Thief Simulator review for Nintendo Switch, PC

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Developer: Forever Entertainment / Noble Muffins
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Thief Simulator feels like it should be different than most job simulators. After all, where many of them put you in the shoes of farmers, or bus drivers, or mechanics, Thief Simulator — as the title implies — promises to give you a taste of life on the other side of the law.

But, no, it turns out that just like most other job simulators, Thief Simulator seems to exist to show you about how the job is defined by constant repetition. There are no banks or casino heists here: this is all about small-scale break and enter, picking locks and climbing trellises to get into houses and then getting what you can, with a bit of vandalism along the way to mix things up.

I?ve simplified things a little, but this game is already pretty simple. You spend the game going between your home, a couple of neighbourhoods, and a pawn shop. At your home base, you sleep, pick up jobs, buy new tools, get tips on possible targets, and learn new skills. You pawn your stolen wares at the pawn shop. In the neighbourhoods, you?re sometimes assigned targets, but just as often, you?re left to our own devices to steal as much as you can while avoiding suspicion and the police.

While that probably sounds exciting on the surface, it makes for shallow, repetitive gameplay. The cops and civilians are pretty stupid, with AI that forgets you exist if you just duck into a closet, and fields of vision that make zero sense (case in point: the time I was able to hide from someone simply by crouching in front of them, even though I was holding a giant painting at the time). The jobs blend into each other quickly, with little to differentiate them. It all starts out kind of exciting, but after awhile, it feels more like a chore than anything else.

This feeling, however, may be more because the game?s controls and performance are terrible. In terms of the latter, there are all kinds of strange and annoying design decisions. Basic lockpicking, for example, is a pain, with lockpicks being incredibly fragile and there being nothing in the way of tactile feedback to tell you when you?re on the right track.Getting into your car is even worse, an onerous three-step process: first you have to choose to open the door, then you have to choose to sit down, then you have to choose to start the car. Even if that?s what you do in real life, it feels a lot more cumbersome than it should. And if you want to steal any larger items, be prepared for it to be an ordeal: you won?t be able to open doors or anything, so it?ll be a constant cycle of walking, putting it down, opening the door, and then picking it back up and continuing on. Like I said, it?s realistic, but it?s still a drag.

As bad as the intentional decisions are, though, the unintentional ones are much worse. Getting through doorframes and other openings can be a constant struggle, particularly if you happen to be holding a larger object. You have to hit it at just the right angle, or else you get stuck. Likewise, if you?re picking up smaller items, you need to have your onscreen cursor focused on it exactly, or else you won?t even register it. Objects like trees and buildings regularly pop in and out of existence, whether they?re on the horizon or right in front of you. Sometimes the game forgets you have an item on your person, like the time I walked out of a neighbourhood carrying a stolen TV, only for it to be gone when I showed up at the pawn shop.

And, of course, there are the load times — the endlessly long, drawn-out load times. Every time you go from one location to another, you have to sit through loading screens that drag on forever. I never timed them, but given that I was usually able to squeeze in language lessons on Duolingo while I waited, and those last at least a minute or two…well, you can see why the load times are an issue.

In other words, whatever fun there is to be found in Thief Simulator is buried beneath layers of nonsense and bad design. It?s not hard to imagine this being a fun game in the right hands, like a less bloody version of Hitman — but it?s painfully obvious that this game wasn?t made in the right hands.

Forever Entertainment provided us with a Thief Simulator Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C-