12
Jul
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I don't think much of silent films, but I tend to melt when I come across a game that successfully conveys a plot without the use of speech. Each stage in Tiny Thief feels like a short skit, much like a single clip of Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry, only with a feeling of continuity as you progress from one to the next. It has the look and feel of a mobile game, and it's immensely easy to pick up and play, but there's a surprising degree of depth here and an undeniable degree of love and care holding it all together. Tiny Thief feels like it was made by developers who put their heart and soul into creating a game worthy of its own Disney animated film.

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The Gameplay

Tiny Thief is a point and click stealth-based puzzle game - not an adventure game. This distinction is key. There's no massive world to explore here, just a series of bite-sized stages. These areas are presented in a manner that will feel familiar to anyone who has played a mobile game since touchscreens became the norm. There are seven stories each consisting of five stages. On all but the introductory levels, players can earn up to three stars. These stars, however, are not rewarded based on how fast you complete a task or how high you score. In fact, Tiny Thief has no timing or scoring mechanism to speak of. All that matters here is how much you steal.

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Completing each stage is a varied experience. Yes, you will be sneaking by guards more often than not, but how you get by them varies with each encounter. Sometimes you will hide from sight in a barrel. Other times you will distract them away from their posts with animals. What sets this game apart is how easily and intuitively our little thief can perform any of these tasks. Want to climb a ladder? Tap on it to move, then press the command bubble to hop on. Want to hide in a hammock? Same deal. Want to untie a rope, tinker with a fishing rod, or throw a coconut? Every task is performed by tapping on the command bubble. 5 Ants has devised a control scheme where your character performs more tasks than most other games, all while using fewer buttons. Yes, it technically is your usual point-and-click control scheme, but it feels like so much more, all while actually being so much less.

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Each stage has a single item that must be acquired in order to move on to the next. Grabbing this item gets you one of the three available stars. The second, optional, star is typically obtained by finding your mongoosy little rodent friend hidden somewhere on the map. Getting the third is the biggest pain, as each stage has secondary collectibles that you must find to get the maximum three stars per stage. These items are typically buried in the background, requiring a careful eye to find them. The catch is that some background items are simply decoration and cannot be interacted with. Discovering which items are special and which are merely eye candy too often feels purely like guess work. Getting 100% competition in Tiny Thief will feel awfully similar to a marathon session of Where's Waldo.

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Now for the challenge. All of these items must be found and acquired without being spotted. If you're spotted by anyone you're trying to steal from, it's instant failure. Since each stage has multiple checkpoints, being caught isn't too much of a deal-breaker. That said, there's still a fair degree of trial and error to be had here, but I never found myself getting too frustrated.

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The Other Stuff

This section is going to be short, because as far as I'm concerned, Tiny Thief's presentation is perfect. Each stage looks meticulously crafted, with only a few repeated elements between them. They're filled with curious NPCs, animals that you can interact with, and baddies distracted in all manner of ways. Some will be occupied with their garden, others may be too focused on cooking, another may be in the shower, and many will simply be asleep. The world isn't overflowing with action, but it always feels alive and youthful. None of its inhabitants speak, but you will love many of them and hate a few before this story is over.

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The thief is adorably animated and looks more like a living, breathing cartoon character than an animated sprite. He performs a different animation every time he's caught or successfully completes a stage. Over the course of this adventure, I've seen a dejected thief pretend to be a janitor or bury himself underground. A victorious thief, on the other hand, may throw confetti into the air or even borrow dance moves from Psy. During every moment of the game, I got the sense that the developers went the extra mile to prevent things from getting stale. The audio is charming, and it consistently reminds me that this is a storybook experience.

Should You Play It?

