Trilby: The Art of Theft

By: Terry

On: November 13th, 2007


I posted this over at indygamer blogspot a few days ago when I first came across it; at that stage I hadn’t played very much of it so there wasn’t a lot I could say about it. I’ve since finished it.

Before I say a thing about this game, I really must say something about its creator. Chances are most people reading this have already heard of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw; he’s created more polished, complete games than most people have walkabout demos, his Chzo Mythos quadrilogy made the fifty really good indie games feature here as an example of indie gaming’s finest, and of course, he’s the author of Zero Punctuation – The best thing ever to hit game reviewing, in my opinion. It’s clever, it’s original, and above all, it’s bloody funny. He reviews Peggle and compares Popcap to the evil team in an 80s sports movie, he rants irrelevantly about American foreign policy for half his Medal of Honour review, he gets his viewers to cripple themselves as punishment for not buying Psychonauts en masse – what a legend!

Although expectations are pretty high when a guy with that kinda track record releases a new game, I’m sure it’ll be no surprise for anyone here to learn that The Art of Theft doesn’t disappoint. It’s excellent.

The concept is great: two years before Five Days a Stranger, Trilby is an aspiring cat-burglar in Chapow City. The Art of Theft deals with the story of his daring heists and how he made his name. Although the writing’s excellent, the focus is on gameplay – it’s a stealth platformer (not a combination you see very often) which demands patience and impeccable timing to get ahead.

I should warn you that the game has some serious flaws though – the difficulty curve ramps up too fast, save points are too infrequent leading to frustrating repetition when you inevitably lose a mission and have to start again, and then there are a few little things: like cutting wires, which is an unwelcome game of chance in an otherwise entirely skill driven game.

But hey, I wouldn’t have written all this if I didn’t absolutely love it regardless! What we have here is one of the most original, well designed and addictive games released this year. Hardly a single room goes by that doesn’t show off some little moment of brilliant creativity; usually a well written note or nifty construct of some sort. It really is superb.

I was going to put this at the top, but it’s a bit spoilerish so I’ll put it here instead: Want to see the game in action? Here’s a video of me making the first level look easy:

You can download it here, on The Escapist.

  • Melly

    It’s official. Hats make everything awesomer.

  • rey-o

    awesome looking game and a cool game play clip. i like how the character has a nice snappy movement to him

  • Lurk

    The wires thing, they seem to stay the same if you restart the mission. It kind of make sense to have a reconnaissance try, to get a feel for a level, and then just go back to it to polish your score.

  • Lorne Whiting

    Erf. A link to the actual game might be in order :(.

  • Al

    Some people seem to feel that the story pales in comparison with Yahtzee’s previous works.

    Well, that fact doesn’t hurt the game, and how can you top the terror that is 5 Days a Stranger?

    I’m really enjoying this crime caper, but I agree that the difficulty scale ramps up quicker than is the norm. Just remember the good old days of impossible games and the difficulty is easier to swallow.

  • Dracko

    Zero Punctuation is original? It’s exactly the sort of Something Awful-lite garbage I’d expect from an Australian. It’s just fucking rants.

    And the story for this game is horrendously weak. Not that it’s the point: The gameplay is impressive and fairly addictive considering it’s on the AGS engine.

  • Lim-Dul

    Just for your information, Dracko, Ben is British…

  • Eudaimon

    Wow, looks like Yahtzee’s done some serious overhauling of his “1213” engine. This is still in AGS? I had no idea an AGS game could run so quickly and smoothly.

    And yeah, I think Zero Punctuation, while occasionally amusing, is still among the lesser of his achievements.

  • BeamSplashX

    Of course, the first game to get a “Stealth” newstag is a Yahtzee game. That old hound!

    Good to see that he’s making use of many aspects of Trilby’s character.

    P.S. TIGERSauce banner. Wow. I think this is the greatest achievement of my whole life. Now I just need to make sure I have a cool way to die when the time comes so my biography reads “after the TIGERSauce years, he impaled himself on an elephant’s ribcage while trying to uppercut it into space.


  • Rabspat

    You are much better than me at this game. I have enough trouble getting an A on most missions, the first one included. It’s a pretty rad game, though, even if it is on the difficult side.

  • ray

    I like his games but i don’t see what is so brilliant about his zero punctuation reviews, I’ve watched four of them and have not laughed once.
    Is it just because he talks fast and swears in a funny accent? nothing he says is genuinely clever or a funny observation.

    thats just my opinion though.

  • Radnom

    Hm, some of Ikiki’s games should be retro-tagged with Stealth.

    …speaking of which, what happened to going through and reviewing all the Ikiki games? :P

  • haowan

    Zero Punctuation is nice though. Pretty funny. I also like Egoraptor’s stuff.

  • Derek

    Unfortunately, that page that had all of Ikiki’s games is down. I should have grabbed ’em all while I had the chance. :'(

  • XiV

    I thought the story was kinda neat, despite it (as well as the gameplay) being uncannily similar to Thief: The Dark Project, minus the scary zombie bits of course. Of course, we can’t expect him to incorporate a deep, engaging supernatural mythos in the storyline, can we?

    ..Oh wait. Maybe that’s why he didn’t.

    That said, I love this game a whole lot – only complaint is the lack of some sort of level checkpoints.

  • rinkuhero

    That video is really great.

  • soilworker

    How many missions are there?
    I stuck on heist 6.

