Written by  :  Kasey Chang (4625)
Written on  :  Sep 25, 2001

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An interesting variation on the puzzle genre, with a decent plot!

The Good

Novel concept: plan and carry out burglaries, with various equipment and accomplices. Interesting caricature style in both 2D and 3D. A dynamic city that you can walk around (or even take a taxi) with citizens that you can interact with

The Bad

Control interface takes a bit getting used to, too much superfluous animation that can't be turned off, a bit too much trial-and-error needed to get the right mix, not enough clues on where the loot may be (and thus the maximum score), navigation on the map could be easier

The Bottom Line

The Sting! is an interesting twist on the puzzle genre. In most "stealth" games you play "live". The Sting!, on the other hand, forces you to PLAN instead. Once you execute the plan you no longer have control. While this doesn't sound intuitive, it's second-nature once you get into it. Basically, the game has 3 phases: initial scouting, planning, and execution.

The "city" screen is where you do your initial scouting. You can walk around and check out your various "targets", as well as visit certain special locations such as bars (where you may meet new accomplices), pawn shop (where you launder your loot), tool shop (more tool of the trade), and car dealer (more getaway vehicles). At each target, you can simply look into the window to see inside, or if the door's unlocked, walk right in and look around.

Once you're ready, start making a plan. Go back to your hotel room and move to the desk... and start a plan. You then choose your target (as you suceed bigger and better targets will appear), getaway vehicle (which affects carrying capacity), accomplices if any, and equipment (ranging from crowbars and lockpicks to fancier stuff). Once that's done, you go into "record" mode.

In record mode, you record every single move you are going to make, down to use of every tool on the objects. Click on a location to move there. Click on backpack to access a tool, then click tool on target to use the tool (example: crowbar on window). A timer will run when you perform time-consuming tasks like walking, lock-picking, and so on. You can even do "active waiting", which forces the time go by without performing any tasks, to avoid the guards. Get into the building, remove any loot available without being detected, make your way back to the getaway car, and the mission is accomplished, but that's easier said then done. Guards often look in windows, make patrol routes, examine doors and windows for signs of break-in, and more.

Using the right tool is crucial. Using crowbar leaves obvious signs of damage that can be spotted by guards. Lockpicks have little or no effect on safes or alarm systems. Each tool/task has a special sound gauge that determines how likely the guard(s) is likely to hear the sound, and that will depend on the proximity of the guards as well.

If you don't like the plan, you can "reverse" up to the previous "pause" in the plan, and re-record the plan from that point on. You can do this an infinite number of times, until you are sure that you will NOT be seen by any one or trigger any alarm system. At that point, you can save the plan and give it a try.

Once you choose to execute the plan, you will no longer have control over the characters, as they are running exactly with your script, down to the millisecond. It is interesting to see how your plan comes together perfectly, or not quite so perfectly. When your character(s) make it back to the getaway car, the mission's over.

Once you've succeeded, you get rid of the loot for some cash, and check out the next target.

Graphics wise, the game relies on a LOT of caricatures. The main character, Matt Tucker, looks like one of those guys in the newspaper editorial cartoons: extremly jutted chin and funky hairdo that never needs gel... The graphics are reasonably sharp and the dark pallette reflects the dark mood in the game. There are a lot of options like multiple resolutions, shadowmap vs. vertex lighting, and so on.

There seem to be a bit too much sound for a burglary game, but most are stock sounds like opne/close door, open object (like cash register, lockers, etc.) The music isn't something to write home about but it's not bad either.

The video sequences seem to be a part of the strategic novel adaptoration, as this actually have a plot, about how some religious faction have control of something... (Can't say more! Buy the game!)

All in all, The Stings is really a puzzle game that relies on timing to carry out your missions. It is a welcome break from the normal puzzle games that tests you reflextion, and so on, with a novel concept: play the "wrong" side of the law. If you enjoy puzzles and no-gore, then you should give this title a try.