You got it all wrong, see. Unless, of course, what you you just got was the epic, noir puzzle app Third Eye Crime. In which case, proceed…but watch your step, kid. With a graphic-novel story board that harkens to Frank Miller, this overhead stealth game is absolutely compelling. Developed by Moonshot Studios, a team that consists of ex-Bungie talent, there’s no mystery as to why this mobile game is impossible to put down.
Enter Act One, where players are introduced to expert larcenist and telepath, Rothko. Rothko has a story that needs to be told with a stuff drink in hand, and through a thick veil of stale cigar smoke. A consummate pro and cat burglar, Rothko’s skill in high-end theft is complimented by telepathy; his story begins here, in the throes of a 459. Rothko’s mission is pretty simple: don’t get caught. Until she walks in to his office, that is, facilitating Act 2. This smoldering and sultry redhead solicits Rothko for another heist while his fence and only friend, Bernie, is incommunicado. The saga continues, and it would be a disservice to the game’s virtuosity to narrate it further. True to noir, however, there’s double-crossing and kidnapping and looting in spades.
Gameplay, however, is more about evasive maneuvers and stealth. Here’s where the premise of Rothko’s “third eye” mind reading powers come in to play. Navigating a handheld maze of dimly lit corridors, Rothko maneuvers around security cameras and guards in higher and higher stake missions. So what? This is nothing new, right? Think again, sweet cheeks. Rothko’s telepathic ability manifests itself on-screen as red trails; these trails are deepest red where the guards most think Rothko might be, and gradients to lighter shades where the coast is more clear. Rothko’s third eye makes guessing your opponent’s moves a gajillion times easier, helping players guide the good-hearted criminal to victory.
Beyond creeping and slinking, players guide Rothko to jewels and other stealables to pilfer. Remaining undetected isn’t the only challenge in Third Eye Crime. Some levels require Rothko to misdirect guards by triggering alarms or nearly stepping into a guard’s line of sight and then scurrying for cover. Along the way, Rothko gets his hands on a few tools, as well: speed burst icons can be collected and used to help keep Rothko’s activities a secret, and wifi-shaped icons called tumblers detonate a sound to attract (well, distract) guards.
There are challenges to give the levels replay value even after they’ve been beaten once. Lead your shifty professional hack to victory using a single path for example. Make it through a level without being detected or shot. Or complete a level having been sighted but once, or under a certain time goal. All of these challenges keep players coming back. Or, if you can’t wait for strategy to come naturally, Moonshot offers micro-transactions within the game; players can purchase credits to freeze lumbering henchmen in their tracks, shield Rothko from minion’s bullets and bodies both, purchase more tumblers to throw ’em off your culprit’s tail, or a combo of all three enhancements.
Players are seduced by classic, pitch-perfect detective jazz as the backstory tutelage plays out in the most delightful cinematic I’ve ever seen in a mobile game. (Just another quick word about the game’s music: I loved it so much that I played the main menu’s background music over my car speakers in gridlock. Being stuck in traffic in the rain, which is a pretty common occurrence in sunny Washington, felt infinitely more melodramatic and satisfying thanks to Third Eye Crime. I really enjoyed glancing sidelong at other drivers and narrating their dark pasts to myself in a gravelly Batman voice.
Not enough good things can be said about the graphic-novel style, pop art cinematics in, either. Players are introduced to Rothko via swipe-thru screen plot that unfolds into Act One. The artwork has depth, is progressive, and it’s simplicity is complimented by heavy reds, blacks and silhouettes that exude sophistication.