Sneaky Sneaky attempts to do a number of things with varying success. It tries to mix the real time stealth of metal gear with the turn based combat of rogue, all while appealing to casual gamers. While it certainly is cuter and more accessible than the games of which it takes inspiration, it’s unfortunate that its game systems often conflict. This game is most absorbing when it sticks to action puzzling. Moving is intuitive even if it can be clunky. Dungeons are filled with keys and items, puzzles become progressively harder, and layouts become more complicated. Items bring fun new mechanics into the experience. Dungeon crawling and evasion are deep enough to be engrossing without becoming obtuse. There are some genuinely good ideas in Sneaky Sneaky.
Enemies move at the same time with a distinct rhythm. Their paths are simple and most of them show what their area of detection is. This adds an element of Metal Gear Solid sneaking that enhances small encounters and proves an extreme detriment to larger ones. When more than half of a room is covered by your enemy’s gaze, shifting every few seconds, navigation can be turn from being frustrating to deplorable. Once you click on a spot on the grid it can be hard to tell if Sneaky will change course, or if he will take a path that avoids enemies. I can’t tell you how many times I was clicking on a safe square while Sneaky darted right into an enemy’s sights. Clicking on an enemy only triggers an attack if you are in the square next to them, so if the turn the moment you attack, or they move as you attack you will likely find yourself in an awkward position.
Sneaky Sneaky is a game that excels when its mechanics are presented individually and a one that falls apart when too many are thrown into the mix. Individual rooms become cluttered, and the game becomes less about puzzle solving and more about its frustrating combat. The reason players come back to a game like Dark Souls even after facing thousands of defeats, is because it is responsive and quick to get you started again. While Sneaky never keeps you out of the action for long, it isn’t terribly responsive. As I progressed I felt increasingly that I lacked the tools the game required of me to be successful. The inaccurate click based controls often left me feeling like the trainer of a misbehaving dog as I watched him dash into running traffic.
Throughout my play through I couldn’t shake the feeling that Sneaky Sneaky should be on mobile. All actions are controlled through your cursor, levels are quick, graphics are vibrant, and each room is presented at a 4:3 aspect ratio. The art style and simplicity of Sneaky Sneaky’s mechanics would appeal to both younger gamers and casual gamers, not what I would think of as the average Steam user. Sneaky’s mechanics and aspirations for accessibility don’t quite meet in the middle. If Sneaky Sneaky were inept in all of its pursuits I wouldn’t be frustrated, but it actually does a number of things quite well. I had fun with Sneaky Sneaky, but it has some real design problems. Design problems that might force Naiad Entertainment to go back rethink Sneaky Sneaky’s core mechanics.
Sneaky Sneaky’s presentation is just about perfect. Charm drips from all of its animations and character designs. There are light-RPG mechanics that allow you to level up with enough experience. Health, speed and attack power with both the bow and sword can all be upgraded. This system lends Sneak Sneaky a real progression without unbalancing the game or getting too technical. Likewise prices in the in game shop aren’t restrictive or pointlessly cheap. Items rarely drop from environments. The shop in the overworld is the only real way to refill health potions, only arrows and gold drop from barrels, so you can’t expect to pick up health potions from the environment.
This game never really opens up to wide exploration but it does offer some rewards for those who are willing to tread off the beaten path. Three gems can be found in each level and in order to pass with highest completion rating, you must collect them all. This lends Sneaky Sneaky a greater sense of focus than your average rogue-like, more appropriate for a casual experience, without giving away exactly where collectables can be found. It’s a streamlined mechanic more akin to “Cut the Rope” than “The Legend of Zelda”, but I still welcomed it. I’m the kind of player that will retry a race dozens of times to get gold and I felt a need to pick up every gem. Honestly anyone used to hardcore titles will probably want to explore every nook and cranny of Sneaky Sneaky anyway. It can be light on exploration, and the gems mechanic is a good way of letting a wide range of players adjust their difficulty without being frustrated by the game being too easy or too hard.
There isn’t much of a story to Sneaky Sneaky but I don’t think there needs to be one. It wouldn’t necessarily fit this style of game. Like the best racing games, a casual arcade game gets you into the action as soon as it can and only ever stops to tell you how good a job you have done. Sneaky’s charms would not last long if they had to support an epic storyline. Every so often you will come across a sign showing you how your infamy as a thief has increased and that’s all you really need to know. You feel like you have progressed, the game hasn’t slowed you down and you can resume stabbing goblins from the cover of brush soon after.
I liked a lot of what Sneaky Sneaky does. It’s got great progression mechanics and great presentation but there are issues with its core mechanics. It is very close to being a good game but its real time sneaking / turn based combat system is too much for its limited control system. For five USD Sneaky Sneaky would likely be a fun diversion for stealth and rogue fans or younger gamers, but it has some problems.