You Should Play: Rob your friends and protect your stash in King of Thieves

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These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.

Robin Hood was all about robbing the rich to give to the poor—a noble cause, obviously. But in King of Thieves, your goal is much more barbarous: Rob from your friends to give to yourself. King of Thieves is all about rising to the very top, which makes Robin Hood look like some middling prince (with apologies to Robin Hood, of course).

This cutesy but challenging platformer-puzzler hybrid from ZeptoLab (makers of the Cut the Rope franchise) tasks you with stealing gold and gems from more than 80 single-player dungeons and your fellow players. Want a platformer that’s going to keep you coming back again and again? Here are three reasons why this gem may be for you.

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Pick a dungeon, any dungeon. 

There’s no honor among thieves... and friends: Perhaps the most compelling part of King of Thieves is its social aspect. Not only can you steal from the game’s built-in single-player dungeons, you can also rob your fellow players, who have designed traps of their own.

The two main currencies of the game are gems and gold, and you’ll want to grab both. Gems help you initiate rituals at your vaguely Aztec-like home base, and these rituals are required to upgrade the traps you'll use to fend off other thieves. As you perform more these rituals, you can move into better, more elaborate dungeons that are harder to steal from. Gold buys you upgrades and other swag—like shields—to help keep your own stash safe. You can see your progress in relation to other thieves and even join guilds to team up and get better loot. 

Though it bothers some users, I enjoy knowing that my loot is never safe: It adds to the challenge. Setting up traps to protect your loot is exceptionally fun, but in order to use that trap against intruders, you have to navigate your own trap successfully twice in a row—ensuring that your puzzle is hard, but not impossible. No matter how good you are at dungeon strategy—and no matter how many upgrades you buy—thieving is just part of the game. That’s what makes it utter chaos on the leaderboards: Everyone is always grabbing each other’s loot.

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Besides breaking and entering, you'll also be building traps to protect your own gold.

Player-built dungeons and traps keep the game from getting stale: Getting loot starts out being a rather simple matter—just guide your twee little thief (who reminds me of the Ninji from Super Mario Bros 2) to a treasure chest. But your thief can only move in one direction, and turning around requires him to jump off of walls. That makes navigating a series of platforms a real challenge.

King of Thieves does a good job of getting you used to the game mechanic before ratcheting up the difficulty. However, the game jumps from easy to maddeningly hard very quickly, adding in roving monsters, spinning blades, and homing minions that are all out to ruin your day. (For such a kid-friendly game, I think I’ve said more adult words while playing it than I’m willing to admit.) If you fail a level too many times in a row, the game will knock out one of the defenses to make it easier (but with a catch—you won’t get as much gold). Still, this is by no means a game you can expect to just blow through.

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Another in-game currency is the lock pick, which you'll need in order to break into a dungeon.

The trick to the perfect heist is timing: Much of the game’s strategy revolves around timing: When do you jump? When do you hug a wall and wait for a baddie to pass? When should you even play? The rituals required to upgrade your gems take hours, emphasizing that the game wants you to come back, play for a few minutes, and then repeat—a typical freemium game strategy. Similarly, you’ll need yet another in-game currency—lock picks—to access dungeons. Lock picks can be procured over time through leveling up, watching a 15-second ad, or by using real-world currency.

This is nothing short of frustrating—players who like long play sessions will have to come back later as their currencies recharge or upgrades finish. You’ll have to honor this time commitment if you want to get ahead. At one point, I found that I had completed thirty single-player levels, but wasn’t doing enough rituals—my hideout was still pretty rudimentary, and other players were stealing from me left and right. (But, I will have my revenge. Sweet, sweet revenge.)

King of Thieves doesn’t make thieving easy. Your loot is never safe, and the single-player campaign is probably the least interesting aspect of the game. But the combination of ZeptoLab’s winning art design, the game’s challenging jumping mechanic, and its various social offerings make King of Thieves definitely worth trying out. Just don’t steal from me, or I’ll come for you.

Developer: ZeptoLab
Platform: iOS (Universal)
Price: Free

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