Screenshot: Never Stop Sneakin’/Humble Hearts

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Never Stop Sneakin’

Back when the Nintendo Switch was just hitting shelves and people were still wondering whether this weird, possibly half-baked little gadget would actually succeed, I spent a portion of my review talking about what I thought was the real key to it becoming a worthwhile purchase: support from independent developers. It was clear major studios wouldn’t be joining Nintendo on this venture—at least not until the console could prove its worth—but the company was talking a big game about signing up smaller games to flesh out its lineup, and after a few months of steadily drip-feeding us indie releases, it became pretty clear that it was more than just talk. Independent developers are flocking to the system and seeing great results. By December, so many games were launching on the thing that I’m already starting to fear it’s hitting an oversaturation point, where a lack of strict curation leads to worthy releases getting buried and ignored. Hopefully, that’s not yet the case, but I am a little worried.

The one game from that December flood I’ve been playing a lot of is Never Stop Sneakin’. It comes from Humble Hearts, the one-man studio behind the hand-drawn stunner Dust: An Elysian Tail, but it couldn’t be more different from the developer’s debut. It’s an unsubtle spoof of Metal Gear Solid, aping the game’s bombastic attitude and even the blocky, blurry polygonal look of the original. But beyond the goofy comedy, which quickly loses its charms, lies a cleverly minimalist take on stealth. You only ever control the game with a movement input, whether from an analog stick or your finger on the Switch’s touchscreen. Attacking guards and turrets is done automatically, assuming you’ve sneaked up to them without crossing into their line of sight, which is always represented with an easily readable view cone or trip laser. If you do get caught, the ensuing scrum gets resolved instantly as long as you have the resources—bullets to silently drop soldiers or EMP grenades to fry cameras and sentry guns. That alone is such an elegant solution to stealth games’ most infuriating parts.

All that simplicity pushes you to tactfully blaze through each level as quickly as possible, building up a combo meter with each kill that nets you more rewards the higher it climbs. When you’re really in the thick of it, your eyes dart across the screen as you read the patterns of nearby enemies, searching for the next easily targeted prey to keep your chain afloat. For such an uncomplicated game, it can get surprisingly thrilling. Its biggest problem, though, is longevity. Each run you take is built on the fly from recognizable templates, and you start to open up new backgrounds and longer runs as you earn more points and work through the nominal story. Without much variation along the way, especially when it comes to the handful of bosses you fight over and over again, the simplicity that makes the game such a joy to play in small bursts starts to wear on you. But even after several hours of sneakin’, it still makes for a fun snack-sized distraction any time I feel like pulling my Switch out of its dock.