Parkour seems to be all the rage these days in platform games–whether the hero is running up the sides of medieval fortresses in Assassin’s Creed, or leaping from skyscraper to skyscraper in Mirror’s Edge.
Glu takes a run at free running in Cops & Robbers, a cartoon-style platformer where the goal is grand larceny. While we really like the idea, the game’s drab visuals, stiff animation and uneven pacing don’t help its cause.
Bad boys, bad boys.
Whatcha gonna do?
The good guys in Cops & Robbers, Tic Tac and Rooftop, are actually a pair of extremely agile felons dressed in striped jailwear. After being evicted by their fatcat landlord, the thieves must purloin nine diamonds to get their hideout back, with the law in hot pursuit. We guess these guys didn’t read the fine print on their lease.
Each level is a race between your robber, who is in constant motion, and the cops, who are gaining from behind. Since the robber runs automatically, your job is to dodge obstacles and hit jumps. If you time it right, you’ll keep your run going while reaching new areas of the level; if not, you’ll get bogged down and eventually end up behind bars.
The paths are seeded with trails of bonus greenbacks, while the diamond is hidden behind a lit window somewhere on the level. After jumping into the window, you play a quick safe-cracking minigame to grab the goods. Once that’s done, however, you have to make it to the end of the level in one piece. If you get caught, the diamond goes right back into the safe, and you’re playing through again.
Sadly, all of this is less fun than it sounds. The levels unfold at a snail’s pace–it seems like your robber is out for a jog, rather than at a full sprint. Hitting the turbo powerup helps, but it’s not very exciting otherwise. You merely touch or tilt to steer your robber around obstacles, and tap the screen to perform a canned animation every so often.
The game’s later levels are somewhat better, because the timing challenges come faster and closer together. It never looks or feels as fluid as it should, though. Jerky animation combines with iffy hit detection to wreck any illusion of seamless movement, and certain camera angles make it tough to judge your jumps.
The game’s presentation doesn’t impress. The character modeling’s blocky and the textures are on the bland side–nothing about it looks state of the art, or even particularly interesting. The music is forgettable.
It’s a real shame the core gameplay in Cops & Robbers isn’t better, because there are a lot of neat ideas in here. But those features–like ghost racing as a cop against your best time as a robber–don’t help if the race is no fun to begin with.
Hopefully an update will tighten up the footrace into something more exciting and satisfying. Until then, this game is doing hard time off our iPhone.