There’s something so satisfying about a well-executed heist. I don’t know whether it’s the idea of outsmarting an entire legion of people, or the idea of living on a beach on the fictional island of Kokomo for the rest of my life, but there’s something about that primal urge that makes me want to bust out a set of lockpicks and tune up my safecracking ear.
Unfortunately in real life I am neither an accomplished lockpick nor safecracker, and instead of retiring into a Beach Boys song sipping a Mai Tai I’m sitting here writing you this article about Crookz.
VH1 Presents I Love the 70s
I recently got a chance to see Kalypso show off Crookz, its new 70s-inspired heist game. Like, heavily 70s inspired. They even got porn legend Ron Jeremy to do their announcement trailer, somehow. (Actually, I take that back. I imagine it’s pretty easy to get Ron Jeremy to do anything at this point.)
If “heist” brings to mind images of Pay Day or Grand Theft Auto V‘s more action-packed moments, however, stash that idea out of sight (preferably in an uncrackable safe). Crookz lands squarely in the Ocean’s Eleven corner of the ring—the kind where if your heist goes according to plan, nobody even realizes they’ve been robbed.
Planning is key to Crookz. You’ve got a variety of team members, each with a specific aptitude. There’s your lockpick, your strong-man, your electrician, and et cetera. You’re directing all four from your isometric perch in the sky, trying to navigate them through environments with a minimum of collateral damage.
The game can be played in real-time, but you can also pause at any time and give teammates instructions. There are specific object-based interactions of course, like “Pick that lock,” but also an intriguing “Wait” command that allows you to line up multiple commands at once while still ensuring perfect timing across the whole plan. You don’t want your strong-man to blunder into the lasers your electrician is disarming, for instance, so you have the strong-man wait until the trap is disarmed before walking through.
Or, in another example, we watched the locksmith character wait patiently as the strong-man took out a guard, then sprint down the hallway to disarm a set of lasers while a third character ran in to grab one of the briefcases we were sent in to find. That sort of cooperation and timing-based complexity is only possible when you’re pausing and issuing orders, and is absolutely the optimal way to play the game.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to go hands-on with Crookz so I don’t know how easy (or not) it is to issue these commands, especially in a series. The developer demoing the game made short work of it, but it’s also his game.
Having the game active-pause makes this more a strategy game than an action game, though, and that’s perfect for me. To me, the planning aspects of Rainbow Six or similar games were always more fun than executing, and in Crookz the planning phase is most of the game.
And it’s necessary, too. We saw two levels in our demo, and while the first was a small home with two guards, the second’s massive shipping dock (with an equally-massive guard contingent) was intimidating enough I can’t even imagine playing it in real-time. Cameras, guards, lasers—they’re all just waiting for you to slip up.
If it all sounds a bit cloyingly serious, I was specifically told to expect something more wacky. James Bond was thrown around quite a bit as an inspiration. Well, a silly James Bond, maybe. After all, this is a game that got That Porn Dude Ron Jeremy to help with the announcement trailer—that’s more indicative of the story than the more serious heist-planning content we saw. There’s even a “Robot” class that’s apparently in line with the goofy retro-futurism of Star Trek or Doctor Who.
I’d like to give a shout out to the music too. It’s like a mix between “Secret Agent Man” and your stereotypical 70s porn theme, and if you never thought those two could be combined then you clearly need to broaden your imagination.
There’s no definite release date for Crookz yet, although it’s slated for sometime in mid-2015 or thereabouts. No word whether Ron Jeremy’s actually in the game, but I guess that’s fine since he’s already seared his face into my memory. Woe is me.
Hayden writes about games for PCWorld and doubles as the resident Zork enthusiast.