App of the Day: Beat Sneak Bandit
We've had points, ribbons, stars, and these days there's nothing quite like a sweet hat to reward someone's progress, but little else excites my senses like a good jingle. Think back on all those hidden rooms you've found in Zelda games - you probably enjoyed what you found inside, but I really hope you smiled the first time you heard the fanfare, because otherwise we can't be friends.
So if Beat Sneak Bandit is remembered for one thing, let it be its glorious reward sound. Every time you finish a level and the summary screen appears, Simigo's rhythmic platform puzzler wiggles its funky hips for a handful of beats before ending on a synth stab, and if it's possible to avoid joining in by bouncing your head from side to side then I haven't discovered how, which is a shame because I already look silly enough on public transport without dancing in my seat.
It's the sort of detail that can leave a decent game lodged in the memory, but Beat Sneak Bandit is much more than that. It's a classic game of single-screen obstacle courses, each set over four stories of a maniac's mansion, where the goal is to gather up clocks without being caught, but there's an inspired twist: you can only move in time to the beat of each level's infectious soundtrack.
The game that has grown out of this unlikely premise calls to mind one of Capcom's obscure GameCube releases, P.N.03, a stylish action game that placed you in urgent situations and asked you to fight through them with rhythm and poise rather than the usual brute force. Beat Sneak Bandit is like P.N.03 transplanted into Game & Watch era Donkey Kong - each time you tap the screen the bandit jumps forward into his next position, and hammering the glass won't make him go any faster no matter how dire the consequences of staying put.
For this reason Beat Sneak Bandit is also an excellent thievery game, because you really will need a well-laid plan. By themselves the security guard movements, search beam rotations, trap door timings and teleport sequences are simple patterns, but with movement rationed to the tempo of the music, manoeuvring successfully past them and gathering the scattered clocks on each level asks for patience and forethought.
The level design, frequently ingenious, soon incorporates catchy musical loops into puzzle solutions, so the only way you know the precise timing for a sequence of platforms or search beams is by waiting to hear it. You can finish each stage by heading straight for the clock with a ribbon tied to it, but there's a special satisfaction attached to collecting all four stop-clocks, and doing so also unlocks the bonus Shadow levels, where funky electronic pops and jives are swapped out for twinkling piano and dancing silhouettes.
There are many more wonderful details to enjoy - not least the machinations of the bandit's adversary, the evil Duke Clockface - but you deserve to experience them for yourself. Quick to get into but devilish in the detail, Beat Sneak Bandit makes all the right noises, and in what's already a strong year for mobile gaming, this is the best iPhone game I've played.
App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.