You won’t need to play Beat Sneak Bandit for long to realise its creators are every bit as nimble as their protagonist. Swedish duo Simon Flesser and Magnus Gardebäck have crafted a bright, angular comic-book world that distances itself from the pastel-hued melancholia of the pair’s earlier Bumpy Road with every bass squelch and synth stab. Both, however, are equally unfashionable. At a time when releasing an iOS game priced higher than 69p – and without a further revenue stream by way of in-app purchases – is tantamount to commercial suicide, here is another Simogo release that costs £1.99 with neither expensive customisation nor lethargic levelling to encourage extra monetary investment. It’s a game assured enough in the quality of its design that the rewards it offers are entirely intrinsic – and its confidence is well-placed.
You play as the titular bandit, whose thievery here is to an altruistic end: Baron Von Clockface is holding the world’s timepieces within his mansion, and it’s your job to retrieve them. The twist: all the mechanisms – and, more pertinently, traps – inside run to a strict 4/4 beat. Your sneaking, therefore, has to follow a similar rhythm; a mistimed step results in one of the four stopwatches on each stage disappearing. Collect the largest clock, which remains regardless, and you can still move on – yet anything less than perfection feels like failure, not least because the smaller timepieces unlock silhouetted shadow stages soundtracked by a lone piano.
But also because of the ingenuity of the level design, which, with clocks placed in the most elusive of spots, dares you to discover the secret to reaching them. Your ear strains over the bass themes – which range from funk-inflected jazz to something akin to Scooby Doo incidental music – in order to decipher the rhythmic patterns of each object. The grunt of a security guard lets you know he’s changing direction, while a mechanical whirr accompanies the clockwork movements of barriers and trapdoors. Successfully hopping through a string of lights that illuminate on successive beats offers relief and satisfaction in equal measure, and there’s a meticulousness to both setup and execution, as you’d imagine would be the case for a real-life heist.
There’s a remarkable consistency to the design even as the levels gets steadily bolder until, after hovering vacuums, teleporters, and levers that freeze time, Simogo throws in a climactic boss battle that is as nerve-wracking as it is joyous. It’s a compliment to say that Beat Sneak Bandit feels like a Rhythm Tengoku minigame taken to its logical extreme; it’s constructed with a precision and a sense of mischief – and, in its final surprise, a generosity of spirit – that echoes the best work of the WarioWare team. The sole investment required here, then, is patience. If only all iOS games could be this passé.
Tested on 4th gen iPod touch.