Game Picks

Game Picks: ‘Tiny Thief’ and ‘Futuridium EP’

CorrespondentJuly 25, 2013 

Some iPhone games you can’t avoid.

For instance, there’s “Tiny Thief” (iOS; $1.99; Rated 4+), a stealth game you’ve probably heard of if you’ve played any of the “Angry Birds” games in the last few weeks. “Tiny Thief” is the latest from Rovio, creators of “Angry Birds,” and there are lots of “Tiny Thief” advertisements sprinkled throughout that hugely popular game.

So chances are, based on market saturation alone, “Tiny Thief” is selling more than a few copies.

Those sales are not undeserved. The stealth genre is one that’s largely unexplored on mobile devices, perhaps because there’s a perception that the genre is complicated and decidedly adult. It wouldn’t make sense for Rovio to willingly limit the audience for their big iPhone follow-up, though, “Tiny Thief” is, of course, stealth for everybody.

The first element that Rovio uses to make this work is a control scheme that is simple almost to a fault. Simple taps of the screen control everything from movement to environmental interaction, which includes swiping the various treasures, climbing objects and so on. As the Tiny Thief moves around, little indicators pop up, alerting the player to environmental objects that can be interacted with at any given time. The learning curve is extremely gentle, and while mastering it takes some concentration, it’s clear that the team wanted four-year-olds, 100-year-olds and everyone in between to be able to play it.

The other thing that Rovio does is separate the player from the little thief onscreen by giving the player a second role – that of an agent of good fortune. There are myriad cases where objects in the environment can be manipulated by a simple tap, whether the thief is near them or not. A bucket can be knocked onto the head of an unsuspecting guard, or perhaps the wick of a cannon can be lit. These are things that help the thief accomplish goals in a variety of stages, but can’t be directly attributed to the thief, only the player. It adds an element of hidden object-finding to the game, which mitigates some of the stress of making sure the thief is out of the sight lines of the bad guys.

“Futuridium EP” (iOS; $1.99; Rated 4+), on the other hand, doesn’t benefit from a ‘Tiny Thief’-type marketing push. Chances are, you’ve never heard of it.

The EP stands for “Extended Play,” a reference to the game’s origins as PC freeware. Visually, it resides in the same neighborhood as the Super Nintendo classic “Starfox,” a polygon-filled space shooter with a camera that lives just behind the player’s ship. There’s no story here; you simply fly your ship around, shooting down cubes until they’re all gone and a “core” cube pops up, and then you shoot that.

As with “Tiny Thief,” it’s a control scheme that sets “Futuridium EP” apart from other flight games you can play on your phone. It’s essentially a virtual control pad, but the directional “pad” part resets itself every time you lift your thumb. As a result, you spend a lot of time sliding your thumb in the direction you want to go, rather than trying to push a predefined spot to travel in a certain direction. It takes some getting used to, but once you do get used to it, flying in and out of the polygonal obstacles becomes a heart-pounding, thrilling experience.

A difficult learning curve means you’ll have to practice quite a bit to get far, but the dubstep-influenced soundtrack is just enough to keep you motivated.

“Tiny Thief” and “Futuridium EP” come from utterly different origins, with disparate budgets and prospective audiences. Still, the two games are just some of the most recent examples of the variety of experiences available on mobile devices.

Both are worth checking out.

New This Week: The video game version of “The Smurfs 2” arrives on every platform under the sun, while “Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational,” the latest entry in the long-running “Hot Shots Golf” franchise, is sure to fulfill your every arcade-cartoon-golf need.

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