The Nintendo Switch has become a local co-op juggernaut thanks to its portability. It’s no surprise, then, that indies like Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Overcooked, or Crawl have made the jump to Nintendo’s latest console. However, the system has longed for exclusive indie local co-op games. That’s why it’s so easy to go to bat for Light Fingers, a charming, but woefully under-promoted game by developer Canadian developer Numizmatic in with support from Ontario Creates.
It would be too simple to call Light Fingers a digital board game, though it’s true that tabletop games are very much a part of its DNA. Players take control of one of four thieves and navigate a clockwork game board with the primary goal of collecting a certain amount of loot before the end of a turn limit. Each turn begins with players throwing dice to determine how many moves they can make.
In Light Fingers, however, players are not restricted on an exclusively linear path; they can choose to move in cardinal directions from each tile. The relative freedom of movement makes more strategic, forcing decision points that recall a 4X game like Civilization. The fog of war over each undiscovered tile only helps reinforce that similarity. Each turn presents an opportunity to collect currency, shop, draw chance cards or, of course, steal.
Shops in Light Fingers offer items such as larger dice (many pen and paper staples are here), opening up the player’s ability to move. The ability to hustle across the map is important because shops offer a prime opportunity to snag some loot. Rob a shopkeep, and you’ll earn one of the coveted loot bags needed to end the game, but not without drawing the attention of the board’s guards. As soon as a player steals a bag of loot, your character will earn a GTA-esque wanted level, and guards will begin hunting them every turn. At this point, it is imperative for players to secure their loot in thieves camps, which randomly relocate if guards are nearby. If a player is caught with a bag of loot, their prize is confiscated, and they are held to a tile for one turn.
Players holding loot also risk being robbed by other players. The act of stealing another player amounts to a simple button press matching race. Robbing other players has its advantages, as the guards hunting them don’t transfer to your character — though guards will still confiscate your ill-got loot if you run into them on the map. Chance cards offer other ways to trip up your opponents to come out on top.
There are other ways to gain loot without robbing every tile, however. Scattered across the game board are dungeon encounters that often hold two or more bags of loot. This is where Light Fingers borrows a page from the previously mentioned Crawl’s playbook. During dungeon encounters, up to three defenders control traps and perils in an attempt to stop one invader from reaching the end. The control in these areas can be kludgey, and the semi-isometric camera can make confuse the frantic action, but players will hardly notice in a room full of screaming, laughing friends.
In my experience, these dungeons are simple to understand but verified enough in their configurations to warrant mentioning that you will need some moderate platforming chops to get through many of them. If you and your friends particularly like these encounters, you can play a mode of the game that pits players against each other in multiple dungeons of scaling difficulty.
The game has some rough edges and occasional frame rate slowdown, but nothing I would call a show-stopper, and certainly nothing that couldn’t be improved in an update or patch. The game’s score is fit for your standard Medieval fair and can grate after extended play, though the expressionist horn sounds used for guards add to the game’s charm. I would love for the Switch’s ridiculous HD rumble feature to be added to the dice rolls, but that’s hardly something I would hold against the game.
Light Fingers fills a gap in the Switch’s library, offering an exclusive indie couch co-op game. Furthermore, it provides enough depth and variety to hold its own at parties, even with the forthcoming Super Mario Party on the horizon. With a bit of word of mouth, Light Fingers has the potential to become an indie sleeper hit.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game, which was provided by Numizmatic.