Thursday, November 12, 2020

Sneak King

Of the three Burger King advergames, Sneak King is perhaps the best-known and the most infamous. It’s the only game to not feature any vehicle-based elements and has only one playable character, the King. However, its stealth gameplay is what draws more attention to it, as it does nothing to help the inherent creepiness of the mascot. When I previously played this game, I didn’t manage to get very far due to what I perceive in hindsight to be a lack of skill, so I decided to give it more of a chance after revisiting Big Bumpin’ and Pocketbike Racer. While Sneak King still doesn’t rank very high on the video game totem pole, I found the gameplay to be surprisingly decent for what it was.

In contrast to Big Bumpin’ and Pocketbike Racer, Sneak King plays out like a stealth game with the goal of delivering Burger King menu items to hungry people without being seen, while playing as the King. There are four levels with 20 Challenges each, however you only need to complete a bare minimum of 10 in order to unlock the next stage. These Challenges have varying requirements (ex. 3 BK Joes in 90 seconds, Get a Chain of 5, Score 10,000 points in 60 seconds), which become increasingly complex. These Challenges are given to you through newspapers spread throughout the level, though written in an informal way that injects some humor and still makes the objective clear.

To help you complete challenges, there are numerous hiding spots throughout a level in which you can avoid detection, otherwise you have to sneak around peoples’ vision cones (though if you’re really daring you can turn the vision cones off in the options at the main menu). Should you get spotted, however, an exclamation point will appear above the NPC’s head (think Metal Gear without the iconic noise) and, if they were hungry, they will temporarily lose their appetite. There are different levels of hunger ranging from green to flashing red, however if you wait too long the person will momentarily pass out. You can also run by holding the right rigger to reach people further away, but doing so creates noise and increases your chances of detection, so you have to be careful when you do it.

Hiding spots can help you avoid detection.

When you feed someone, you can also add a bit of flourish to your delivery by stopping a meter at the right time, with different levels from Standard Delivery to Flourish 1-3; it’s not too difficult to obtain Flourish 3 once you get the timing down. Additionally, there are unique Flourish animations for each level, though some of them can be a bit long, leading me to try to avoid them when it didn’t matter for a Challenge. In Challenges where you are timed, the timer freezes during a delivery, making said Challenges a lot more bearable since you don’t have to worry about the length of the Flourish animations. Additionally, making a delivery momentarily turns off view cones, making it easier to make a quick getaway before being spotted. Making consecutive deliveries without being seen also adds to a Chain that increases a score multiplier (alongside Flourish, Range to the person and level of Hunger). If you are spotted even once during a Challenge, however, this Chain resets to zero.

From an extended play session, I have observed that people get hungry in what appears to be a semi-random order. If you play long enough, it can be easy to pick up on patterns, such as the route each NPC takes, which you can advantage of when trying to beat certain Challenges, especially ones that require mandatory deliveries from a hiding place.

The graphics are decent for a game from 2006, with some rather impressively-detailed depictions of Burger King menu items (at the time of release). In spite of the graphical limitations, said detail is just enough that it can actually make you want to purchase said items, as it did for me a few times with menu offerings such as fries and Whoppers. The designs of each of the four levels is unique, providing their own set of quirks, such as the King being able to push objects in the Construction Site or being able to teleport in Downtown. I will note, however, that the Cul-De-Sac level has an odd feature (glitch?) where the King is drawn over sprinkler spray, no matter which angle he’s at. The title screen alone only amplifies the King’s creepiness, so this only adds to that further.

That Whopper looks surprisingly tasty even today, despite the low polygon count.

There is a very minimal soundtrack, with some similar-sounding non-intrusive pieces of background music when you’re sneaking around a level. One thing I will give the game credit for is the delivery music, which sounds more triumphant depending on the amount of Flourish you put into it, though I noticed the Challenge completion music is the same as the Flourish 2 music. NPCs in the game speak in gibberish, not unlike an offscreen adult in a Peanuts cartoon, however there is some actual voice acting in transitionary cutscenes between levels, in which a disembodies voice reads off a newspaper article describing the King’s exploits in that level.

If there’s one major complaint I would have, it’s the camera. The camera controls are inverted and there’s no way to change it, so having to adjust to said controls was a bit frustrating and seemed to artificially inflate the game’s difficulty. There are also times where the music can cut out during a Challenge, creating an eerie silence during an extended play session that only further contributes to the King’s inherent creep factor. Thankfully though, should this occur during the Downtown stage, there is still some musical ambience emanating from a night club in the center of the level, which otherwise creates an odd mix with the regular game’s music.

Of the three Burger King games, Sneak King is the best one, though that’s not saying much. The stealth gameplay helps it to stand out from the other two games and is certainly well-thought out and the graphics manage to hold up decently, especially in regards to the rendering of various Burger King foods, but there isn’t really an end goal aside from getting an achievement for completing all Challenges (if playing on Xbox 360). That said, it is a more effective advergame than Big Bumpin’ or Pocketbike Racer due to the increased prominence of the aforementioned food products. I would not place any of the three Burger King games very high on my recommended list, however if someone had an interest in playing any of them, I’d more easily recommend Sneak King due to its surprisingly competent gameplay and production values. As for that Whopper I’ve mentioned in the past, no combo is complete without a soft drink.

No comments:

Post a Comment