Snipers vs. Thieves by PlayStack Ltd. is well named. The dual title sets up the game’s most unique feature – that within one game is actually two, and those two games are pitted against each other. This game is full of surprises like that, elements that unfold as you play. For instance, it was several rounds in before I even realized it was multiplayer, and “LazyUrchin” wasn’t a name that my phone came up with.
Going through the tutorial, you play the sniper first. It’s a basic point and shoot setup, picking off thieves at the tap of a finger as they bumble their way toward the getaway car. Once you think you’ve got the game figured out, your tutorial guide says something along the lines of, “Now let’s turn it around on them!”
And turn it around you do, as the tutorial next takes you out from behind the sniper and into its crosshairs. Along with three other thieves, who can be either a cartoonish backdrop or a helpful diversion for the shooter, you attempt to dodge from potted plant to wooden crate to streetlamp on your way to the getaway car, avoiding the deadly aim of the snipers.
Once you get the hang of the setup, there are upgrades, various rifles for the shooters, and comedic decoys for the thieves. These perks give SvT a strategic side, but they’re simple enough not to overshadow or overcomplicate the basic gameplay.
Like most good mobile games, SvT is at its roots very simple, and that simplicity adds to its addictiveness. The same goes for the graphics. They’re so cartoonish you almost expect the thieves to shake their fists and yell, “Why I otta!” when they’re shot. It keeps the game whimsical, rather than making you feel like you’re gunning down strangers on the Internet. You can even change masks or backpacks just to give your character a makeover.
Sniper vs. Thieves is, at its core, two games. And it functions that way. Once you finish a round, you’re taken back to the main screen, where you can select to play either thieves or sniper. So theoretically, you could play thieves over and over again without bothering with the sniper level, or vice versa. In a way, that’s ideal. Picky players who like sniper but don’t like thieves can play sniper to their hearts’ content without bothering with a level they dislike. Players who like both, on the other hand, have both options to pick from. It caters to a wide range of people. Even so, it’s still a bit like switching between two different games, and it seems like there’s some lost potential there.
The game’s concept, however, is very clever. The layout is simple. I can feel my heart picking up as I wonder if my little guy will make it behind the next trash can, which is always a good sign. And the upgrades and XP bonuses give the game a progression and drive. For all of those reasons, I give Snipers vs. Thieves an 8 out of 10.