Treasure Grab Review: Burgle the rich, burgle them good

Imagine, if you will, a marriage between Pac-Man and Metal Gear Solid, and the offspring produced by this union might resemble THQ‘s Treasure Grab. An unlikely pair, you think? In one you navigate mazes, collecting pellets and dodging ghosts. In the other you navigate facilities — mazes in their own right — accumulating gear and avoiding detection (and the inevitable pursuit). When you get down to brass tacks, the games are really very similar, based upon navigation, collection and evasion.

Treasure Grab inherits the best traits of its supposed parents. As up-and-coming master thief Alya Loot, players infiltrate the mansions of the city’s elite in order to bereave them of their affluence and run them out of town.

Alya begins each robbery already in the mansion. The goods — tableware, statues, jewelry, books, paintings, food and more — are easy to find. Alya will automatically swipe objects she passes near enough to, and so the object is simply to sweep each room and hall clear of its valuables. This is easier said than done, however, as the floors are patrolled by guards and maids who can quickly bring Alya’s pilfering to a premature end. Also, Alya has only two minutes in which to rob the place before the alarms sound and the guards become aware of her presence. Be quick, be quiet, then be gone.

Guards spotting Alya will give chase, and there are no second chances if caught. Alya will be ejected from the mansion without her loot. As they patrol the mansion guards will open and close doors, converse with one another, and sometimes become lost in their own thoughts. Their behavior can sometimes be used to Alya’s advantage, and sometimes the opposite. Maids cannot directly harm Alya, but scream when they see her, causing nearby guards to converge on the room. By breaking line of sight and remaining unseen, Alya can shake pursuit.

On each raid, Alya is accompanied by a trickster spirit who grants her various benefits such as distant sight, instant loot collection, disguise and more. She begins the game with access to only one of these spirits, but will unlock others during the course of the game. Alya may leave the mansions at any time through one of several exits, escaping into the night with her spoils.

Likes:

Graphics: Treasure Grab is beautifully drawn and animated using pixel graphics. Characters are large and detailed, and imbued with a great deal of … well, character. Alya is slim, curvy and cloaked, and despite not having a face, easy to read. The guards are menacing, the maids demure, and the rich adequately despicable. At the very least, you’ll feel they deserve to be robbed from.

Adaptive Difficulty: Dependent upon your level of success alleviating the wealth of the city’s bourgeoisie, the game will adjust its difficulty to accommodate you. Following a successful heist, your victim will increase the guard. Fail in your attempts at burglary and the victim will overconfidently lower his guard. On the stage selection screen the number of lit windows in each mansion is indicative of the challenge you will face inside. Those who excel at the game will face challenges befitting their skill, while those who struggle with it will be catered to. To wit, anyone can enjoy this game regardless of skill level.

Trickster Spirits: The trickster spirits are a wonderful addition to the game and provide you with tools allowing the stages to be approached in different ways.

Controls: By touching anywhere on the screen a d-pad appears allowing you to move Alya. Touch-anywhere controls are the jam, the toast and the knife that spreads it. Oh, yeah.

Mini-games: During stages, Alya will encounter locked doors which must be picked to be opened. Lockpicking is played out as a timing based mini-game and can cause same some tense situations: trying to get through a locked door and out of sight before the guard rounds the corner, or when cornered by pursuers with your only escape locked tight. Aside from the main game there are also 36 time challenges in which you must race against the clock to acquire specific items.

Dislikes:

Menus: A minor gripe, but it feels as if there are too many screens to navigate before you’re actually allowed to play the game. Also, there is no Retry option when caught. Instead you’re kicked back to level selection screen and must navigate the menus again.

Repetitive: Sadly, Treasure Grab’s four mansions offer virtually identical experiences. The antagonists seemingly shop at the same stores, hire the same decorator, contract with same security company and employ the same maid service.

Treasure Grab is now a year old — an app store dinosaur (ROWRRR!) — but none the worse for wear. The game looks and sounds fantastic, and it’s still loads of fun to play. Pac-Man fans and those wanting some stealth action on the iPhone should definitely check out Treasure Grab; it plays well on the iPad too, though not as a native app.

With its recent price drop to $0.99, Treasure Grab is an absolute steal; grab it while you can. And then look out, rich folk, ‘cos Alya Loot is gonna steal all of ya loot!

Treasure Grab ($0.99) is published by THQ Wireless. Reviewed at version 1.0.18 on an iPhone 3G and iPad.

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