When we first talked about Poor Thief (Free) from developer Beep Yeah! a little over a month ago, I wasn’t quite sure what genre of puzzler to call it. It’s one of those games where you swipe your character in any of the 4 cardinal directions and that character will continue to move in that direction until hitting a solid surface. The goal is to reach the end point of each level, typically while collecting items along the way. I dunno, I’ve just taken to calling them slidey puzzlers, and there’s certainly no shortage of them on mobile, but there’s something very special about Poor Thief that sets it apart from the pack.
The main gimmick in Poor Thief is that it uses the “die and then use your dead body to help you in future runs" mechanic of games like Sometimes You Die or Persophone. Here when you die you’ll actually turn into a tombstone which acts as a solid tile that can be used to stop your movement, block attacks from enemies, and more. As you can imagine in a game like this, being able to “create" these solid tiles when you need to can be a huge help and is in fact key to finding the correct route through many of the levels.
It can also be used to brute force your way to the exit in certain situations. Every level has a par number of moves that if you hit you’ll earn a special star. Hitting these pars can be extremely tricky, and often I’d feel like the smartest man alive just because I completed a level and I’d see it took me 37 moves when the par was just 9. There’s no penalty for taking as many moves as you need to or for dying as many times as you need to and the game will continue to progress just by completing levels, but it’s nice to have those par times there if you ever feel the need to go back and master the optimal route through a level.
The other thing that really struck me about Poor Thief is how action-packed it is for a puzzle game of this kind. There are all types of enemy attacks you’ll need to dodge (or time properly to run right into and die, depending on your strategy) and there are moments that rely on pinpoint precision and quick reactions such that I’ve actually felt a sense of exhilaration when completing particularly complex levels. Puzzle games aren’t typically known for getting your heart thumping, but Poor Thief will do that. Overall it’s an extremely well-executed take on a genre you’ve likely played before, but with enough wrinkles thrown in to feel totally fresh. It’s also free with ads and a one-time IAP to disable them so there’s no reason not to give it a shot for yourself.