GAME NAME: Third Eye Crime
DEVELOPER(S): Moonshot Games
GENRE(S): Casual, Puzzle, Stealth
RELEASE DATE(S): July 23rd, 2014
There has been a bit of a worrying trend over the last couple of years with games designed for smartphones making their way over to Steam. It’s understandable that developing for the mobile space is no longer an easy task and squeezing every ounce of profit out of your product is totally valid, but like every area of gaming, there is quite clearly a right way and a wrong to putting out something the public wants to play. To be fair, some of these games are ported over very well (like the excellent Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol) while others seem to make their way over to the more powerful platform simply because they can. Third Eye Crime seems to sit squarely in that second category, and despite being a totally serviceable experience, the jump from smartphone seems to have only done the game a disservice as average controls and threadbare gameplay don’t stand up to the scrutiny of “the master race”.
Taking place in a noir’ish 1950’s, you are placed in the shows of Rothko, a master criminal who just so happens to also have a number of telepathic abilities. Upon being approached by a rather buxom red-headed woman to help bail out her husband, all hell breaks loose and you soon find yourself scurrying through every conceivable no-entry area known to man, looking for various trinkets to put in your deep pockets. While the story is a bit threadbare, it’s ultimately quite charming with the stark, crisp colours and smooth jazz sounds setting a clear tone where the characters and dialogue may not. It also really is a case of the story servicing the plot as Rothko’s telepathic tendencies explain away why you can see where an item in the level is and any routes patrolling guards may take.
As a result, while at first it may be presented as a stock-standard stealth game, Third Eye Crime is, in fact, much closer to a fast-thinking puzzle experience where a quick thought process go a lot further than memorising guard patterns. In nearly every single level, you are going to be seen by a patrolling guard and you have to use your wits and time management in a game of cat and mouse to outmaneuver them to the exit. Think Pacman where the ghosts only know where you are if they have direct line of sight and you are more or less on the right track. As a result, Third Eye Crime is actually quite refreshing, and it’s easy to see it as the type of title that would appeal to those who don’t normally enjoy the stealth and puzzle genres. That said, while the game arcs nicely with a number of new elements being introduced into the gameplay as the story progresses, there are also a number of weird difficulty spikes that actually forced me to come back to the game after an hour two because the game felt like it was being infuriatingly unfair.
It’s easy to see why the game was so highly praised early this year when it was released iOS, but this heritage is also where most of the issues arise in this version. One of the most immediate complaints with regards to the entire experience is how lazy the developers seemed to have been in bringing the port over to the PC. The fact that Third Eye Crime was once a touch-screen experience is immediately clear as everything (and I mean everything) is controlled by a mouse input mimicking what a finger would do on a mobile device. In the gameplay department, this isn’t such a big deal as drawing paths for Rothko to sneak around the level is pretty much the core gameplay mechanic, but when I have to drag through menus (like swiping across a phone’s menu screen) and there are absolutely no graphical settings to speak of, then one has to question if Third Eye Crime is not just a bit of a quick money grab. It also does that thing where the gameplay is broken into nice little chunks so as to experience a couple of levels during your morning commute or to pass time while waiting for a meeting, but that doesn’t translate well to long sessions at home. Moreover, combined with the somewhat lackluster story, it feels like Third Eye Crime never really seems to develop any sort of momentum.
I really wanted to like Third Eye Crime; the stealth genre is near and dear to my heart, and any new entry – especially one that seems so mechanically different from its peers – deserves all the credit it can get. That said, some of the design choices are outright baffling to the point that a number of elements (like the poor controls and difficulty) make the experience appear deliberately obtuse. If the developers had put in that extra spit and polish, then Third Eye Crime could arguably have been a contender for one of the indie sleeper hits of the year. Sadly, as it stands it acts as a series of very good ideas put together with very poor execution.