Since the day I began playing Tropico 5 (albeit 2 months admittedly), I’ve become very eager to play everything that Kalypso has to offer as an apology for regrettably never hearing of them before. After a spot of Google research, Kalypso have only really been associated with these “Construction and Management Sims” like Tropico 5 … and Tropico 4, 3, 2 and 1. I’ve very quickly become acquainted with the Kalypso team and their terrific catalogue and it was fantastic to be asked personally to review their next project which couldn’t be any more different to anything that they’ve released before. Forget foreign diplomats, construction workers and angry mobs, this is a strategy/puzzle adventure based in the funky 1970s that asks you to step into the shoes of a crime syndicate opposed to those of an El Presidente.
‘Crookz: The Big Heist’ is a tactical strategy game developed by Kalypso and SkillTree Studios that teaches you more about being a thief than ‘Thief’ ever did. Set in the sexy 1970s, Crookz brings the “slick and groovy” atmosphere of those flare filled dance floors to Steam and PC. In Crookz you control … well a band of crooks, led by criminal mastermind Murray who tasks you with stealing a precious lunar rock from a tightly secured Venice Museum, however in a dastardly plot Murray turns you all in for his own gain, giving all thieves named Murray a bad rep, which is really not on! 5 years later, Cleopatra and Bishop try and get the gang back together for one last big heist in hopes of taking Murray down and giving him a taste of his own sodding medicine. Spread across 18 intricate, highly guarded levels, Crookz tells the tale of 5 friends with very unique abilities with nothing to lose and everything to gain, how well you complete each one is entirely up to you. Featuring a bizarre cast of comrades and a large variety of handy equipment, assembling the right team for each job is the key to getting out alive with pockets full of cash.
The game begins with a humble tutorial, which goes through every basic command for every character and luckily for you Crookz isn’t a difficult game to understand, it’s just difficult to master. The tutorial is sadly an incredibly boring and long winded procedure that is broken up with too much dialogue and ‘banter’ between the characters, but once you’re on the other side of it you’ll really start to enjoy it. Crookz grades you not only on your ability to pilfer the rarest of treasures, but how quickly and quietly you pull each mission off, so pressing the pause button (spacebar) will stop the ticking clock and allow you to survey your playing field and select each characters waypoints and objectives without wasting any time; pulling off a job with the highest level of finesse will increase your score on the online leader board better than the quantity of items you pinch. Each map varies in size full of various obstacles that specific characters can overcome, which means you can revisit all of these levels once you’ve collected your remaining thugs to see how you can pull it off better. As expected the maps begin quite contained and easy to navigate around, but they soon become a treacherous mine field full of cameras and patrols which can very quickly turn Crookz into a rather difficult game. As the maps increase in size so does the many ways you can tackle each heist which in toll means they become quite overwhelming and difficult to jump right into. Though this is primarily a positive comment, commending a puzzle game for its intricate level design, it does however slow the game down immensely as you’re continuously pausing the game to scratch your head and blankly stare at the screen. In order to achieve respect amongst your peers and a great score for your leaderboard, you must complete additional side quests before exiting each level. These side quests include stealing every piece of loot on the map or completing a secondary objective, and in doing so will increase your Crookz score as well as a delightful pay out to afford gadgets and perks; the side quests sadly don’t vary enough between levels so don’t expect a huge penalty for missing them out.
You begin with only 2 members of the squad to play as at first but during the course of the first few missions you’ll gather up your band of thieves. First up is Cleopatra, a foxy lady who acts as the runner of the crew, travelling swiftly and quietly around the map, and Bishop, a well attired hippie who acts as your locksmith, initially only unlocking doors he can be upgraded to tackle strongboxes and security doors. Later you bump into old friends Rufus, Rocket and Lobkowitz, the muscle, contortionist and engineer of the gang who combined can nicely knock out guards, squeeze into air vents and disable security cameras, but don’t get too excited as you’re only allowed 3 scallywags for each heist, who are you going to pick? Selecting your team is the real key to beating Crookz as though each map is catered for any combination of squad, planning the quickest and most effective route isn’t always easy and obvious. Each cast member has a particular set of skills and abilities that can be applied to each map and believe it or not, each of them are hugely creative and varied, making the second time you carry out that map you’ll be experiencing it in a whole new way. The band of Crookz, though bonkers in appearance and method, are unfortunately boring to listen to and as soon as one of them starts talking you begin to lose all interest. The story itself is nothing particularly original or exciting, so the cutscene breaks before, during and after each heist feel out of place and are incredibly dull.
‘Crookz: The Big Heist’ is a terrific and challenging puzzle game that suffers from an uninteresting and generic narrative. The game’s characters are wonderfully creative and fun yet the voice cast don’t attempt to reflect this and instead we are given a band of boring thieves leading a story that doesn’t captivate its players. Each heist is brilliantly intricate, dastardly and genuinely challenging however the sheer size and complexity of some of them will slow the gameplay down as you work through your frustration at how to tackle each of its many obstacles. Crookz is a simple looking game with maps only consisting of several rooms, doors, moneybags and security guards, layouts that don’t push the studio’s limits or full potential, however saying that, graphically it’s pretty nice and adequate; the thought has been put into the gameplay itself which for a puzzle game is much more preferred. Crookz: The Big Heist is a very easy game to control and pick up. Its tremendous level of difficult content will keep you playing for hours on end and with the inclusions of a further challenge mode and map editor mode, players certainly have a lot on their plate. It’s a title that could very easily fall under the radar but during this ‘pre Autumn gaming cool-off’ I strongly suggest picking it up as, at the very least, it could teach you a thing or too*.
*Stealing is however illegal.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.