Another day, another retro-styled, multiplayer-focused indie title. This time around, we have Glass Knuckle's Thief Town, a multiplayer stealth action game set in, as the developers jokingly put it, "a pixel-perfect rendition of the Wild West". The tongue is firmly wedged in cheek, then, which is fine by us. A game of this size that focuses entirely on multiplayer almost requires a sense of humour, so it's good to see that the studio isn't taking itself too seriously.
The main gameplay loop here is brilliantly simple: you and up to three others must locate and stab each other in a single screen filled with identical NPCs, while avoiding being stabbed yourself by imitating the NPCs' behaviour. The last man standing in each sixty second round wins. This is the main mode, itself also entitled Thief Town. The other two modes are variations on this theme. Spy Town gives each player a randomised special item, such as a smoke screen or a decoy, to set up traps and trick the other players. Drunk Town promotes one player to Sheriff, gives them a pistol, and tasks them with shooting the other players, who are bumbling along with a crowd of intoxicated lookalikes.
The gameplay of Thief Town is surprisingly deep, and there is a real knack to walking around like an NPC. Of the three modes on offer, we found Drunk Town to be the most fun, as it strays further from the core idea more so than Spy Town. Highlighting one player as the sheriff while the others hide makes for some hilarious cat-and-mouse. Each mode is entertaining in its own right, though, and by default the game switches up the mode each round to add some variety.
You can change this in the brilliant little hub from which you start the game. When you begin Thief Town, you find yourself inside a saloon that serves as the main menu, with a bar that allows you to change the controls, a group of people on the far right standing in as the credits, and a pianist on the far left playing the soundtrack and acting as the music setting. Stab him to stop the music. Simple and funny.
Simplicity is a recurring theme in this little game. The graphics are chunky, colourful, and 8-bit – a style that we're seeing so much of these days that it's arguably not retro anymore. The controls won't be giving anyone any trouble, with movement on the d-pad or left stick and the 'Stab' and 'Item' commands on the face buttons. The concept itself is a simple one, and its hide-and-seek gameplay is something new to slot into your multiplayer play list.
Our only real gripe with the game is that it has no meat on its bones. Granted, it was made by only a few people, but we aren't sure whether there is enough variety in Thief Town to keep you and your chums coming back for more. Something else worth noting is that there's no online multiplayer; this is a couch multiplayer game through and through. Still, it is different, a fun distraction, and can create some hilarious moments. Sometimes, that's all you and your friends will need.
Thief Town is a great effort from Glass Knuckle Games, with fun, simple multiplayer that has more depth than you might think. If there was a little more to see and do, this would be much easier to recommend, but it will be a little too sparse for some. For others, though, this will be a great little title to put on when friends come over, and that feels like where Thief Town belongs.