Robbery Bob: The Trials of a Clumsy Thief
The heist genre is a little under represented on mobile platforms. There are a couple of notable examples (Tiny Thief springs to mind) but it still certainly seems like an untapped market. Level Eight take a stab at that market with Robbery Bob. What did I make of it?
It’s About Mechanics, not Story
While there is an attempt at a story surrounding Robbery Bob, it’s not one that takes centre stage. That’s no big deal, as long as the core mechanics can make up for it. In this case that core mechanic is stealth. Your task is to guide Bob around houses, stealing items of value while keeping out of sight and sound.
Initially, the game gets off to a strong start. The cleanliness of the art style make the room layouts of the buildings you’re walking into (because the front doors are never locked) easy to get a quick overview of. Wondering NPCs that you need to avoid have their paths and line of sight marked out and the brain quickly engages in finding the best way to get the loot without being spotted.
Having One Good Trick Isn’t Enough
There are a couple of neat tricks involved in making sure you can get to objects too. For instance, a patrolling NPC can be distracted by opened doors. They will investigate the room behind it, changing their path and opening up rooms that they’re supposed to be guarding. Bob can also hide within objects and wait for a chance to open.
Sadly, these tricks are cool the first couple of times but after that they become a bit repetitive. The issue lies not with the mechanics themselves, but rather the level design. Too many of the houses and AI paths are similar. The loot that you have to collect is always scattered in similar patterns and there simply isn’t enough variation in gameplay to make the game interesting for more than a couple of minutes.
Release Date: 31/10/2012
Available on: iOS, Android
Touch Controls to Shout About
Not in a good way. There’s a definite feeling of lag when it comes to the character responding to your touch input. I played this game on an NVidia Shield K1, so poor performance isn’t the cause. It’s a shame, because stealth games imply that you have to be careful with your movement, and in a system where the character is animated in such a stodgy way it really hampers the effectiveness and enjoyment that you get from it.
Is it Skill or Luck?
The most confusing thing about Robbery Bob is that no matter how many times I ran through the levels, I never felt like I was getting better at the game. It’s still perfectly possible for me to go back to a level and fail it miserably several times in a row, even though I know how to beat it.
On the face of it, this doesn’t feel like a bad thing. A game that retains its challenge for the entire playthrough would normally be praised. The problem comes when you get to the later levels. Now you’ve got much more complex levels to deal with, where there are all sorts of NPCs and other hindrances to avoid. A successful run feels more like a stroke of good fortune rather than anything to do with my own skill, and that’s a quick way to get players to forget your game as soon as they put it down.
What Went Wrong?
Tying into my comments above about the game not really rewarding your skill or allowing you to feel like you’ve improved the more you play, Robbery Bob feels like a standard puzzle game with a fancy skin. A game where the puzzle designs have been drawn up on paper, one after the other, with little attention paid to progression or narrative, and then crammed into a façade of burglary and sneaking.
You could remove the art from the game and just have the levels be black and white line art with moving dots and it would feel identical, and this is Robbery Bob’s biggest problem.
After playing the first couple of levels, I felt that Robbery Bob had the potential to be something really quite amazing. Sadly, it just never really got going. Rather than feeling like something that gradually gets better and better, it seemed to peak by the third level and then remained on a steady trajectory for the rest of the game.
It’s available for free on Android and iOS so if it still sounds interesting there’s no barrier to entry. It’s just probably not worth your time.
Robbery Bob is developed by Level Eight.