Crookz: The Big Heist Review: All In the Timing

Crookz: The Big Heist challenges players to become criminal masterminds from the disco era.

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Betrayed by a megalomaniacal mastermind, a team of criminals come together to pull off the perfect heist and get in a little revenge at the same time. Set in an alternate sci-fi version of 1970s San Francisco in the 1970s, Crookz challenges players to become the ultimate criminal masterminds. By coordinating a crew of up to four characters, each with a specific set of skills, and grab the loot without being spotted by guards or security cameras. It's not easy task, and it often feels like you need a maddeningly obsessive mind to get through some of the levels, but there's no reward without risk.

Getting Groovy

With a comedic plot that involves a prized moon gem, players maneuver their heist crew by freezing time and queuing up different commands. Each thief has a different skill set, and you have to use them in coordination with each other to pull off a heist. After some planning, players can start the action and watch the crew move around like clockwork, and you're free to adjust their movements according to changing situations. The point is to get in and out with the loot without drawing too much attention. Ideally, your crew should escape without anyone knowing you were there. The mission fails if you get too much heat or if a guard catches anyone in your crew.

Things swiftly escalate, and soon you'll be facing multi-level missions comprised of a complex network of switches, security cameras, traps, locked doors, and guards on patrol. Your team will have run through a crazy gauntlet just to reach the next stage and do it all again. The final mission is made up a series densely packed mazes that players must complete within time limits.

There are six characters in total, but you can only bring four to a mission. Some missions will assign a required character. Cleopatra is a fast runner who can sneak past guards. Rocket is a contortionist who can get into locked rooms through air vents. Bishop can pick almost any lock. Lobkowitz uses his technical knowhow to disable security systems, while Rufus uses his strength to hit things. Lastly, players acquire a robot named Rob-O-Matic 2000, which is eventually upgraded to pass unnoticed through all security systems, but its rudimentary hands can't use tools.

Mind Tripping

It's really easy to feel a sense of burnout after a while, especially when puzzles tease you with paths you can't use because your characters haven't unlocked the appropriate skill yet, but you're encouraged to replay levels with upgraded characters. On many occasions, I would take one look at the maze of heavily monitored corridors and think it was impossible, then spend hours figuring out how to do the impossible. Mazes generally have items scattered throughout to help you accomplish critical tasks, but you also have the option to purchase items before the mission starts. Things become smoother once you gain the technology to lock up doors and figure out ways to trap guards in side rooms. However, trapping guards causes them to repeat the same two or three lines of dialogue (spoken in different accents) over and over again, which you can hear even when your camera is directed far away elsewhere.

There's also a matter of how the game escalates to the point where some characters practically become obsolete, which is all the more annoying when some of the new skills are merely better versions of old ones. This is especially true of the Muscle character, Rufus, who is rendered all but useless midway through the game. Eventually, guards become too tough for him to knock out, even with an upgraded choke hold. His ability to punch through weak points in the wall or force stuck switches don't compensate because they make so much noise, making them useless in later maps, where hallways are layered closely together. There are items that can be found or purchased that will do those things silently.

Stealing Time

A great part of the fun and frustration is in maneuvering characters so that they stay out of guards' sight lines, like a perfectly timed dance. Then something crazy will happen, like that guy I thought was in a safe place is discovered by a guard, or opening a door accidentally lets a camera's sight line come pouring in. Hitting the Quick Save and reloading becomes almost second nature, and it's great that the game automatically saves every few minutes so you can easily step backward in time to make minor corrections.

Crookz is challenging, despite its comedic trappings, and it's easy to get obsessive over it. However, unless leaderboards or pulling off the perfect heist in the lowest time really appeals to you, there's not much reason to replay old missions. There's a decent collection of unlockable challenge missions, but game loses some of its charm when a mission forces too many criteria, like time limits and crew selection. Still, this is a game that ended up totally getting under my skin, and I couldn't help coming back to prove myself as a criminal mastermind.


This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Crookz: The Big Heist is now available on PC, Mac and Linux for $29.99. The game is rated E.

Managing Editor
7
Pros
  • Very challenging missions
  • Cast of varied characters
  • Funky 1970s style
  • Frequent timed auto-saves
Cons
  • Rufus becomes near useless
  • Some skills are just better versions of old ones
  • Trapped guards repeat lines on a loop
  • Not much reason to replay old missions
  • Challenge missions lack charm
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