After a busy few years, the stealth genre has had a relatively quiet 2014. Genre mainstays such as Splinter Cell and Hitman have mostly sat out the year, which has led to smaller titles, that have ranged from surprisingly good (Styx: Master of Shadows) to the annoyingly bland (CounterSpy), popping up. Looking to make a name for themselves in the genre is Naiad Entertainment, and their debut offering, Sneaky Sneaky.
A cross between real-time strategy and an adventure title, Sneaky Sneaky is a bit of an odd bird to describe. When the titular thief is exploring each environment, he is free to move around however he pleases. Although, if he is spotted by or attacks an enemy, the movement switches over to a grid-based style of gameplay. Sneaky and his foes have three moves to either get in position to attack, or in our protagonist’s case, find a hiding place. Again, this is a little tough to describe, but once you see it in motion, you’ll quickly understand how it works.
While there is little plot to speak of, the main goal here is for Sneaky to collect his rubies, which were stolen from him by a bird and dispersed throughout the world. On top of the three rubies in each level, there is also plenty of gold that can be found by either discovering it on the map, or smashing barrels that hold it. Collecting everything in each level will provide a major boost to your final score, which leads to additional upgrades, such as improved health and faster speed.
There’s more to Sneaky Sneaky than just, uh, sneaking around though. Since there are a handful of enemies found in each level, it’s fair to say that you won’t be able to avoid each one, at least on your first go around. That’s why Sneaky carries around a small dagger and a bow and arrow in order to eliminate these foes. However, since Sneaky is a rather petite man, it’s not necessarily in his best interest to confront enemies head-on. Taking advantage of the various bushes found in each level, Sneaky can sneak attack each enemy, and either kill them in one shot, or at least damage them greatly.
For the first few levels, the balance between combat and stealth is handled perfectly. You are given the ability to go through these areas by peacefully going around most enemies, or you can sneak up on them and hope to punish them. However, as things progress, the levels begin to put a much greater focus on fighting off foes, which proves to be a little problematic.
Most of the problems with these later levels stem from the game’s unresponsive controls. For example, I’ll patiently wait for the perfect moment to strike an enemy from behind by waiting in a bush for what feels like forever. After slowly creeping out and getting in position behind my foe, I’ll click my mouse expecting a swift strike from Sneaky. Instead, he will sit there waiting for the enemy to spot him, and then most likely get beaten to a pulp. And this wasn’t a problem that happened once or twice, this was something that occurred several times.
This frustration is further magnified by how often I found myself sitting around doing nothing while waiting for the optimal time to strike. You see, while most enemies in Sneaky Sneaky have set routes they follow, some tend to move around randomly. So, if I’m waiting in a bush for one of these guys to stumble on over, I could potentially be waiting there for a few minutes. I understand why this system is in place, as most guards don’t tend to mindlessly walk the same route over and over again, but that doesn’t mean I can’t say it isn’t fun.
I was also annoyed at the fact that, in order to complete a level with the best possible score, I needed to eliminate every enemy in the area. This means a lot of waiting and a lot of unnecessary frustration. Since the game is called Sneaky Sneaky and not Stabby Stabby, shouldn’t I receive more points for getting through a level undetected, than if I stealth kill every enemy? The scoring system just seems very odd and poorly thought out.
It’s a shame that the core gameplay of Sneaky Sneaky annoyed me so much, because I actually find the art style to be quite charming. It’s cartoony, bright and vibrant, which stands out in a genre that is known for being dark and gloomy. Sneaky himself reminded me of the main protagonist from Spry Fox’s Road Not Taken, which was one of my favorite character designs in recent memory. The backing music for each level is also quite nice to listen to, and is never too overbearing.
For fans of the stealth genre looking for a quick fix, Sneaky Sneaky could perhaps fill that void. It’s cheap ($4.99), short and provides enough entertainment to not be considered a complete waste. However, for those that aren’t huge fans, the unfair levels and stiff controls are enough of a turn off that I have trouble recommending it, even at such a low cost. There are just far better options out there for gamers to spend a Lincoln on, especially during these hectic final months of 2014.
This review was based off the PC version of the title, which was provided to us.