855933_largerSo, whilst trawling for interesting stuff to write about right here in the very hallowed virtual halls of Touch Arcade, I stumbled across this small gem of a game that I just couldn't let fly below the radar.

Master Thief [$0.99] is inspired by classic stealth games but the one that really stands out to me as the spiritual predecessor is Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions.

The aim of the game, as the title suggests, is to steal. In each stage there are several pieces of golden goodness that need to be collected by our hero, um, I mean, criminal, before he makes his way to the exit. Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple, as the owners of the building have hired a bunch of pesky security guards, who patrol the rooms and halls with their flashlights.

The beams from the guards' flashlights work much in the same way as the AI characters' field of view in any other stealth game. This is a great bit of design as it gives an obvious visual representation of what the enemy is goggling at, without doing anything silly like having  beams of light shooting from their eyeballs. It also adds an extra dimension, as the beams sway left and right as the guards sweep the rooms.

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The guards aren't the only obstacles in Master Thief, either. In later stages you encounter laser beams and pressure pads, trigger either and the alarm sounds, resulting in scary shower time behind bars. The lasers are deactivated whenever a guard approaches, so you'll need to stay close to follow him through. As for the pressure pads, walk on them and you're toast, but luckily the developers threw in a handy little dive roll feature that allows you to cross the pads quickly enough for them not to activate. But be warned, this uses up energy and needs to be recharged, so you'll need to use it strategically. In some of the stages, the pressure pads turn on and off in pre-defined sequences, meaning you'll have to time walking through them, all the while keeping an eye out for your blue-shirted friends.

Visually, Master Thief is an attractive package. The cel-shaded models are well animated and the overall look of the game is relatively simple, yet pleasing to the old occular nerves.

The audio side of the game is again simple but efficient. Sneaky secret agent music sets the scene here, and the security guards simply yell "hey" when they spot you trying to make off with their trinkets. A nice touch that shows attention to detail is that there are a variety of different voices just for that one word.

The controls in Master Thief are handled by the age-old method of a joystick and a single button. The joystick controls your character's sneaking and the button triggers the roll/dash. I'm not a huge fan of onscreen joysticks, but it gets the job done here, albeit with the odd bit of frustration from perhaps not being quite precise enough with the stick. Overall, it's pretty well executed. Unlike other games of this ilk, there are no attack moves, leaving you to rely solely on your light-footedness.

On the whole, Master Thief is a thoroughly enjoyable title. The levels are well thought out, the AI (or at least, pathfinding) does a great job of making the game challenging but never becomes a chore. Master Thief has one of the most beautifully balanced difficulty curves that I have encountered and it clearly shows that the guys from Universal Chicken have some mighty design prowess.

My biggest gripe is the length of the game. Upon purchase, you are presented with five levels and an extra five are available via IAP, with more to come. Playing through the whole lot isn't going to take much more than twenty minutes or so, allowing for the compulsory level-learning and mistakes. Longevity is increased by the want to better your best times on each level but the game still leaves you for wanting more. I also had a few issues with the IAP system itself, resulting in needing to delete and reinstall to be able to play the game at all.

I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for the next DLC packs (at least two more due over the coming weeks, according to developer Richard Taylor) as Master Thief is a well executed title that's a whole lot of fun, there just needs to be more of it.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarNone
  • 28monkeys

    Look boring to me. How did it get a 4 stars?

    • xx99

      Because the reviewer liked it. What's the point of reading reviews if you can judge boringness just by looking at screenshots and a video?

    • Cat Astrophy

      Not all good games have a sexy presentation.

  • xx99

    If you like this, you should definitely play Monaco: What's Yours is Mine (PC/360). Same basic premise but with everything amped way up (gorgeous art/music, lock-picking, smoke bombs, hiding in bushes, characters with unique abilities, multiplayer, etc.).

    • MonkeyChunks

      Yes, Monaco is a very fun game.
      Another similar game is Dynamite Jack for iOS and PC

    • http://www.polygame.co.nz/ Karl Burnett

      Thanks for that, will check it out on 360 :D

  • RickyBrooke

    If you like this try Stealth Assassin - it's exactly the same gameplay but with hundreds more levels.

    Bit of lazy reviewing by you all at TA to be honest...

    • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

      We reviewed Stealth Assassin...

    • http://www.polygame.co.nz/ Karl Burnett

      As I stated, there are loads of games of this ilk, but the one that stood out to me was MGS VR. I'm sorry if it's lazy of me that I didn't mention a game that you like, that has already been reviewed here.

  • jeffyg3

    I second the suggestion of Monaco for Xbox 360. Now that is one awesome stealth game, also another Xbox 360 gem, Mark of the Ninja is another one, easily one of the best downloadable games on consoles.

    This game though is WAY to short and easy. I know it's all opinions, but 4 seems a bit much for this game. 2.5/5 sounds like a good score for me.

    • http://www.polygame.co.nz/ Karl Burnett

      There's actually a new update coming out with a bunch of free levels, tweaking of the controller and the IAP bug has been fixed. Due out very soon, according to the dev (has been submitted). This is why I gave the higher 4 star rating, as despite being short, it's very good and with regular updates it will only get better :)

  • illmerica

    Robbery Bob is similar to this also. Might check it out if you're into this type of gameplay.

  • FuZion

    Try 'Man in a Maze'.

    Very funny & good variety.

  • witedahlia

    I don't understand the comment above about TA being lazy - this review was well-written, thorough, and covered all the relevant stuff. Good job.

    • http://www.polygame.co.nz/ Karl Burnett

      Why thank you. I'll pay you later ;)

  • Swiftshark

    Robbery Bob trumps this game by a longshot

  • one.sixty.four

    I think might have been my worst purchase in iOS history. Robbery bob is so much better and it's free. Super disappointed. :(

Master Thief Reviewed by Karl Burnett on . Rating: 4