Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review: The Heist (iPhone)

Most games are easy enough to classify. Call of Duty is a first-person shooter, Resident Evil is a survival horror and Super Mario Bros. is a platformer. You see? Simple. But every once in a while a game comes along that blurs the lines between genrés. A game that just can't be categorized or classified as anything else. Something that really makes people sit up and take notice.

Sadly, The Heist is not that game. It's a puzzle game, through and through.

See? Puzzle!
What makes it noticeable, however, is the way it blurs the lines between advertising and gaming. Follow me on this one:

As I mentioned, The Heist (not to be mistaken for Payday: The Heist, the newly-announced PSN title) is a puzzle game. There is no real-time action to deal with, no imminent danger if you fail, no "Game Over!" screen; it's as straightforward a puzzle game as there ever was. You spend almost the entirety of the game solving puzzles; however, when you're not solving puzzles, you're listening to a recorded conversation.

You see, the premise of The Heist is that you are a crack safe-cracker (pun intended) that has been hired by some sort of international criminal to retrieve some sort of valuable information. The game actually starts off with a mock Facetime call, which is both clever and confusing at the same time; I spent about five minutes alternating between starting the game and trying to ignore this incessant Sophia chick. I finally answered the call, planning on asking who the hell she was, only to find that she was a character from the game (with a horribly fake accent) who was setting up the premise for me. Needless to say, I felt more than just a bit stupid after that.

After the set-up, you're left to your own devices. And by that, of course, I mean that you are left to complete puzzles because, as everyone knows, all the best safe-crackers do so by completing simplistic puzzles.

Still following me? Good.




To be fair, there are four different types of puzzles to choose from: a sliding block puzzle reminiscent of Unblock Me; a Sudoku-style puzzle game using symbols instead of numbers; a different sliding block puzzle requiring you to push blocks with a small robot; and a third sliding tile puzzle where you have to correctly assemble a picture. I know it sounds like this game involves a lot of block sliding but, because of the diversity of puzzles, it's actually quite an entertaining game. It's as if Inventive Inc., the people behind The Heist, took notes from all the best puzzle games and combined them together for this game.

"But wait," I can hear you saying. "This seems like a simple puzzle game. What does this have to do with advertising?" I'm glad you asked.

The best part of The Heist is the end of the game. I mean, you spend all this time completing these puzzles all to get inside this vault; it better be something good, right? Luckily, your prize is definitely more than worth both your time and your money. You see, when you finally crack the vault and the door opens, you are rewarded with a voucher, redeemable through Steam, for the platformer Eets.

Behind this door is the best deal you'll get all week.

That's right; after paying 99 cents for The Heist and spending some time figuring out a handful of puzzles, you receive a free voucher for a $10 game that has an 81 per cent rating on Metacritic. If that's not an amazing deal, I don't know what is. It doesn't even really matter whether you want Eets or not; the fact that you receive a free $10 worth of merchandise is outstanding.

You really have to take your hat off to tap tap tap and the team at MacHeist; what they've done here is quite miraculous. I have no idea how they managed to pay for this whole thing and still make a profit, but I imagine they're making quite a deal of money off of this little advertising/marketing stunt. And good for them: it's always great to see indie developers helping each other out to sell their games.

All in all, I can't not recommend this game. The puzzles are great by themselves, but the real selling point is the free merchandise. Just don't complain that you have to complete some puzzles on the way: no one ever said cracking a vault was easy.

- Nick J

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