Never Stop Sneakin’ (Switch) Review – For the Simple Gamer
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Developer: Humble Hearts
Publisher: Humble Hearts
Release: 14th December 2017 (NA)
Dust: An Elysian Tale was a great 2D game, accompanied by beautiful art, now, three years after its initial release nearly one man developer () finally releases his next game, a stealth homage to Metal Gear Solid … that was unexpected. While it may not be the most obvious follow-up, Never Stop Sneakin’ can mostly still live up to the huge expectations at least I had for it.
Never Stop Sneakin’ is a game about an evil postal guy who became president of the United States for 37 minutes and now built a time machine to not only kidnap all presidents of the entire history but to retake his rightful place. However a group of pixellated anime agents and their boss, who´s able to jump out of a flying plane without needing a parachute by the way, try to build their own time machine, in order to save the world.
It´s an extremely crazy plot mixed with a ridiculous presentation, to create a giant mix of stupidity. From the german sounding villain, to the names themselves, Never Stop Sneakin’ is so full of seriously funny things and able to deliver its jokes in a genius way. Relying on its Metal Gear Solid like presentation, delivery and expectations, it constantly blows out every bit of realism out window to concentrate on its silliness, basically laughing about itself. In contrast to many other parody games or plots though, it never sacrifices its gameplay to deliver one unfunny joke, rather delivering a story so enjoyable, that I prefer it over most overly serious plots of other stealth games. Who doesn´t love fighting captain helicopter?!
Yet where Never Stop Sneakin’ really innovates the genre is the gameplay, offering a 2D stealth experience completely controlled with only one joy-stick. Every action like stealth kills, shooting someone who saw you, throwing a smoke grenade, are done with only this one joy-stick. You sneak behind a guard? The game automatically kills it for you without having to worry about damage, hitting or anything else. Additionally the field of view for every person or enemy is always visible. As a result it´s a stealth game stripped down to its very core, simplified to appeal to people never able to enjoy this genre due to its complex systems. Being able to run through a level, only having to worry about not stepping into their sight, while every action is performed automatically creates a surprisingly fluid gameplay.
Instead of waiting behind corners for minutes, the game encourages you to actually act fast by implementing a combo counter, rewarding more money the faster the guards are killed. Never Stop Sneakin’ almost doesn´t feel like a stealth game but like a dance between enemies, cameras and robots, while hacking dozens of computers for money or additional multiplicators on the way. Even if someone caught sight of us, the game automatically shoots them or throws a smoke grenade, if there´s enough supply, to prevent a detection, adding one more layer of forgiveness to the mix. Since the levels are randomly generated every time the agent dies they´re constructed anew, learning movement patterns or placement becomes awfully useless, encouraging a more reckless approach in every mechanic.
Unfortunately said simplification of practically everything may be its biggest strength but also weakness. Due to the fact a single joy-stick is in charge of every action, there are only a very limited amount of available options and the game can´t expands itself beyond automatic sneak kills or grenades. In short, the gameplay never changes, adds new things or becomes more complicated, it stays the same throughout the game. After playing Never Stop Sneakin’ for 1-2 hours in a row, it just felt repetitive and I often stopped before returning the next day to repeat the experience. No matter if I played it 1 or 30 hours, I always did the same thing. In combination with the limited amount of biomes, lacking any kind of truly unique system, which quickly repeat themselves as well, the lack of variety is evident at every corner. The progression, which consists of building more and more buildings for their base, never seems important too, because no item in this base serves a purpose other than simulating progression.
Nonetheless, as redundant the environments may be in terms of gameplay, the beautifully weird they look, like the whole game. Copying the graphics from old Meat Gear Solid´s or early 2.5D games in general with the pixellated, low poly 3D models set in an isometric view, still looks pretty damn great and unique, once used to the style. The cutscenes in particular profit from this look, delivering a mix of jokes in an overly serious presentation. In the gameplay areas it´s just as great though, able to visualize levels and enemies with similar to its idols. Never Stop Sneakin’ may look bizarre to some but ultimately is a beautiful game.
Never Stop Sneakin’ is probably the only game able to break down a complex genre such as stealth games into its very core, simplifying everything, while maintaining the original spirit. Combined with the smart, great working humour, unique graphics and amazing soundtrack, it´s a game able to make a niché genre accessible for pretty much everyone. If only it would actually expand its gameplay or slowly introduce more mechanics or objectives, I wouldn´t have found myself bored of the ever same experience after a few hours in a row. It may not be a game to play for hours without end but nonetheless, Never Stop Sneakin’ is a fantastic little stealth game.
[A Review Code was provided by Humble Hearts]