The Swindle ReviewPrice: £11.99
Developer: Size Five Games
Publisher: Size Five Games
PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS3, Vita
Gertrude Christmas is the finest footpad to fleece London yet. The Thorn of New Belgravia has pulled off three successful heists in a row, and during her most recent spot of burglary stuffed £20,000 into her bulging swag bag. Her next gig looks like easy money too; an affluent bungalow with relatively modest security, it houses a pair of computers ripe with riches mere feet from the front door.
Gertrude takes the direct approach, hacking the entrance's electronic lock and nimbly hopping onto the roof as a patrolling guard-bot rushes stupidly out of the open door. At present the guard-bot is no threat, but it could cause problems when it comes to escaping so Gertrude opts to dispatch it now. She waits until the bot's patrol takes it directly underneath her, and swoops down to thwack it over the head with her cudgel. But she fudges the timing by a sliver of a second, and instead it's the bot who does the thwacking. Gertrude Christmas blacks out to the wail of police sirens, and her illustrious career ends on a nothing heist because of a stupid miscalculation.
I hate the Swindle. I mean, I love it, but I also hate it. When a thief like Gertrude Christmas dies in a cloud of stolen greenbacks because of the tiniest mistake, I wish my keyboard had a neck so I could throttle the blasted thing. Yet for all my failure-induced tantrums, for all the horrible things I've said about Size Five's game, I can't stop myself going back to it, because I know that ultimately it's my fault that The Swindle treats me so. I just want it to be nice to me, and perhaps I was a little more careful, a little less greedy, it might let me in.
You might be thinking now would be a good time for me to call a therapist, but it isn't surprising that the Swindle makes me feel this way. Size Five's steampunk crime saga is a game that smacks you in the face, picks you up, dusts you off, and then starts winding up again until you finally learn to step aside. It's a little bit Thief, a little bit Spelunky, and a little bit Victorian schoolmaster. It knows that you are a Right Scamp, and if it catches you transgressing, thou shalt surely be punished.
The Swindle doesn't hesitate in handing you your ski mask. Its premise gives you 100 days to steal a new security measure developed by Scotland Yard, which once activated will put your tacit economy-rebalancing enterprise out of business for good. But swiping the so-called Devil's Basilisk is harder than a granite honey badger, so to achieve it you need to build up your funds and upgrade your equipment through a number of lesser larcenies.
Every heist in the game is procedurally generated, meaning you can never fully predict what the layout of your target will be like, or how the security will be arranged. Yet what's always certain is that a single error will result in alarms blaring and shutters descending, giving you a minute or so to escape before the police arrive in force. Worst case scenario; that slip-up will cost your burglar his life and all the funds you have acquired on that particular heist so far.