Thief Town is the latest title from small game factory Glass Knuckle Games. The studio is used to making procedurally generated experiences with different gameplay and art styles to fill players to the brim with characterization. Thief Town is no different in that regard, and was made by a scant crew of five people.
In fact, you can meet all five of them in-game. At any time, your character – a Thief of unknown dubiousness – can wander to the far right hand side of the starting bar and peruse the five drunks just watching the action a.k.a. the “credits” section. What would be a standard menu in other games is embodied within this slightly interactive bar setting where your fellow thieves can hop in and out without a hitch. It’s this, plus other touches such as the framed screen border and jaunty music, that gives Thief Town its charming backdrop before you even hit start on the bar wall.
Once into the fray with your gang of thieves, stealth is built up to be very much your ally. Your survival depends upon your ability to blend into a small crowd of NPCs, locate your enemy, and strike accordingly without yourself being executed. All of the game modes revolve around your movements falling in line with the choppy NPCs, hiding from up to three of your playing partners at a time. Knife work serves as your main offense with some modes throwing in different weapons (i.e. smoke bombs, a gun, booze to confuse the other players) to tip the field slightly.
Gameplay in itself is quick by nature with the majority of your focus intended to go towards your own sneaking skills. However, there’s no real benefit to this strategy; you’re not deducted points for killing NPCs, none of them fight back, and their similar silhouettes just clog the field. Only in the mode where one of you is a Sheriff with limited ammunition does the game force you to be picky in your strikes. This, unsurprisingly, seems to be the best mode as there’s tension and an actual sense of stealth available when the Sheriff can all but destroy you with a single bullet no matter the distance. There’s even an implemented fall-on-you-face button that, when timed just so, can lead to a dodge of the lightning quick shot. Otherwise, you can be a whirling death machine as effectively as you can be a silent assassin in Thief Town.
That does not bode well for a game with only two different styles of play—three if you count one-on-one duels. The game counts instances of different items as other “modes,” but the crowds, style, and mindset are the same, making it seem like a quibbling difference. A noticeable absence in this multiplayer-only game as well is any online connectivity through leaderboards, multiplayer, or any other means. This is a local-only, four-player game which, depending on your situation, may not warrant a purchase when the majority of your friends are in the online realm only. Further, there seems to be some hit box and movement bugs that, while only popping up a couple of times, do hamper those rounds considerably given this micro-game concept.
Smaller details in gameplay and environments do help alleviate some of these gripes. The in-between round placards are often funny and sometimes helpful, the Towns (read: levels) change on occasion because of a storm or sudden celebration of Halloween, and you might even be lucky enough to run into an Adult Tumbleweed or two. You can clang together knives with your foe from time to time, lending a real duel mentality to battles that are often over in a single slash. The details are here, but smaller details in an already small title can only do so much.
Thief Town is a quick-hit experience that relies on a lot of western and retro charm to push its single concept into a gamer’s multiplayer rotation. The graphics, music, and aesthetic all feel like enough to do just that with the proper mixture of new and old, continuing their pleasantness even after multiple rounds of knifing. Gameplay, while fun in short bursts, gives way thanks to its own lack of walls into a side-bet over who killed the most helpless NPCs. Being the Sheriff feels consistently fun and tense while the smaller details bring their own smiles along the way, but that’s about it. As a game on its own little island, Thief Town is a passable local multiplayer title, but in a duel with most others out there, it’s a few bullets short of becoming famous.
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