Sometimes a game comes along that just makes you want to start talking in a strange accent. From Wakka in Final Fantasy X to the Merchant in Resident Evil 4, it’s a pretty common thing to find yourself copying those distinctive voices. Well, you’d better be prepared to talk like a cockney (kind of) because Antihero has more cockney accents than the entire cast of Sweeney Todd.
Antihero comes to us from Tim Conkling, an indie developer whose previous developer credits include things like the Doctor Who MMO ‘Worlds in Time’ and the online flash game ‘Corpse Craft’. The latter of these two games is interesting because it shares a lot of stylistic similarities with Antihero.
The story of Antihero follows the adventures (or misadventures) of Lightfinger, a master thief in ‘Olde London Town’ as he tries to set up a new thieves guild to take control of London’s seedy underbelly. Along the way, you must contend with rival thieves, gangs and your own hilarious ineptitude to become the best master thief in London.
Gameplay-wise, Antihero is a puzzle/strategy game. Each turn you have a certain number of moves with your main character and must earn victory points to ‘out thief’ your enemies. Each level of the game is a grid which represents a different area of the city, and you must try to get control of it before your opponent can.
There are several ways in which you can earn victory points; you can pay for a bribe, you can infiltrate a church with three urchins or you can perform different assassination contracts throughout the area. The game has a turn-based structure, so you and your opponent both act independently of each other and must react to what the other has done on your own turn.
The game is extremely unforgiving at times. The tutorial holds your hands through the first level or so, but from that time onwards you are on your own, and without a firm grasp on all of the game’s mechanics, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. It does give you the feeling of being literally dropped into the deep end, and it’s easy to tell that there isn’t much of a difficulty curve, it’s more of a difficulty cliff face.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re into strategy puzzle games and feel like most of them have lost their bite, then this games is 100% perfect for you. Once you’ve mastered the mechanics of it, you will find a world of depth hiding beneath the surface of what looks like a shallow game at first glance. On top of that, for those of you who don’t enjoy the challenge too much, you have the option of playing on an easier difficulty setting.
Other than earning money from burgling different houses, you also get money and lanterns (upgrade points) on each turn based on how many certain businesses you control. Amassing wealth and upgrade points is a big part of the game as you can spend the upgrade points on both actual upgrades, as well as buying yourself victory points.
The money is used to buy new units which have a variety of applications. The urchins are used to infiltrate businesses and are one of the main ways of securing more money and upgrades. The gangs are used to fight enemies or evict urchins from enemy-controlled buildings. Thugs can be used to either block up certain paths around the city or can be used to reinforce the health of your gangs. Saboteurs protect your businesses from being attacked, truant officers can evict all urchins from one business, and finally, the assassin is a one off unit that does a high amount of damage before disappearing.
The game’s story mode isn’t the longest thing ever created, and you can probably clear it in a few hours at most. However, thanks to the depth of the gameplay, there’s plenty to keep you playing. There are always the different difficulty settings to play through, which award you a different number of stars based on which difficulty you completed the level in. Then of course, there are also online modes so you can test yourself against other players to see if your thief skills are up to snuff.
There’s also a skirmish mode, basically the equivalent to an exhibition mode. You can choose one of several different characters to play as and can choose different rules like the number of victory poitns needed and how many lanterns or gold each player starts with. Interestingly, this skirmish mode also includes a couch co-op ‘hot-seat’ mode. For those who don’t know, a hot-seat mode means that players take turns using the same controller, or in this case, the mouse and keyboard.
Seeing a local two player mode in a PC release is a nice touch. Most games won’t include this feature unless they are completely designed around it. The inclusion of the option in a game that has a strong single-player and online presence is a pleasant surprise at the very least. Honestly, the multiplayer and local co-op modes are the most fun parts about the game. The ability to tailor a game to suit what you or your friends might want from the game makes it infinitely enjoyable to challenge your closest mates to a battle of the thieves.
Visually, the game is very similar in many ways to Corpse Craft. Everything is presented in handdrawn 2D graphics, lovingly crafted in a cartoon style. Everything fits within that aesthetic as well, there is no single object or character that feels like it doesn’t belong in this world. The characters and units are distinctive enough to tell players what type of unit they are and which player they belong to with only a moment’s glance, and although the storyline of the game was presented very briefly, it has a sense of cartoonish whimsy that the graphical style reinforces.
The music also suits this whimsical style. There are a lot of high notes and string instruments used to present a sense of playfulness, and layered just underneath that in a suitably subtle manner there is a bit of a drum beat to the soundtrack. It almost feels as if the visuals were turned directly into music just so they would perfectly fit the game.
Developer: Tim Conkling
Publisher: Versus Evil
Release Date: 10th July 2017