Thief: The Art Project
In an alternate universe dominated by felines, every famous painting you’d see in an art history class has a cat-themed alter ego. And naturally, a world populated by talking cats must also have talking dogs to provide a source of conflict. When canine museum owners hatch a doggone plot to horde all the feline-created artistic treasures for themselves, the cats can thank their nine lives that they’ve got an expert Pickpawcket (Out Now, $0.99 Sale) to call on! Cast as a stealthy cat burglar, the player stalks the vaults of dog-kind’s most revered museums to reclaim the stolen art.
Loopycube’s second iOS offering is yet more proof that videogames deserve a place in school curricula. Pickpawcket has literally mixed Metal Gear Solid with Art History 101, and the results are nothing short of brilliant! I mean, what other videogame rewards the player with a gander at A Bar at the Folies-Bergère after a hard-won stealth mission? Only on iOS could something this awesome happen.
As expected of the stealth genre, Pickpawcket’s job involves navigating environments while avoiding guards’ fields of vision. Different types of guards have differing visual ranges, represented by shadows cast over the museum floor in front of them; let Pickpawcket cross into one of these and it’s Game Over. The behavior of any particular type of guard is anything but uniform across levels, and the player will be surprised as old dogs seem to learn new tricks. To keep up, the player will have to make use of environmental objects to trap, distract, or outright fool the ever-watchful museum staff. Like guard behavior, the amount of tricks up Pickpawcket’s sleeve evolve at a satisfying rate.
The bare minimum requirement for solving each level is to nab the painting kept on a wall somewhere within and then find an exit to slink out of once the artwork is in tow. That means the player has to make it past guards not once, but usually twice, and will want to start out by finding a safe spot to observe their tendencies. Spend too long taking stock of guard procedure and useful objects, however, and the Game Center score tallied up at the level’s conclusion will suffer for it. Even if you’re not one to obsess over high score perfection, merely collecting three gems spread throughout each level suffices as a stiff challenge; a certain number must be snatched to access the next set of levels.
Pickpawcket uses a “hold-and-go” movement system, in which the protagonist moves toward wherever the player is holding on the touchscreen and sits still once the player’s finger is released. This works well over all, but movement gets a little dicey if Pickpawcket approaches an edge of the touchscreen, where the player has no room to keep his or her finger from obscuring the action. While the game’s methodical style and level design dampen the issue enough that I ended up sticking with the default setup, Loopycube thankfully provided a reliable virtual joystick as a backup option. Objects like TV sets and doors can be activated remotely with quick taps, and the game engine does a superb job of understanding whether the player means to interact with something or merely approach it.
Loopycube’s art team deserve major kudos for the detailed hand-drawn reproductions of famous pieces scattered throughout the game, not to mention their smooth animation work. Pickpawcket is also a pleasure to listen to, featuring tracks with just the kind of minimalistic style you’d expect in a good stealth game.
Packed with 60 levels and three mazelike museums to sneak through, Pickpawket can be counted on for a good five to six hours’ worth of entertainment. And that’s not counting the time you’ll spend perusing its fine art gallery!
iFanzine Verdict: A virtually perfect stealth game thanks to ever-evolving enemy and level design, and it’s loaded with cultural value to boot! Pick up Pickpawcket if you have fond memories of Metal Gear Solid or if you’re into logic puzzles and don’t mind some fancy footwork on the side.