It's tempting to write of Tiny Thief. Amazing Alex wasn't all that compelling, and Angry Birds became over-saturated with time. Say what you will about Rovio outsourcing creativity with their Rovio Stars program, the end result is worth it. Tiny Thief, I'm surprised to say, is a brilliantly crafted game. Yes, this is a casual experience, but it's still a surprisingly complex game. This is a story rich was highly varied puzzles that occasionally racked my brain, but I wouldn't hesitate to share it with a younger sibling or grandparent alike. It's a complex game coated with endearing character and held together by a control scheme that strips the learning curve out of getting the thief to do precisely what you want him to do. 5 Ants should really be commended for what they've done here. If this were produced by any other publisher, I'd give Tiny Thief an overwhelming recommendation to any and all with a device capable of running it.

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But this is Rovio, and we've all seen what happened to Angry Birds. At the time of this review, there were no ads and no IAPs inside the game. That said, Tiny Thief's Google Play page makes a mention of both. It will be heart-breaking if either of those things make an appearance down the road. Absolutely heart-breaking. As things are, this is a beautifully illustrated and wonderfully paced theatrical experience available for $2.99. See it now before it comes out on TV, laden with commercial breaks.

Bertel King, Jr.
Born and raised in the rural South, Bertel knows what it's like to live without 4G LTE - or 3G, for that matter. The only things he likes sweeter than his tea are his gadgets, and while few objects burn more than a metal phone on a summer day, he prefers them that way anyway.

  • McLean Riley

    This looks cool, but if I were to pay almost $4 for it and they drop in ads I will be instantly pi$$ed off. Also, IAPs only have a place in freemium. I want to try this game so I will, but I will request a refund if I see an ad.

    • miguelSantirso

      Hi there! Developer from 5 Ants here :) I just wanted to confirm that the game does not have any in-app purchases! The disclaimer in the Google Play page is, I guess, something that Rovio copies and pastes to be safe against any kind of legal problems...

      • HellG

        Who does the optimization you guys or rovio? In my note 2 i can notice some stuttering when panning the scene, it's really annoying in a 2D game in such capable device.

      • Simpletron

        Just bought it yesterday and loving it. Thanks!

      • McLean Riley

        Thanks for the reply! I talked my brother into purchasing this on his iPhone last night haha. I really like this game.

  • http://papped.webatu.com papped

    I'm more worried about a lot of users saying the gameplay is shallow and bores quickly....

    • Guest

      Hi papped! Ask for the opinion of the same users when they complete the game. I'm pretty sure they won't think it's that boring ; )

  • Mastermind26

    I wonder where the "$.47" came from in setting the price?
    Not $3 or $4, but $3.47.

    strange. :P

    • imtoomuch

      3 + 4 = 7

      Simple math! lol

      • Mastermind26

        Your name (imtoomuch) says it all. :P

    • Zaatour36

      I see it now for $2.99

      • Mastermind26

        You're right!

    • Himmat Singh

      Due to price conversions. Google doesn't lock down prices to the nearest $0.99 like Apple does.

  • imtoomuch

    $3.50 and no trial? Nah.

  • Leo Kanellopoulos

    so i watched the trailer couple of days ago and i was really exited as it looked like an action game which was really cool.. i tried it yesterday and today on a coworkers tablet and i was really disappointed. As a developer myself it felt more like a kids game rather than what i anticipated. Good graphics and polishing aren't enough...

  • Samuel Hart

    Looks cool, but not buying because of Rovio :/

    • Ray

      I'm thinking the same thing. Although Rovio apparently didn't develop the game I don't believe, the fact they have anything at all to do with Rovio puts me off.

      All the AB games are a prime example. They started off great but then Rovio got greedy. Data harvesting, in-app ads and purchases after you've paid for the game.

      Sorry, been ripped a new one too many times by Rovio - I don't care if they developed the game or not. The fact Rovio have something to do with the game is enough for me to say no way!

      • Samuel Hart

        Precisely. I like the developers, and I wish them all the best for future projects, and I hope they take this to springboard their own good stuff..... it's just literally that Rovio is near it.

  • scuttlefield

    I actually wish there was a free version with ads to try out. Forking over $3 on a game these days feels like a lot when you don't get to try it out.

