I'm really feeling it!
I'm really feeling it!

CoolMath Retrospective: Tiny Heist

Illustration for article titled CoolMath Retrospective: Tiny Heist
Screenshot: CoolMath Games

Okay, enough with those wimpy games for kiddies. It’s time for a real, manly game for manly men, from a manly man of a game developer, a developer so manly that you might actually recognize his name: Terry Cavanagh.

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You don’t know that name? Okay, do you know VVVVVV? No, don’t look at me like that, it’s a real name for a real video game. How about Super Hexagon? Well, those are other games by Cavanagh, and they’re good, so you should play them. But they cost money, so maybe play Tiny Heist first, because it’s a free browser game.

Anyway: Tiny Heist is a rather unusual game for a kids’ site: a stealth-based roguelike. Levels are largely randomly generated, with a few caveats (for example, level 1 is always fully visible, but other levels’ rooms are hidden until you enter them). There’s the usual slate of stealth mechanics—sneak up behind enemies to disable them, avoid visibility cones, use gadgets—but they’re presented without any tutorial beyond a blurb of text below the screen (and what kid reads those?). The game assumes that the player has a surface-level familiarity with older stealth games, and I don’t think that many kids these days play Thief or even Metal Gear Solid in between Fortnite sessions. 

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Illustration for article titled CoolMath Retrospective: Tiny Heist
Screenshot: Cool Math Games

But what’s here is very good! There are simple rules that are consistent and clearly defined (at least, if you bother to read the description). The visuals look like something from one of those old computers that didn’t even have a mouse or a graphical operating system, but that just means that the information that they convey is immediately clear. All in all, whenever I made a mistake, I felt it was my fault, and I wanted to try again.

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…for a while, at least. See, this is a roguelike, and I do not like roguelikes. I am honestly kinda terrible at most games, and being tested on my actual skill rather than my ability to memorize a level through trial and error is an experience that always catches me off guard. It doesn’t matter if it’s this simple game on CoolMath Games, or Binding of Isaac, or Crypt of the NecroDancer, I always play for like 30 minutes before inevitably accepting that I simply lack the skill to progress beyond the first five floors or so, and then put the game down.

Tiny Heist is no different, which makes me a fair bit bummed as I have a feeling that it might objectively be one of the best games on this site. But for now all I can do is gaze wistfully at that title screen as I ponder what fabulous mysteries might lie in wait, just out of reach.

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