In Beat Sneak Bandit for iPhone, touching the screen anywhere in time with the rhythm navigates a sly thief through a mansion equipped with all manner of surveillance, trap doors, and winding staircases. It's the same principle but a decidedly different feel than plowing through notes of a song as you might in Tap Tap Revolution or Rock Band. Every stage has a single primary objective which you have to reach without getting caught. If you can swing it, there are four secondary items to steal as well. The problem is, if you don't move in rhythm with the level's music, one of those objectives on your current floor will self-destruct. If you collect enough of them, though, you'll unlock some bonus stages in each of the game's chapters.
Beat Sneak Bandit is a universal app, so you can on iPhone and iPod touch, as well as iPhone. So what exactly are you stealing? Clocks, from a ne'er-do-well millionnaire called Duke Clockface, who is trying to build a time-freezing machine. Levels include intercoms where you can get hints from your partner-in-crime, Herbie the frog, or be taunted by the Duke himself. As you can tell, the visual style is very distinctive, and the animation is no let-down either. Everything moves in time with the music, even small details in the level background. By the end of a chapter, you tend to be pretty tired of the same tune, but luckily, the bonus stages have different music, and each new chapter changes things up again.
The levels can be absolutely devious. You can only switch directions when you bump into a wall (or the back of a security guard), and that's something you need to plan well in advance when dropping down trap doors to lower levels or trying to get up stairs. I'm a huge fan of the control scheme, since it's essentially a one-button game. There are no virtual buttons cluttering up the display area, so there are no targets to miss on that front - you can just focus on getting the rhythm right. While that leaves little depth of skill development, it's tricky enough juggling rhythm and visibility at the same time. The only qualm I have with the gameplay is that if you fail a level often enough, Herbie sticks his condescending froggie head where it doesn't belong by suggesting you skip the level. Hey, Herbie - I'm a big boy, I can handle this clock-thieving stuff just fine, okay? Thanks.
While the goofy dialogue, dead-simple controls and cartoony graphics may lend the game to a younger audience, I found Beat Sneak Bandit's music to be catchy enough and the levels challenging enough to make the game a rewarding experience. The $2.99 pricetag may be more than you're willing to shell out for a casual title, but it's nice to not be harassed with microtransaction options in a high quality game for a change. In the end, the biggest thing Beat Sneak Bandit brings to the table is a fun, infectious, and colorful style. If the signature look isn't enough to keep you hooked, the simple mechanic may eventually bore gamers looking for something a little more complex. In my opinion, Beat Sneak Bandit hits all the right notes.