The Heist: A Puzzle Packed Caper
There are a lot of great mobile puzzle games, but many of them tend to focus on one particular type of puzzle. It’s a fine approach, but sometimes you want a nice varied pack of things to pick at, similar to the kind of puzzle books you used to be able to buy at gas stations along the highway when your family took a road trip. Can’t solve a particular puzzle? Tired of a certain type? Move on to a different one and come back later!
That’s just one way that The Heist works its way into your heart. Playing the game now, many years after its initial launch, there’s also an unintended blast from the past packed in. The game frames its puzzles with a story about a daring safe-cracking caper. It’s an amusing way to give some context to the brain-teasers, to be sure. The story is told through conversations with your accomplices, who will contact you with their mobile phones.
When they do get in touch with you, the interface that pops up closely resembles that of iPhones of that time. In its era, it was a great bit of immersion that made you feel like you were really talking with the people on the other end. In the modern day, there’s a certain vintage feel to the interface that is oddly welcome.
Amusing as the story and its window dressing are, what The Heist always comes back to is its puzzles. To unlock the various locks and security systems of the vault in front of you, you’ll have to solve increasingly challenging puzzles that fall into four broad categories. They’ll all be somewhat familiar to anyone who has spent time solving traditional puzzles and riddles, but with fresh themes to match the story.
The first type of puzzle is about as classic as it gets. A square box has one small gap that you need to slide a piece through. You’ll have to slide around the pieces with very little room to spare in order to clear a path. A simple enough affair early on, but it soon becomes devilishly tricky. By the time you reach the last of this bunch, you’ll be pulling out your hair wishing you could just pick up the pieces and cheat. This type of puzzle is great to gnaw on little by little, picking it up and fussing with it until you have that moment of clarity that leads to success.
The next is a little more abstract at first. You’re placing stones on a grid, and it initially might not seem like there’s any rhyme or reason to which pieces you can place where. After a while, it will probably click that this is quite similar to Sudoku, that popular staple of puzzle books all over the world. The wide appeal of Sudoku isn’t unearned. It’s easy enough to learn how these puzzles work, but they’re just challenging enough to keep you engaged while you’re looking to kill a few idle minutes.
While the previous two types have strong roots outside of video games, the third has been part of the hobby almost since puzzle video games were created. You control a drone that pushes around batteries inside of differently-shaped rooms, looking to slot them into place. You can only push the batteries, so if you get them stuck against a wall, you’re out of luck. Call it Boxxle, Crate Push, or Sokoban, these puzzles are always a lot of fun because of how much variety can be introduced just by changing the shape of the level.
Rounding out the selection is a variant on another ancient form of entertainment. You need to connect all of the different-colored wires by sliding tiles around on a board. You can only move a tile if the adjacent space is open, so you really have to think hard about the order you’ve got all of your pieces in before coming to an ultimate solution. This kind of puzzle gets incredibly difficult as the size scales up, ensuring that even veteran solvers will find something to test their wits.
What makes The Heist work so well is that you aren’t forced to solve any particular puzzle at any given time. You only need to generate the electricity to open the next step, and you can do that by solving any of the puzzles open to you at the time. This lets you pick and choose where you want to focus your attention, bouncing off of puzzles you just aren’t in the mood to deal with while still making progress. It functions just the way a good book of brain-teasers should. The story and set dressing help give these disparate stumpers a unified front, tying the whole experience together in an entertaining, slightly nostalgic blend.