Sawbuck Gamer

Beat Sneak Bandit

Stealing Time

Beat Sneak Bandit has a good beat, and you can dance to it; Clockwork brings an Ikea touch to puzzle games.

By Noah Cruickshank • April 17, 2012

You can play some iPhone games out of the corner of your eye, only paying half attention. Beat Sneak Bandit is not one of those games. The goal is to guide the titular hero through a daring heist. You move your dapper larcenist along by tapping the screen in time to the acid jazz soundtrack. Hit the wrong beat, and the bandit is immobilized, making him easy prey for sluggish guards or security cameras. The only way for Bandit to be beatable—and fun—is with earphones in and the volume turned up.

When the notorious Duke Clockface steals all the clocks in the world, the Bandit breaks into his mansion to get them back. Each level consists of a different set of rooms with clocks in various places. Walls, trapdoors, and staircases separate the rooms, and the environment moves in relationship to the score. The Bandit can only move one step forward at a time, so figuring out the right set of moves to nab all the clocks takes some effort. The puzzles aren’t too difficult, though, and if you get stuck, there’s an option to move on (there are also bonus levels for players who want more of a challenge). 

A game like this is only as good as its music, and Beat Sneak Bandit’s soundtrack is extremely catchy. Players might want to dance along if they weren’t so intent on tapping the screen at the right moment. The art style looks like something out of Sly Cooper, with portraits and suits of armor in the periphery moving along to the beat. The overall effect is a winsome game that’s as pleasing on the ear as it is to the eye.


Imagine a puzzle game designed by a Swedish furniture company, and you’d get Clockwork. Each level places a small glowing gear in the middle of a set of shapes, all of which can be moved along particular paths. The trick is to create an opening for the gear so it can escape. The beauty of the game is how little it needs to create puzzles that are both visually elegant and difficult to solve.

Clockwork’s toolset is austere. It uses mechanisms made only of rectangles and curved pieces to cage in the gear, but these two shapes are enough to create a variety of ingenious traps. By rotating the curves and sliding the rectangles—often making them work against each other, jamming up the works—you clear a path through which the gear can blast out of its timekeeping prison. Many levels look similar to each other, but one added shape at a critical point in the mechanism can completely change the steps needed to complete the puzzle. 

It’s easy to talk about a game’s design without ever mentioning its visual effect, aside from how “real” something looks. Clockwork shows why players should pay attention to design. The movement of the puzzles is hypnotic, turning each level into more than just a problem to be solved, but an experience to draw you in. Clockwork’s ability to enchant is a perfect reminder of how an internet program that’s visually simple can have just as strong an effect as a highly detailed console game.

Share this with your friends and enemies

Write a scintillating comment

1,295 Responses to “Stealing Time”

  1. LimeadeYouth says:

    I definitely loved Clockwork fur its sheer beauty and mechanic design, HOWEVER:

    I really wish the levels had been designed better with regard to their difficulty. In most cases the levels were very straight forward and it was a case of “how do I get piece X to position Y?” rather than “Where does piece X go?”

    • Noah_Cruickshank says:

      ┬áThere wasn’t a lot of depth to each level of difficulty, which was the major fault I found with it. I suspect if Mr. Beud decides to make a sequel, he’ll address your issue.

      • LimeadeYouth says:

        Mr. Beud has an internet site out there with his work. There are some other games he’s made, but you get the sense his interests aren’t in the games themselves but rather a polished presentation (He’s done stuff for MTV). That’s certainly great in its own right, but unless he teams with a more theoretical game designer I don’t think that sequel will ever happen.