So many games that tear up the App Store charts these days have their origins in retro classics we were playing on the Atari 2600, the NES and the awesome 8-bit home computers of the 80s. But there’s one game, despite kick-starting a genre, that is rarely mimicked. That game is Donkey Kong, and it’s not often developers aim to recreate the amazing game that gave birth to Mario.
We obviously can’t say if Donkey Kong was the direct inspiration for Thief Lupin or not, but sad, aging, eagle-eyed retro gamers like us can spot a classic clone a mile away – although we do have trouble looking at our bus pass without wearing our readers – and that’s definitely the vibe we get from this fast and frantic iPhone platformer.
That’s no criticism, however, and Thief Lupin is still very much its own game, but it’s important to point out all you old people out there who still pine for the days of jumping over pixelated barrels should sit up and pay attention.
You take on the titular role of the well-dressed gothic cat burglar, Thief Lupin. Your task is to get him to the top of various buildings as quickly as possible while filling his pockets with stolen diamonds. Unfortunately these are high security buildings, and their protection methods are quite archaic and very dangerous.
Primarily there are boxes of explosives everywhere, and making contact with them spreads Thief Lupin’s innards all over the walls. But there are also circular saw, moving spikes and all manner of dungeon relics ready to cut, stomp and slash you to pieces, making this a game of quick-fingered agility.
Your character approaches these in different ways. Each floor of the building spans the width of the screen, and all you’ve to do is run from one side to the other. On some levels Lupin simply sprints headlong, and tapping the screen at just the right moment causes him to jump over the obstacles. On the next level, however, he might choose to keep perfectly still, only jumping when you hold down the screen to build up the required power, and then releasing it to send him flying.
At other times he can fly, and taping the screen gives him a little altitude. As he moves, he sinks down again, and it takes precision tapping to guide him over and under the instruments of death.
In and amongst the dangers are diamonds, and while you certainly won’t grab them all, a well-played game sees you time your death-defying jumps perfectly to snatch up a gem or two as you shoot past. The more you gather up, the more money you’ll have to spend on costumes and new playable characters for the next game.
It’s a very simple game that benefits hugely from its great presentation and ultra-easy controls. There aren’t many one-thumb games out there, and Thief Lupin manages not to compromise its essential gameplay for the want of single finger gameplay.
You probably won’t find yourself still playing Thief Lupin in six months time, but it’s undeniably addictive (in that wonderfully frustrating iPhone way) when you first pick it up. If Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and Tiny Wings have finally outstayed their welcome, let Thief Lupin steal a bit of your time.