Thursday, 19 December 2013

Review - Tiny Thief (Android)

Light-fingered fun on your mobile device

Everyone enjoys a rousing tale of a kind hearted rogue stealing food and gold from the nasty rich folk and handing it over to the needy peasants, the whole Robin Hood deal. How much truth is in those famous tales I cannot be sure of, but the message behind them is a sound one - That is is perfectly acceptable to steal from someone if they are a bastard, or have too much stuff to begin with. At least, that's what I think the message is, but I may be mistaken. Anyway, you can relive these valiant tales via an adorable new adventure game on both mobile and computer platforms, courtesy of newcomers 5Ants, and published by Rovio Stars, who you may know from some game that involves firing annoyed birds at pigs or something, I have no idea.

Tiny Thief is, at its heart, a point & click adventure, though there is no talking, nor any options to; look, use, open, or drop, as you would find in the more tradition games of the genre, such as Monkey Island or Sam & Max. The closest thing to compare it to would be Amanita Design's stunning games; Samorost, Machinarium and Botanicula, as it uses a simple 'touch the highlighted objects' interface that even a moderately intelligent chimp could happily use. The visuals are a treat, with some glorious looking stages; which include a street market, pirate ship, castle, and even a jungle village, and charming character designs coupled with smooth, and often amusing, animations. The short static cutscenes that introduce each stage and the puppet style intros to each world also raise a smile, and add to the highly polished presentation, also enhanced by the medieval style music that verges on twee, but suits the game perfectly.

The basic premise of performing criminal acts for the greater good presents itself as a series of small stages that make up the six worlds on offer - each with a different theme, such as nabbing food for the hungry, relieving greedheads from their precious gold in order to distribute it to the poor, freeing captured village folk, or wooing a beautiful princess - though this is less community spirited than the others. To do so you must employ stealth tactics to avoid being spotted by any of the bad guys or their minions. The tiny pilferer can hide inside barrels, bushes or cupboards simply by tapping on the icon that appears next to said hidey hole, and can spring from his hiding spot via the same method. There are simple puzzles that involve picking up items and then using them elsewhere, in the style of the classic Dizzy games. One puzzle involves using a pie pinched from a baker's shop window to lure a hungry child out from his home, who is then blamed for said pudding theft by the irate baker - a handy distraction while you nab the real score from within his shop. As well as these mandatory puzzles, there are also two optional objectives within each stage. The first is a simple matter of tapping your finger on your tiny ferret friend when he pops up in a hard to spot area, and the second involves procuring a selection of goodies that are usually hidden behind parts of the environment, or solving additional puzzles. Completing each of these awards you a star which, alongside the one awarded for completing the level, make a total of three to aim for.

It is all really rather lovely stuff, with a jolly and friendly vibe that permeates throughout, backed up by the kind hearted nature of the protagonist and his cutesy rodent pal. It's a breath of fresh air to play a stealth game that doesn't involve slitting enemies throats and dragging their bodies into a dark corner, and I was won over by Tiny Thief's charming, childlike nature and eye catching visuals. Tiny Thief is fun, engaging, charming, and full of heart. It certainly won't have you stumped in the same way as the more traditional point & click adventures, but it does have its moments, especially in later levels, where you need to sit back and consider the possible solutions to a puzzle. Besides, it is no easier than Ron Gilbert and Tim Shafer's The Cave, and also does away with the tedious backtracking and poor platforming that hampered that disappointing release. Tiny Thief also offers some replayability, as you will certainly want to retry the stages to try and find all the items you missed first time round, earning you a perfect three star rating on each.  It is a perfect pick up and play title for gaming on the move. I have been playing a plethora of games on my new Android device, but nothing has captured my interest as much as this game. 

As such, Tiny Thief is an essential game for mobile device users who have even a passing interest in the point and click adventure genre, and is a well produced and charming experience that offers a great deal of entertainment value for a ridiculously low price. Unfortunately, PC owners are subjected to some outright thievery - the likes of which would embarrass even Tiny himself - as Rovio Stars deemed it fit to slap a hefty £11.99 price tag onto the game, despite there being barely any improvements over the 69 pence mobile versions. There really is no excuse for this, and there is no way that Tiny Thief is worth that kind of money. Yes, it is a delightful little adventure, perfectly suited to a small screen, but on PC - a platform with much stiffer competition in the adventure genre - it feels a little lacking in content and challenge. Buy Tiny Thief for your phone or tablet and have a wonderful time, but avoid the PC version at all costs, lest it encourage this kind of unjustified pricing in the future.

Android / iOS   


Title : Tiny Thief
Developer : 5Ants
Publisher : Rovio Stars
Year : 2013
System : Android
Also On : PC, iOS
Price : £0.69 (mobile) £11.99 (PC)