How to Make Bank Without Really Trying
There comes a time in every person’s life in which they decide to reinvent themselves. In the case of the eponymous Picklock, that means abandoning honest work for larceny. What else could it possibly mean? It’s literally right there in his name. Fortunately for us, McGruff the Crime Dog neglected to tell us that larceny is pretty awesome.
Obviously, the goal in Picklock is to steal anything you can get your hands on—including toilet paper rolls (those are his trophies, you see). This is accomplished by picking locks, breaking into safes, hacking security systems, and just generally being sneaky. Your foes include security guards, police officers, everyday people, and a motorcycle gang. And why not? If someone isn’t trying to knock your teeth out with a lead pipe, then what’s even the point?
In addition to his tools, Picklock also commands a drone. With the simple press of a button, the drone can tell you what objects to steal, show you a security camera’s field of vision, and most importantly, map out the movement patterns of every person in the area. The drone is an essential part of strategizing your robbery, although, if you really want a challenge, you could choose to forgo it completely. In addition to movement patterns, the drone also indicates how long a person stays in a spot when they stop moving. This information is especially useful when you’re trying to break into a safe and a bunch of people keep cycling in and out of the room. It’s not like they’re going to make it easy on you.
Even though Picklock is a straightforward game, it’s incredibly rewarding to successfully complete a heist. It requires patience, planning, and, sometimes, throwing caution to the wind. Picklock is just an everyday guy, though, and when he’s spotted by someone, he only has about a second to hide before said person knocks him out and you’re forced to restart. The risk and reward dynamic successfully kept me coming back for more, even if I made stupid mistakes while floundering about.
The general flow of the game involves breaking into a building, understanding the movement patterns of the inhabitants, turning off security cameras and alarms, stealing items in plain sight, breaking into safes, and successfully getting back to your car with no one the wiser. You have to be careful when you’re pickling locks and opening safes because if anyone happens to see evidence of your thievery, they’ll call the cops. The cops usually park next to your car and then patrol around the building looking for you. In some levels, triggering the cops just about means game over because sneaking around them to get to your car is almost impossible. I successfully pulled it off once.
Security to the Front Door, Please…
As the game progresses, Picklock is able to hide in wardrobes and storage cabinets. He can also, in two specific situations, add a laxative to someone’s drink and jump out of a dilapidated building onto a mattress. I enjoyed these outliers and found it a little disappointing that more actions such as those didn’t make it into the game. Picklock might be just an average guy, but I believe he could have done more to get the upper hand.
I enjoyed the juxtaposition of Picklock’s unassuming blocky world and the act of ruining other people’s lives. It certainly makes it feel less sinister than it actually is. The game doesn’t take itself seriously, which is a smart match for its criminal gameplay. It’s not one of those Ocean’s-style movies, after all, and it has no pretensions of being such. On the sound side of things, Picklock’s jazzy soundtrack is a highlight of its presentation. It’s got a snazzy 1940s feel to it, and it perfectly complements thievery. It’s enjoyable to hear, even if you’re just waiting around for the perfect opportunity.
As a whole, though, the game is a bit too straightforward. The game doesn’t evolve much, and there just aren’t that many options available to you. I wouldn’t say there’s only one solution to every level, but there definitely aren’t that many. After you successfully steal everything in a level, there’s no reason to go back again either.
Friends in Low Places
Picklock’s mechanics and design are solid, if not a bit simple, but there are a few quirks that tempered my enthusiasm for stealing people’s hard-earned cash and belongings. You don’t have direct control of Picklock; he’s guided by a pointer. I frequently found myself getting stuck on objects in the environment or struggling to interact with something because I had him a few pixels (maybe voxels) off from where he needed to be. This becomes less of an issue the more you play, but I found it frustrating at the start.
Picklock also moves at the same speed regardless of how far you tilt the control stick, and that speed is pretty slow. I get that he’s sneaking around, so of course he walks slowly, but it would have been nice to have had an option to put a little fuel on the fire, so to speak. His walking speed also means that you’ll never outrun anyone. You might be able to hide if they see you, and it’s a narrow window, but running away is never an option.
Any interaction with an object also needs to be completed before you try to do anything else; otherwise, you’ll interrupt that action, and he won’t complete it. This is especially frustrating when you’re trying to quickly open a door and, in your haste to get through it, you move. I frequently found myself getting punched right outside doors that I thought I had opened but actually didn’t. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword because you can stop what you’re doing at any second if you need to run (well, walk) away, but you also have to be aware of how long it takes for an animation to complete.
Now You See Me…Oops.
Camera angles can also be a problem. The overhead point of view seemed to work the best for me, but your view of the environment is limited. All of the walls are opaque, and Picklock doesn’t have an outline around him when he’s obscured by the environment. The drone highlights all the objects with which you can interact, but in multi-story buildings or buildings with a ton of rooms, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the exact location of these objects.
As Picklock amasses a small fortune off of others’ misfortunate, he’s able to upgrade his house, buy a new car, and eventually purchase real estate in tropical locales. It’s nice that we’re able to help him achieve his dreams, but perhaps the money could have been better spent on thievery tools or skills. You won’t miss anything if you don’t bother to buy anything; well, aside from some blocky dancers who seem to enjoy the ne’er-do-well’s company.
Picklock’s journey ends after thirteen levels, which is unfortunate because I enjoyed my time with him. He might not have…stolen…my heart, but he did keep me busy for a few fun hours. If you enjoy strategy or heist games, or amorality, then Picklock is certainly worth your time.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Switch (reviewed), Steam; Publisher: Deqaf Studio; Developer: Deqaf Studio; Players: 1; Released: November 26, 2020; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $7.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.