MacHeist, the brand behind one of the most famous sales of indie Mac software is back with its own app for the iPhone. Unlike other bundle sales, MacHeist teased prospective buyers with freebies and unlockable content for their own "Loot", creating a huge following in the process.
Known for running initiatives like MyDreamApp, some representatives of the so-called Delicious Generation have the ability to turn into gold everything they touch. Besides the hype and the attractive call for free stuff, the truth is that Phill Ryu and John Casasanta have a strong flair for polished, good-looking refined apps. But, what's behind their latest heist?
The Heist [iTunes Link] by tap tap tap is a traditional puzzle game executed in a very unconventional way. A teaser video on its website introduces users to the plot, which puts you in the shoes of a secret agent/hacker in a quest to crack a secure vault. Split into four different types of minigames, every level completed will help you to you short circuit the security systems that protect the vault and get that mysterious prize.
The Heist consists of four different minigames based on typical puzzles such as sliding tiles, parking blocks and a sudoku with symbols. On the first type, you need to move blocks of wood on a grid to clear the path so a tiny circuit board reaches the exit. The goal is to move it horizontally to the blue light on the right, but it proves difficult as wooden blocks will obstruct your way.
The second type is a version of Sudoku where numbers are replaced by runes with symbols and colours. The first levels are easy to introduce you to the concept, but they ramp up in difficulty having less symbols on the board and more runes to play with. The game also warns you of any incorrect combination, which makes it rather easy.
The third type involves pushing blocks with a robot one space at a time, a game the App Store is certainly not short of. Having played Psychoban, I didn't find the top-down perspective particularly appealing and the controls felt odd.
The fourth type is a virtual slide tile puzzle ranging from eight to fifteen tiles in the higher levels. Instead of the more traditional numbered editions, the goal here is to connect wires of the same colour on circuit board pieces. All these minigames are meant to be solved quickly and have a handy undo button to start over if you need to.
Once you have completed all the puzzles and you crack the vault, there is a mysterious prize for every user, which is expected to be worth more than the $0.99/0.59p The Heist costs. The whole adventure is nicely dressed with the secret agent theme and one of the best touched are the called from your partner in crime Sophia. Just after you disable one of the four locks, The Heist will pretend you are receiving a call using the iPhone's standard interface. You should answer and can even activate speakerphone and other functions later on such as FaceTime. This is a really nice detail and reminds me of the original cheekiness in many of the heists in the original MacHeist.
To my surprise, The Heist is only available as an iPhone-only game, and it doesn't scale up that well to the iPad screen. Some of the puzzles, specially the tile slider, could look very chunky on the iPad, so perhaps it was a design choice rather than lack of development time.
Technically, The Heist is nothing more than a collection of four classic puzzles on a touch screen that already populate the App Store. It's the story surrounding it, the extremely polished graphics by David Lanham and the great music used that elevate the game to a higher level. Tap tap tap has already shown its commitment to create very simple apps with an extra level of polish that sets them apart from the mundane competition (see Camera+ or Convert). In this case, The Heist is their take on the cheap puzzle game. I'm missing an extra layer of content and a promise of future updates, as you can run through the levels in one day.
Overall, has a perfect mixture of elements that makes it a great snack-app for the casual gamer. There's nothing remarkable about each of the minigames included, but the way to use them to carry a general story towards a goal that goes beyond your virtual rewards, makes a huge difference. Having said this, hardcore fans are better off with more in-depth alternatives available on the App Store, which could also offer more hours of fun. Nevertheless, The Heist sets a new bar for $0.99/0.59p casual games and I have no doubt it will be charting pretty soon worldwide.