Robbery Bob [Free] has moments where you can tell it was designed by someone who cares. I'm not implying that that is a rarity, but you do rarely see the level of care that portions of Robbery Bob exhibits. Unfortunately though, those portions are few and far between, and what is in between is, well... Uninteresting.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Robbery Bob's premise is simple: sneak into houses, steal items of value, leave without getting caught. There is a thin narrative wrapped around these acts, but this isn't a game about story, it's a game about the sneaking mechanic. And it is that mechanic that the game lives or, more often, dies on. Things start off real strong. Sneaking around the first few houses shows off a lot of the potential for the mechanic, but the game soon devolves into a repetitive room-by-room hunt with obstacles sprinkled haphazardly around. But, again, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Sneaking into a house is easy, the front door almost certainly is unlocked, and once inside Bob has to assess any potential threats to his mission (taking care to avoid them.). "Threats" can include dogs, cameras, old ladies, other humans, and, most importantly, the police. Luckily for Bob, there are ways to avoid these threats. Unluckily, for you they are almost all a pain to use. The methods for avoiding detection range from mundane (hiding in a planter) to the interesting (leaving doors open to pull patrolling inhabitants off their path). Each one of these methods of avoidance are fun, if not a little frustrating the first couple times, but they show their one dimension-ness and tedium by the eighth or ninth time you employ them.

While playing Robbery Bob, I couldn't help but think about Shaun Inman's brilliant The Last Rocket [$1.99]. Inman, like the team at Level Eight, had to stretch a simple mechanic over 60+ levels, while keeping it interesting the whole time. He succeeded by not only developing interesting level mechanics, but also by weaving those mechanics together. If you'll forgive those cliche, by the end of The Last Rocket, you had a veritable symphony of mechanics woven together beautifully. Robbery Rob goes half way in that endeavor. The mechanics themselves are interesting (seeing, for the first time, the way a camera interacts with open doorways was what inspired the review's opening sentence), but when those mechanics are just dropped into the level without context, they lose almost everything they have going for them. They don't work together, they don't play off each other, they exist only as a standalone obstacle, forgotten as soon as you pass them and move into the next room.

Again thinking of The Last Rocket, another thing it did so well was instilling the notion that once you figure out the puzzle, you could move through it with nothing but grace and ease. Unfortunately, Robbery Bob never seems to get to that point, and therefore you never feel like you could replicate a victory. The last levels of any particular area (of which there are 3) feel like a crap shoot with your victory being tied more to chance than to skill. I, just now in fact, went back to try and finish the last level of the first area again and failed 3 times before I was able to do it.

While the game offers plenty of gameplay for the price, including encouraging you to go back and perfect all the levels (ala Angry Birds), it never hooks you like a game of that ilk should. It is a game where the potential is sky high, but you feel like the game itself stayed on the ground, only looking up every now and again. It fails to make a promising mechanic interesting.

Robbery Bob isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, it just isn't good.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarNoneNone
  • GameiReview

    Really great app!!

  • http://twitter.com/coolpowers Simon Windmill

    I'm not usually one to go on (or even care) about scores, but how do you equate 3/5 with "isn't good"? The whole tone of the review isn't reflected in a three star score, at all. 3 stars to me says "this is good, you'll probably like it". 2 would be "it has its moments, but I didn't really like it. You may find something you like, however".

    Why do I care? With the introduction of the TA app, scores are becoming a more important quick indicator of worthiness. Besides, such a discrepancy makes me distrust the text of the interview. I know most reviewers and many developers would rather do away with scoring, but it's an unfortunate fact of life, and I think it's important to have the score reflect the review.

    • TheJesusFish

      I tend to fall back on math when it comes to review scores. 3 stars is just above average (or I guess you could argue it IS average if you assume a 0-5 star scale) and, in the grand scheme of iOS games, this game IS above average. It's just not good.

      Hodapp will tell you that the star scale has no mathematical value, but that three stars means the same thing.

      I was trying to decide if it would be better to give it a 2 or 2.5, but ultimately settled on 3. I knew that there would be people who took issue with that, but I hope that the explanation clears that up.

      • http://twitter.com/coolpowers Simon Windmill

        Yeah, I understand. I don't agree, but I understand ;)

        I'm mainly regurgitating advice given to me by an experienced reviewer and my editor when I reviewed a game that certainly wasn't bad, I just didn't *really* like it. My gut feeling was to increase the score because I didn't want to crap on a game with great production values that others would like, but I was convinced to let my words do the talking instead. Again, none of us really wanted to use scores because of this very situation, but players and publishers demand them.

      • TheJesusFish

        I wrote this 2 years ago about that very subject. 

        http://bitmob.com/articles/redefining-numbers#comment-39528-body

  • mclifford82

    You should name the game properly in your article title.

  • 11LBG11

    Seems like a cool idea. It's like the GTA San Andreas robbery minigame, but in the style of Spy Mouse.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=724931155 Darren Steele

    I just find something a little bit repulsive about sneaking into somebody's house and stealing things, yeah I know it's only a game and a bit of fun but I find the whole premise of the game just plain wrong.

    • nickmorgs

       How do you feel about the Grand Theft Auto series ?

    • http://twitter.com/woodesh matthew wood

      how would you feel about playing a game where you filed documents into different sections, then every so often a man comes and tells you you've done a shit job. bored maybe? If your not looking for something thats different from the life you live why are you playing video games?

  • Jacob007

    Hello, Spy Mouse.

  • Shizapp Interactive

    I actually liked this game. Can't say the same for most that are in the app store but this one kept my attention through the entire first level and it was really fun. A few peeves are that the guy walks a little too slow and I felt anxious whm playing it, but maybe that was the point, if you are really in that situation your instinct would be to move faster but you cant for the risk of ferring caught. Otherwise I wished that there were more rewards for collecting other things rather than good time or stars. Great, fun game!

  • Ashim Saxena

    Looks like a copy of SpyMouse HD

  • Swiftshark

    I like the game very much. Each level is timing and pattern based so it's not a question of luck as the article implies, but rather a question of having a plan of action based on the obstacles in your path.

    The only things this game lacks is the ability to restart a level after getting detected passed a checkpoint(exit to menu to restart is a pain), and more levels.

Robbery Bob™ Reviewed by Brendan Saricks on . Rating: 3