  • muted

    to be fair, if you think you suck watching that video of the first mission speed run, be aware that that person has a number of upgrades.

    great game and his reviews are funny as hell too

  • MisterX

    As already commented on the indygamer-article, I also like this game very much, although I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s _that_ brilliant. Yet, apart from all flaws you mentioned, it seems to be a nicely polished game in that art, sound and the gameplay itself all sum up to a sweet result.
    Now let’s see if I can make it past level 4 today. Still I’d like the difficulty to be “fixed”, at least for that level :s If that was given I also wouldn’t mind the wire-cutting to be mostly based on luck, as you never have to do it, so when you do, it’s risky.

    Oh and I got to say I also like Zero Punctuation pretty much, but I can also agree to much of the criticism against it. Still it’s a nice thing to watch and even if it oftentimes (unfortunately) doesn’t have the quality of “actual” reviews, it’s at least pretty funny :)

  • TFMurphy

    You’ll find the fourth level a lot easier if you make sure you have Roll and both Lockpicking skills bought by then – which is entirely possible if you’re thorough and willing to replay a few times to plan routes through the earlier heists. You can, in fact, complete the game with minimal difficulty with only Roll, both Lockpicks and perhaps Sidle. This gives you plenty of room for optional customisation. (But I’d really save for Into Shadow after buying all of the above)

    Also, while the wire cutting mechanic is a pain, it’s only luck on your first run: the wires never change, so future runs are a memory test instead.

  • MisterX

    This means the “Electrician” upgrade is absolutely useless? If so, then this rather seems to be a bug, I couldn’t believe the wires were ment to never change, like for example the codes do.

    Well, so far I got “Roll”, “Flit” and “Level 2 Locksmith”. Guess I’ll try to get some RPs from the previous levels, although I already got A on all. Probably missed out on some doors, though.

  • Terry

    The one ability that made a big difference for me was “more alarms”, especially for the last two missions. I also got the electronics ability, which makes cutting wires a bit less risky, but it appears to work by giving you a fifty fifty chance not to trigger an alarm even if you cut the wrong wire. As a result, it actually makes it impossible to take a note of the correct wires – so I didn’t realise that they stayed the same each game, heh.

  • duh

    i don’t know, i think if this was made by somebody else, it would not have gotten much attention at all. stopped playing in the 1st level. ;)

  • Lorne Whiting

    The first level? Man, that’s like a minute and a half of playing.

  • raelz

    what is the use of loot in this game?

  • BeamSplashX

    Pride swelling.

  • pkt-zer0

    Unfortunately, that page that had all of Ikiki’s games is down. I should have grabbed ‘em all while I had the chance. :’(

    You’re not ninja enough. Watch and learn, young grasshopper:

    Go grab ’em now while you have the chance!

  • Calanctus

    “nothing he says is genuinely clever or a funny observation.”

    Hooray for vague and extremely generic criticism that can’t be challenged or refuted.

    I mean, seriously guys, yeah opinions are subjective, but at least give us some kind of actual reason.

    Also, what, his accent isn’t funny at all. It’s just a pretty typical British accent.

  • FhnuZoag

    For those finding it hard, forgetfulness is your friend. Save up for it. (it’s about 3 missions’ worth of RP, even if you are crappy like me) And then, if ever you get in trouble, go do something else for a few minutes and when you come back, you’ll have a ton of alarm points.

    It kinda screws up your rating, but well…

  • makeshifter

    can anyone beat the level where you need to press z and x fast so that your not seems no matter what i do i always lose. HELP!!!!

  • raelz

    makeshifter: ahh.. I can’t really help you, just make sure you can roll, you don’t really need anything else to do it, just practice. I don’t get how to get trough the lasers at the start without having lvl3 picking or starting alarm, but thats the only alarm you have to start.

  • TFMurphy

    You only need Roll to avoid that first alarm. Check the console in the far right room – it turns off the horizontal lasers, leaving only the vertical ones to wall hug around.

  • Xander

    It’s a pretty sweet game, of course I’d rather have another adventure game staring Trilby, but this is still pretty sweet, only really lacking the narrative bite that the Chzo Mythos games had.

    Incidentally, I only just realised the Zero Punctuation Protagonist often wears a trilby. I R STUPID!

  • Neon

    You might want to update you’re 50 indie games list because Toribash is now free :D

  • Pnx

    My god I love stealth games, probably because I’m so good at them. I picked it up yesterday and I’ve already gotten a trilby on all 8 heists. I even did the eighth heist in the cream suit and… well the reward is beyond words.

    I just wish there was more in the game.

  • Daiz

    Awesome game, just finished it some time ago, now I’m focusing on getting a trilby on all heists, this far I’ve managed to get a trilby from the first three heists.

    Also, Terry, I’m better than you, I got a trilby in the first heist in time 1:30, with only roll and level 2 lockpick.

    And Pnx, nice. You obviously have some skills.

  • Terry

    Pfft. I wasn’t even trying that time. Let’s see you beat my other heists!

  • Daiz

    Okay, I’ve managed to get Trilby rank from every mission and unlocked everything. Now I’m probably going to start a new game and play through it with Lazy Sunday.

  • Terry

    If you get it, post your savefile! Couple of people on the forums are asking for it.

  • long

    does anyone have a problem where one of the keys gets locked up, for example the character keeps moving left without your control?