Sneak King
System: Xbox Publisher: King Games Developer: Blitz Games
Genre: Action Type: Stealth/Espionage Circa: 2006

Where is your God now?

Just when you thought it was safe to take out the garbage.

Much like the fast food it was designed to peddle, Sneak King is a game of minimal sustenance that can nevertheless be weirdly addictive. As a budget title that was only sold at Burger King for a limited time in 2006, it might not leave you feeling as though you just completed a full course meal, but you might at least be satisfied that you got your $4 worth.

For reasons that probably only make sense to him, the King, Burger King's recently-retired and eternally-creepy mascot, is on a mission to become the ultimate "Sneak King" - a title he can attain by delivering unsolicited meals to hungry citizens without being seen. Luckily for him, he appears to exist in a bizarre universe in which people never eat, choosing instead to walk around endlessly until they're so overcome with hunger that they temporarily pass out. This probably goes a long way towards explaining why everyone is so willing to accept the food being offered by His Royal Strangeness, and why nobody he encounters is even the slightest bit overweight.

Pay no attention to that man inside the oil drum!

Even the mailman gets in trouble!

Also fortunate for the King is that he can tell what people are hungry enough to proposition by the presence of a telltale "hamburger" thought balloon hovering over their heads (which, oddly enough, reminded me of the "I'm thinking Arby's" ad campaign). As a successful delivery depends on not being seen, the King can avoid detection by staying out of everyone's "cone of vision", which appears as a blue triangle of light in front of them. Yes, you can literally be directly in front of someone, or even bumping into them from the side or behind, and they won't notice you unless you touch the blue light.

Despite his repertoire of smooth dance moves, the King still cannot enter the night club.

Scarier than the average survival horror game.

The King starts out in a "sandbox" environment that allows you to freely explore the level, but soon finds mysterious floating newspapers, written by an unseen entity, that outline the goals of each mission. Usually they involve feeding a certain number of people, often with conditions such as within a time limit, or only the women/men, or by doing different "flourishes".

Flourishes are silly little dances, hand jives, and other freaky gestures the King performs right before serving up his platter. What he does, exactly, depends on what level you're in, and where you stopped the "Flourish Meter" (which isn't difficult to manipulate with a bit of practice). Because the flourishes are the game's major source of comedy, it's easy to laugh at them the first few times you see them, but then eventually bemoan their unfortunate lack of variety.

There is a frightening amount of detail in that mask.

Another successful delivery, straight from the trash can!

Sneak King is very much a casual game. It is easy for anyone, regardless of skill level, to pick it up and make substantial progress in it. You are not likely to ever reach a point where you become stuck, first because almost every mission is easy to complete with at least a C rank, and second because of the sheer number of missions available - 20 per level that unlock in varying quantities as you progress.

A perfectly normal scene. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

I see you cleanin' your tighty whities!

With only four haunting grounds for the King's shenanigans (a Saw Mill, Cul-de-sac, Construction Site, and Downtown setting), Sneak King is quite short, but the real deciding factor for its longevity is whether or not you go for A ranks. A ranks will often require very high point totals or very low completion times that can only be achieved by playing efficiently. You see, there are two ways the King can surprise a citizen - by either sneaking up behind them or by leaping out of a "hiding spot". As it turns out, the extra points for the latter are not negligible. While going for A ranks in stages with time requirements merely necessitates doing things a bit faster, getting A ranks in missions with scoring requirements will almost certainly depend on getting in a few good "hides".

There's a place in France where the naked ladies dance...

You've still got a chance to turn back!

Because of how sprawling the levels are and the sheer amount of pedestrians, figuring out when and where to use hiding spots can initially be overwhelming. You might think you've found the perfect crate or trash can to stuff the regal stalker's frame into, only to become more disheartened with each passing moment that no famished beings walk by. But once you've completed about 8-15 missions on the same level, you will probably start memorizing it - the layout and the people's walking patterns - without even trying. It will only be a matter of time before you will see the "hambubble" above someone's head and immediately know if it's possible to surprise that person from a hiding spot and exactly where to pull it off. As you further acclimate to the game's mechanics and logic, you will probably notice yourself A-ranking more and more missions on your first attempt.

I'm in ur treehouse! Keepin' ur food!

I'm in ur port-a-potty! Waitin' to scare the crap outta u!

Occasionally, Sneak King will serve up a particularly brutal level, especially those that force you to feed 20 or more people without being seen. These can be tough enough to complete normally; trying to A-rank them will likely result in dozens of failed attempts. It has been one of my most surreal gaming experiences to be fully aware that I am playing a ridiculous game about a guy running around in a rubber mask and knickers, and yet here I am, still taking its challenges seriously. Unfortunately, there is one level (Cul-de-Sac 15) that seems to be either glitched or a cruel joke on the developer's part because it can only be A-ranked through extreme luck instead of skill or knowledge. I eventually gave up on it.

Do you want fries with that?

I can't imagine anything that could possibly go wrong with this situation.

There is a minimal amount of variety in the missions to keep things interesting, but Sneak King has no true climax (the final mission's goal is a repeat of an earlier one), and no real ending (except for a list of credits accessible from the main menu that, considering the nature of this "budget" title, is frighteningly long). Although there are between-level cinemas that use stills from actual Burger King ads, having an FMV or two of a full ad could've been a nice bonus (or not, depending on how disturbing you find them). Your only real reward for completing every mission is a "Sneak Suit" that changes nothing except the color of the King's clothes. It's a problem common to many games in which beating them unlocks a change of wardrobe - you've already done everything there is to do, you probably aren't willing to do it all over again just to show off some new theads. (And I have to wonder how much trouble could be avoided if game characters would just make a trip to Old Navy instead.)

The patron saint of creepy stalkers.

Why, helloooo, there!

Much like the King's stint as mascot for his food chain (he supposedly caused Burger King to lose sales), the time spent playing Sneak King is like a flash in the deep frying pan. Considering that its novelty starts to wear out its welcome after 80 missions, it's probably good that it ends when it does. It may give you an uneasy feeling to be playing something that is so obviously an advertisement, and to play as a character whose entire purpose is to weird people out, but its kooky sense of humor and "always make progress" philosophy make it difficult to be too hard on it, especially considering the poor track record games with licensed properties have. It definitely could've been a lot worse - at least they didn't make you play as Herb.





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