There are many games on the market that can teach people about things like science, language and art, though few use burglary to do so. Art Thief is one of the few titles that encourages learning through the commission of felonies.
In this game you are a nameless art thief who resembles a villainous mime. Each level bears the name of a different artist whose paintings you must find and steal. Slinking around a museum after dark, you must search each floor for the five paintings by your selected artist and steal them before time runs out. Along the way you have to avoid various laser detection systems, bored security guards, and vigilant little robots that look a lot like R2-D2.
Van Goghing, Goghing, gone!
If detected, you are sent back to the last checkpoint and must retrace your steps. You get to keep the paintings you’ve found so far, which helps ward off some of the frustration. Unfortunately, the timer doesn’t start over when you get caught, so you often find yourself starting over at the beginning of the level with almost no time left on the clock.
How you go about stealing the paintings and avoiding the guards is not explained very well in the instructions. You must figure out, for example, that the dark spot on the ceiling is a bar you can hang from while robots pass beneath you. More thorough instructions would have been nice.
Each level puts you in a different museum, none of which are named. They all have different layouts, with elevators, tucked away rooms and security precautions placed in different spots. This does help keep the game fresh and makes it more challenging.
One of the most challenging aspects of the game is identifying the paintings on the walls. There is no zoom function in this game, which can be a big problem with certain pieces. Van Gogh’s famous painting Sunflowers, for example, looks like a tiny yellow and brown smear on the museum wall. Stealing the right paintings can only be done when the paintings can be identified, which is often a problem in this game. A zoom feature could have corrected this glaring flaw.
Who turned out the lights?
Another problem is knowing which works to select. If you know that Van Gogh’s works had lots of vivid colors and kind of looked like a bunch of dots, you’d be fine. If you didn’t, you would have a lot of trouble playing this game. The artists chosen are quite famous, and many of the paintings you must steal are iconic, but there’s usually one or two that you have to guess at, grabbing pieces until you stumble on the right one. Each painting you select that isn’t by your artist takes 10 seconds off the clock, which can really come back to bite you later.
This game can make for an interesting, if sometimes frustrating, single-player experience. There is no two player mode, no online component and no gallery of stolen works to view. There is not even a high score feature where you can challenge your own times and monitor improvement. When you beat a level it unlocks the next one, but your score just sort of vanishes into the ether. Once the level is over, it’s really over.
Art Thief is an interesting game that can actually teach you something, while allowing you to break the law. It’s missing a lot of things that would make it much better, like a zoom feature, thorough instructions, two-player mode, and some way of keeping track of your scores. We are hoping for a future update that corrects some of these problems and makes this game the classic it deserves to be.