, but collecting all the clocks is not, which at the end of the day, is what it’s all about. You don’t play Angry Birds to get by, you play Angry Birds to kill some mother******* pigs. Likewise you don’t play Beat Sneak to finish it; you play it to steal back clocks in the most stylish way possible.
It’s nice to see a game in this day and age with no visible interface, a simple ‘tap the screen at the right time to progress’ mentality works well, especially on a small mobile device where screen space is precious.
It’s not hard to see why Beat Sneak got a 93 rating – it’s got the perfect mix of simplicity, originality and, most importantly, fun at the top of its designers’ list. It’s an engrossing experience over 65 levels of rhythmically fun tapping. Add to that a soundtrack that puts most iOS titles to shame, charming graphics and a unique style of play. It all makes this game well worth its $2.99 price tag. So go buy it, and get your groove on.
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