|Tue Oct 9, 2007 - 10:02 AM EDT - By Jay Gross
Use the pliers to disable the burglar alarm � cut the red wire, y�know. Then break down the door with the expensive crowbar you bought from that crooked fence.
Deftly skitter through a maze of rooms and bash open the showcases containing the best jewels. Quick! Snatch the loot and beat a hasty retreat to your waiting getaway car. Zoooooom! Another job completed, and it�s off to bigger takes, ever more complex plans, and, of course, plenty more loot.
Stolen in Sixty Seconds, which is available for both Palm OS and Windows Mobile Treos, puts you in charge of various crimes. This review is based on the Windows Mobile version, running on my Treo 700w, but I�ve also checked out the game�s look and feel on my 700p. You get to plan the jobs � shades of Oceans - purchase the tools, supplies and equipment, choose your partners in crime, and set the plan into motion when you�re ready to strike.
(Note: The screenshots are taller than they are wide, because the screens scroll during playback as necessary.)
Herocraft's newest game plays your diabolical plan back in real time, just as you�ve directed, but if anything goes awry � happens with best-laid plans, according to the poet � you�re stuck. Keep conniving and re-planning till you finish the job to the satisfaction of an omnipresent �boss.�
Your life on the dark side of law and disorder starts easy enough: a simple jewel heist. Bust down the door with a crowbar, creep into the room where the goods are kept, and vamoose, fast. Crowbars don�t come cheap in this game, and you�re flat broke after you spring for just one, even though you might drool for some explosives, wire cutters, or a nice large hammer to go with it.
With the prices on these tools - $200 for simple wire cutters? Obviously the government buys from this store! At these tool prices, you�d make more money knocking off the burglary tool store. But that�s not an option. The first caper�s an easy one, so not to worry.
At higher levels, the game also keeps track of the load your villains are toting, and won�t let them carry more than their rating. Gotta pick �em carefully for the job, see?
By the third or fourth scenario, you�re forking over thousands for the tools of your nefarious trade, setting bombs, disabling burglar alarms, and planning all of it using the game�s neat mapping facility. The game�s documentation repeatedly warns you not to get carried away. Jewel heists on the Treo one day, Vegas casinos the next. Keep repeating, �It�s only a game.�
Like the meticulous planning that develops between romantic interludes for a crime in the movies, and like a glamorized crime that unfolds between commercials on Court TV, Stolen in Sixty Seconds proceeds at a methodical pace before the actual dirty deed. Here, you select a thief or thieves, plot a route for them that accomplishes the goals set out by the �boss,� and equip them according to the needs of the caper.
You can erase, backtrack, and change your mind. Once you�re done planning, hit the little car icon, and watch the scenario play back on the Treo�s screen. It�s a real-time display, so a bomb that has a 49-second fuse takes 49 real seconds to go off. During the episode, you get a 747�s-eye-view of the action, complete with sound effects if you haven�t turned those off � the thieves slink along the paths you�ve laid out for them, going in circles if you direct them to. Suspense builds as the clock ticks.
If the plan works, you get an announcement to that effect, and the loot appears on your scorecard. If it fails, you don�t move to the next heist till you do it over and get it right. The program limits retries according to which level you�ve selected.
The win seems a bit anticlimactic, though. Where�s the champagne? And the minions don�t complain or steal your moll. Same for failed capers. I half expected to hear screaming sirens and see my thieving characters being hauled off to the hoosegow. Not so. The game simply announces that your crime is unsuccessful and offers a retry. The penalty, instead of 20-to-life, is that you can�t move to the next level till you manage to juggle all the little details of the previous one. Blow the explosive charges in the right order, consult the knowing sources, dishing out bribes as necessary, and time it all to the program�s liking.
In the planning stage and at various places along the way you can bring up extensive help screens. These are quite helpful in figuring out what to do, but they�re all in tiny fonts that are a little hard to read.
I tested the game on the larger screen of my 700p (Palm OS), but found that the text looks even smaller, although the larger planning graphics fit better and don�t have to scroll as much. Something about the physical screen size and the pixel counts, perhaps. HeroCraft, a Russian/Ukranian company, makes a huge range of games for an immense variety of cell phones and PDA�s. Apparently, their text is one size (somewhat) fits all. Squint a little, and you can see that the characters all have MO�s and back stories. You can get the scoop on them by tapping the telephone. Indeed, just about everything has an interesting story, especially the available henchpersons. After a little play and a few chuckles, you can skip reading the stories.
I found it quite easy to get hooked on Stolen�s game play, especially after a few of the introductory crimes, which served well to get me accustomed to the way the game works. Initially I had misgivings about the implied violence, but having seen an hour of cable television lately, I�m inured to violence so I got on with it.
The die-hard idealist in me wants to wail about making crime pay, about making success at thievery a good thing (to win the game), and about honing criminal skills and intent. Yet, it was fun, and I do think I�ll still be able to restrain myself from knocking off a convenience store. To their credit, the company warns against taking crime too seriously and making the transition. I�m betting their lawyers made them say that. Okay, that�s enough idealism for the whole week.
Snatch the loot and feel guilty about it later. Putting aside your upstanding upbringing and transcending for the moment any empathy you might be able to muster for crime�s many victims, Stolen in Sixty Seconds makes it fun to test your skills as a thug. Just don�t get carried away. It�s a game, not a master class.
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