Crookz is an isometric heist-strategy game in which you control a groovy team of groovy crooks, who are so groovy that they groove almost constantly. Standing near a locked door waiting for a new command? Let’s groove. Hiding behind a bookshelf? It’s more than appropriate that we should be grooving at this juncture. Just crawled out of a ventilation shaft like a big mucky snake? Yeah, I think I can squeeze in a quick bit of grooving before we continue with the heist, safe in the knowledge that soon we will be grooving yet again.
It’s the ’70s, groove is in the heart, and there are loots to be looted.
In Crookz, a game so groovy that its ‘s’ transmogrified into a ‘z’, you control the individual movements of a team of criminals, each with their own unique abilities and attributes. There’s the hippy man who can unlock doors, there’s the afro woman who can sprint, there’s the contortionist, the technician and the bruiser, who can contort, technish and bruise with impunity. By combining their abilities, setting waypoints, and triggering their movements at the correct times, you can co-ordinate a successful looting of the current level, swiping the objective before making your way to the exit.
There’s a lot of pausing, planning, waypointing and strategy involved here, and while Crookz isn’t turn-based, it controls like the old Rainbow Six planning phase by allowing you to freeze the action at any time. You can survey the situation and queue up an entire series of commands to be carried out in order, or you can play in real-time, ordering your criminals around the level by right clicking on the bits of floor you want them to run to.
Navigating the maps is typically a matter of unlocking doors and triggering switches in the correct order. Door controls are often situated in unlikely locations, requiring that you send one of your thieves to one area of the map in order to flick a switch that allows another thief to progress. Security cameras need to be disabled in the similar fashion, and as the game progresses and heists become more challenging, timer switches pressure you to more carefully plan your actions in tandem. With enough skill and forethought, you can queue up entire stages of your heist while paused, before hitting play and watching your plans play out in real-time.
Each mission begins with an overview of the level, which is fully cased from the outset, allowing you to decide which thieves to bring into play and how to outfit them. While each character has their own set of abilities, you can drop items into their inventories to allow for single-use skills: for example, while afro woman doesn’t have the ability to pick locks, you can chuck her a crowbar before the heist begins, meaning she can brute force her way through a single locked door. These items cost money, and money is earned through successful heists, as well as by picking up optional loot around the level.
As you progress, your team of groovy heisters will earn new skills, making them sneakier and groovier than ever before. The buildings you’re breaking into start to become a little more open-ended too, allowing for a number of different routes through the level, and generally letting you be a bit more creative with your plans. It’s only at these later stages, and when pushing yourself to clean up every last scrap of loot on the map, that Crookz starts to become a satisfying challenge. Guards become cleverer. Door switches become maddening rat-maze puzzles. And you’re increasingly tested on your ability to co-ordinate your thieves with wait commands, clever positioning and hair-trigger timing.
Crookz is an interesting heist sim. It’s not terribly well written or voiced, but the disco-theme is pleasant enough a setting to play in. They’ve gone the family friendly route here, by the way, making a deliberate design decision to not have all of the criminals constantly spun out on quaaludes like in The Wolf of Wall Street. Yes, the drug was popular at the time, but I’m going to come out and say that I think that was the correct choice not to include them here in Crookz.
Controversially, I think not having all of your thieves writhing around on the floor in half-conscious euphoria was definitely the way to go for this title. I’m sorry but that’s just how I feel about it.