Third Eye Crime review

Third Eye Crime marks Moonshot Games' debut, and while the ex-Bungie devs deliver a strong product, they lean too heavily on built in microtransactions.
Third Eye Crime marks Moonshot Games' debut, and while the ex-Bungie devs deliver a strong product, they lean too heavily on built in microtransactions.
Third Eye Crime marks Moonshot Games' debut, and while the ex-Bungie devs deliver a strong product, they lean too heavily on built in microtransactions.

Highs

  • Gorgeous presentation
  • Cleverly designed puzzles
  • Level skip feature helps cut frustrations

Lows

  • Huge difficulty spikes
  • Misleading and disruptive IAPs

Jazz, hand-drawn art, and grand larceny. These are the defining qualities of Third Eye Crime, the iOS-exclusive debut from the ex-Bungie developers making up Moonshot Games. The team’s puzzling sneak-’em-up is built around drawing lines to quietly rip off jewels and priceless art, but the overall sense of style that rounds out the package is the hook this game hangs its hopes on.

It sure is a lovely hook, even if it’s rusted over with misleading in-app purchasing requirements. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Third Eye Crime‘s story follows Rothko, a hard-boiled art thief who finds himself in over his head when a classy dame in a low-cut dress makes him an offer he can’t refuse. It’s the prototypical film noir setup, with the irresistible femme fatale suckering a fedora-wearing, chain-smoking anti-hero into an unpleasant job. What stands out is how it’s all presented, with players swiping through eye-catching motion comic-style strips of exposition interspersed between each chapter while smokey, oozing jazz plays in the background.

Jazz, hand-drawn art, and grand larceny: these are the defining qualities of Third Eye Crime.

That distinct sense of style carries over into each level, which amount to top-down looks at single-room puzzles that task the player with tracing out Rothko’s path of travel. Your goal is to guide the thief to an exit while grabbing whatever loot you can, all without him being caught or gunned down. The floor layout and enemy placement is deliberately designed to trip you up. Sometimes that means back-tracking or waiting while a patrolling guard strolls by, and other times you’ll raise alerts in one location to draw attention away from another.

You can spend as much time as you like surveying a map when you step into a new level, but all of Third Eye Crime‘s action plays out in real time once Rothko starts moving. It’s similar in a lot of ways to the classic iOS charmer Flight Control, which sees you mapping out plane paths and changing them mid-flight to prevent in-air collisions. The feel is the same here even though you’ve just got Rothko’s path to worry about. Patrolling guards follow predictable paths until you raise an alert, at which point a deft finger and sharp reflexes are essential.

This is especially true in the challenging later levels. Some seem outright impossible at first glance – and even at 10th glance – though a handy level skip feature helps keep frustration at bay. It’s entirely possible to tour through every level and just consume the story, then come back later to pick and choose unfinished levels to work on at your leisure. That’s a welcome check to balance out the occasionally punishing difficulty. It’s just important to note that the difficulty isn’t a product of poor design; Third Eye Crime is a legitimately challenging game, again, in a way that feels very similar to Flight Control.

While the bulk of your interactions with Rothko involve plotting out his path of travel, he’s also got a handful of special abilities that you can call upon to create noisy distractions, deflect bullets, and freeze enemy movements. You can use these abilities on any level as long as you have them in your inventory. More can be obtained via in-app purchases, but you’ll also occasionally find them as pick-ups on certain levels.

Third Eye Crime is a legitimately challenging game in a way that feels very similar to the iOS classic, Flight Control.

The difficulty occasionally spikes high enough to make these IAP microtransactions feel like a pay-to-win situation, though that’s not the only underhanded play that Third Eye Crime makes for your wallet. The game appears in the App Store as a $1.99 purchase for “Act I,” but the full story plays out over three acts. The second and third ones must be purchased separately, either individually for $0.99 apiece or as a bundle for the marginally more expensive price of $1.99.

Yes, it’s just a penny’s difference. The principle counts for everything here though. This kind of nickel-and-diming leaves a foul aftertaste on an otherwise decent mobile game. It speaks to a larger issue with the App Store economy that has no bearing on this review, but it’s also important to note going in that the core experience you can tap to buy on your phone or tablet is just one-third of a full game. We’re here to talk about what it feels like to play the game, and in this case that feeling includes the cold realization that strikes at the end of chapter 3 when you see “unlock” buttons sealing off the subsequent acts.

Moonshot Games’ debut is a mixed success. On one hand, Third Eye Crime wraps a nifty sense of style around generally sharp design. The difficulty spikes reach extreme heights at times, but the forgiving level skip feature balances that out. On the other hand, in-app purchases leave a dark cloud hanging over all. The jazz and the hand-drawn art stand out, but it’s hard to tell whose grand larceny is more egregious: Rothko’s or Moonshot’s.

Highs:

  • Gorgeous presentation
  • Cleverly designed puzzles
  • Level skip feature helps cut frustrations

Lows:

  • Huge difficulty spikes
  • Misleading and disruptive IAPs

This game was reviewed on a second-generation iPad Mini using a code provided by Moonshot Games.

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