Review: Third Eye Crime04 Jun 2014 0
I needed a drink, I needed a vacation, I needed a compelling stealth game for iOS with an immersive atmosphere and intuitive controls. You don’t usually get what you need in this city, where the rain and tears do nothing to wash away the grime. But sometimes… sometimes you do.
Third Eye Crime is a sexy stealth puzzler drenched in a comic book noir theme. You play as psychic art thief Rothko, caught up in a massive conspiracy when a straightforward heist turns into something much bigger than even a mind reader could have foreseen.
Much like the plot, the gameplay starts out deceptively simple. Draw a glowing path with your finger and Rothko will slink slowly, carefully after it. His psychic abilities let you see where guards are looking, and where they’re headed. Slip behind them, around corners out of sight. The only way to avoid the chatter of a tommy gun is to find a nice dark place to hide. You know the drill.
It just works. It's a simple, tactile approach to top-down navigation. You'll fail, often, but not because of struggling against unwieldy controls. No, you'll fail because this is a challenging game. Simply surviving a level is tricky enough, but doing so while earning all three of each stage's optional achievements, like grabbing all of the scattered gems or escaping unseen, truly takes the skills of a master thief.
And when you lose, it will be your fault. The game is fair. Every action prompts a predictable reaction from the dimwitted guards who stand between you and the glowing, glorious door that waits at the end of every maze-like level. The fun is found in understanding the systems behind this stealthy puzzler, teasing apart every stage until you can maneuver it with ease. It's a complex, precise task, and it feels truly rewarding when you prevail.
But don't make the mistake of thinking you’ve got this game figured out. Just as with the characters in classic detective tales, getting comfortable just might kill you. Every time you think you know it all a new revelation throws everything off-kilter. Third Eye Crime doles out new content at a perfect pace to keep things from getting stale. The normal guards will be joined by companions with guns, then sniper rifles.
You’ll face mad scientists who are nearly blind, but hunt you with sonar. And, of course, you’ll grab plenty of gadgets, most of which are riotously fun to use.
Disguise yourself as a guard to slip past security cameras! Create a decoy version of yourself to lure attention away from your goal! Avoid pursuit by making a crate spontaneously appear in a narrow hallway! Third Eye Crime doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it sure has a lot of fun playing within its confines.
Stealth purists beware, you won’t be able to slip unseen through most levels. It's not that kind of game. Getting spotted is often unavoidable. The trick is controlling these isolated glimpses, popping up in a guard’s field of view then slipping back into darkness, misdirecting your pursuers as they chase you through the mazes of art galleries, warehouses and hotels. Oddly it’s not unlike a stealthy, heartracing Pac-Man.
If all of this were draped with a run-of-the-mill theme, plot and art style it would still be a good game. Third Eye Crime is a great game. Every chapter begins with a comic-book style interlude. These hit all the familiar noir beats with a distinct flair, and fans of The Maltese Falcon will not feel out of place. It’s a world of dangerous dames and hard-talking thugs. Not the most unique plot, but told with such panache it’s difficult not to feel a thrill while reading along.
This comic-book aesthetic extends to the levels themselves. Colors are vibrant, a burst of jazz accompanies your every move and characters are distinct.
I should probably take a moment to talk about how you actually pay for this game, since it’s a bit unusual. The 35 levels that comprise the first “act” are $3. The remaining two acts can be purchased for an additional $2, and are well worth the extra cash.
The only downside is the consumable in-app purchases, which take Third Eye Crime's expertly-crafted levels and make a mockery of them. Thankfully, these can be completely ignored and the game will be better for it. You start with a few uses of these special gadgets, which are different from the ones you find through normal play. Paying a buck gets you a few extra uses, while $10 gets you an unlimited amount.
These gadgets are all ridiculously overpowered, allowing you to freeze time, shield yourself from bullets or send guards anywhere you want in the level. Using one almost guarantees you’ll win the stage, but you’ll feel dirty doing so. It’s like paying for cheat codes.
Thankfully, every level is clearly designed to be beaten with patience, practice and skill, no pay-to-win trickery required. Although I’ve completed the (lengthy) storyline, I plan to return often to Third Eye Crime, going after a perfect score on the trickier sections I skimmed through on my first playthrough.
If you’ve been hoping for a mobile stealth game that deserves its place alongside genre stalwarts on other platforms the wait is over. This is it. Third Eye Crime has stepped from the shadows and into the light, its pretty face hiding smarts and secrets in equal measure. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read some Raymond Chandler.
Third Eye Crime was played on an iPhone 5S for this review.