    • Heon Jun Park

      with all(?) Google Play apps u can play it for 15 minutes and refund it if you don't like it... and the process is really simple

      • scuttlefield

        Okay. Fair point there.

      • wolfkabal

        But, as I've heard from others, the real "fun" of the game comes from later levels. Fifteen minutes is just enough to get through the intro level and get a peak at the game play. This might be enough, but a real demo that lets you experience multiple angles of the game would be better.

        • Kevin Aaronson

          Does any other platform allow you to get to the meat of the game then let you decide whether or not to buy? I don't think so, even with 10 times the amount of money at stake. The 15 min window is a service not seen on any other platform. Nor are demos being a requirement

          • wolfkabal

            Actually a lot of console game demos do allow you to preview some of the 'better' parts of games. At least demos of the past (haven't played consoles in a while). They'd either give you abilities only available in later parts, or a boss fight super early. Either way the demo would show off areas of the game you normally wouldn't get to until hours into the game. Not every demo did this, but often they did.
            Most mobile 'lite' versions haven't followed this path either so it's not hard to see your line of thinking the way it is. But, I simply don't think the 15 minute window is really all that much for a preview - and that's not the intention of that 'service' either. It's mostly for compatibility checks and the like to ensure an app/game will run on your device. So saying the 15 minute window is a serviceable 'demo' is false to begin with.

          • Kevin Aaronson

            The 15 min is a service of google. Being of benefit to the customer. I never said it was "serviceable" I'm merely pointing out that playing 15 min of a game before purchasing is something not on any console/mobile store has. So comparing it as such is false. As for demos, that is at the publishers perogative. There was no demo of the last of us or BioShock before I purchased

          • Leonardo Farage Freitas

            The 15min is ok when the game is light and fast to download. But it doesn't work when the game has a massive amount of data that takes more than 15min to download before actually playing and when done (if ever) you find out that the game doesn't work properly on your device. There should be a refund policy for these cases. And this rant is not solely about the money, but also for the respect we as consumers deserve.

          • Justin Swanson

            IIRC, the 15 minutes doesn't start until the game is installed. I don't think it starts at purchase time. I remember this being a big deal before and Google changed their policy to reflect what made sense.

  • Ferriswheeler

    I'm totally bored with the "do a puzzle, get stars" formula. I want these games to have some narrative and REAL cohesive worlds and levels.

    • http://bertelking.com/ Bertel King, Jr.

      While I obviously love this title, I agree with you overall. Since we have the capability to save at any time, games need not be broken down into such repetitive bite-sized chunks.

    • jwing

      have you tried Scribblenauts ?

      it also use "solve puzzle get star" formula, but in a much much better way. and not repetitive either.

  • Adrian

    bought it and love it so far. it's a really polished game with a sick level of detail. personally I'm glad it's not free and crammed with ads. maybe I'm just and old school gamer, but I'd rather pay for a game with no ads and no, if doesn't have in app purchases.

    over the years I've dropped over $40 on a game for the pc so I really don't understand all of the complaining about it costing 3 dollars. it's three dollars. I really don't get why so many people expect a company's hard work to be free and let's be honest here, the people complaining that they wouldn't pay. 99 for a game do not buy from the ads.

    we android users complain that iPhone gets games first but when a company puts out a quality game we still cheap out and don't want to reward them. I don't blame them for following the money.

    beautifully done game! can't wait to see what they do next!

    • http://bertelking.com/ Bertel King, Jr.

      I completely agree. I grew up paying $20 - $50 for games. If I didn't have the money for them, I didn't get to play them, and that was life. I didn't feel entitled to have those experiences for free.

      Some of those games were inferior to what can be found on Android now. $3 is an absolute steal, and we should invest in good content if we want to see more of it in the future.

    • Kevin Aaronson

      I know. It just doesn't make any sense to me. And all this complaining of no demo like 3 bucks is a huge investment. I don't get it.

  • ———

    http://puu.sh/3CYHk.png

    I see what you did there 5 Ants!

  • Timmy Feng