“Never trust a big butt and a smile.” – Urban philosophers Bell Biv Devoe
I’ve been excited to play Third Eye Crime since it was first announced. The developers at Moonshot Games are all industry veterans who cut their teeth at Bungie working on the Halo franchise. With a team this experienced, I knew I had to give this game a try. What pushed me over the edge was the fact that I’m a sucker for a good noir detective story, and this game scratched an itch that L.A. Noire had only come close to doing.
Third Eye Crime follows the story of Rothko, a criminal moonlighting as a private detective, who can use his telepathy to predict where enemies will go and confuse them in an attempt to get to the end of a level with as many jewels as you can. Like most other noir stories, a femme fatale ropes you into a increasingly muddied situation that you can’t get out of.
Every location has multiple areas to sneak through followed by a short, Max Payne-esque “cutscene” that is reminiscent of a comic book that you swipe through. The intermission cutscenes are filled with shades of black and red with gorgeous splashes of white and green. Though you can tell that the intermissions are made up of multiple screens, the way they are set up makes it look like one giant, moving panoramic picture.
Rothko’s bag of tricks include a speed boost, a time-delayed noise maker, and a controllable duplicate among others. These powers must be activated by picking up one-time use token that may or may not be spread about the level. Traversing the maze-like environments is as easy as tracing your finger along the screen; this leaves a whitish trail that Rothko follows. As you plan out and sneak through levels, you have to make decisions as to how many jewels to go after before making a dash for the exit. You could go after all, some, or none of them but what self-respecting crook doesn’t take everything that isn’t nailed down? Each level is easy to play through in under :45 seconds, so being caught or dying doesn’t really hold up the flow of the game. You even get the option of skipping levels that you fail repeatedly and coming back to them at a later time.
Activating your abilities, adjusting the zoom of the camera, restarting the level are all activated by simply button presses on the screen. Each level has three achievements that you can try to earn and you’ll find yourself playing through levels multiple times to try to get all three. Working against you are a myriad of enemy types that get harder to outsmart as the game goes on. At first, you find yourself easily outfoxing simple thugs, but as you get further in the game, you find yourself sweating encounters with Tommy gun wielders, cameras, lieutenants who are smarter and faster than regular thugs, snipers, and more.
The top-down view of the game helps players get a feel for the entire map and plan their moves accordingly. Rothko’s telepathy also shows enemies’ field of vision with a blue cone and where they will look for you with a red streak across the ground. Rothko’s white hat and trenchcoat are very distinct against the darkened hallways you traverse in your quest to take everything of value. Motion detectors are a distinct solid red and crossing them sends out red soundwaves that draw all enemies to its location. The entire game feels like it was pulled together to elicit an internal response in the player from the visuals alone.
Speaking of soundwaves, where the game really shines is with its jazzy soundtrack that you should make a point of listening to. I’ve found myself opening up the game to just listen to the music that plays in the menu for 10-15 minutes at a time. Every step, distraction, and gunshot sounds extremely crisp and clear. I’ve played full console retail games with music that wasn’t as good as in Third Eye Crime. I highly recommend playing this game with headphones on for the full immersive experience.
For as much as Third Eye Crime does right, there are a few missteps along the way. The touch screen controls can be a bit finicky at times. Your duplicate can be independently controlled but you have to select him first, which led to many times where I accidentally walked into a trap instead of having my duplicate draw enemies’ attentions. Pressing any one of the buttons can sometimes be a hassle as well. They were designed to be small to not block any of the action, but this also prevents someone with anything more than the slimmest of fingers from feeling like they are in full control of Rothko 100% of the time.
I think the aspect that will turn most people off is how you have to purchase Acts 2 and 3 separately, and you don’t get a discount for buying the full game all at once. The individual acts should either be cheaper, or the entire game should be. It’s a strange decision from Moonshot Games, and one that I think will hurt them in the long run.
If Moonshot Games were to somehow release this game on PC and consoles, I have no doubt they would be the next indie hit. Great music, (mostly) tight controls, and and an interesting premise all make this game one of my must-plays for this summer. Now if you’ll excuse me there’s a particularly appealing painting surrounded by Tommy guns that I have to go steal.
[+Looks gorgeous] [+Sounds even better] [+Good amount of replay value] [+Hard to put down once you get the hang of it] [-Touch controls can be finicky][-Price]