In most stealth games, a surveillance camera is something to avoid. Get spotted by one of those annoying Big Brother eyes and it's either game over or time to get ready for an influx of angry guards.
But in Republique, CCTV is your friend. You'll hijack the security feed and watch the dystopian world through these security cameras, using them to spy on guards and tell escapee Hope where to go and where to hide.
You can also stop time and then jump between CCTV cameras by tapping on them, or unlock and lock doors to pen in nuisance guards.
I can see you
It's a clever setup, but it's actually quite a basic stealth game and your options are rather limited. It's mostly about moving from cover to cover when guards aren't looking, hiding in lockers, and ducking into vents.
You eventually get the ability to distract guards by making phones ring and coffee machines go on the fritz, but it comes too late and you might never unlock it at all if you don't spend your credits wisely.
So despite lead designer Ryan Payton's previous gig at Kojima Productions, this is not Metal Gear Solid. In some ways that's fine - the game is nicely streamlined for a touch interface - but in other ways, it's a let down - the game can be very simplistic and every encounter feels largely the same as the one before.
Look around you
Also unlike MGS, getting seen does not mean game over. Instead, you're frogmarched back to a holding cell and have to sneak back to the point where you were last seen. Depending on the distance, this can be infuriating.
Especially when it wasn't your fault. Even with a simple interface, it's easy to accidentally tap while trying to move the camera and make Hope wander (or run) out into view of a guard.
Republique offers a chance to explore, and while there is a set path to sneak through you can check out other rooms and find trinkets, bits of backstory, and disposable items like screwdrivers (to open vents) and pepper spray (to escape from guards).
But this also means lots of backtracking, and even in the very short running time of episode one (2-3 hours) you'll be forced to retrace your steps and go back to find doors that you couldn't unlock before. Also, certain doors can't be opened until future episodes are released.
Eye in the sky
Republique has an interesting story that's inspired by both dystopian pop culture like 1984 and Brave New World, and real-world privacy paranoia like airport-style full-body scans. But episode one is brief, so we'll have to wait for more to see where the story goes.
It also has a strong cast of actors, but the voice you'll be hearing the most is an annoying, monotone text-to-speech robot narrator who offers advice and describes the random bits and bobs you pick up.
At least Hope is more characterful. She has a good voice actor, an expressive face when shown in close up, and she is intelligent enough to know what you mean when you tap, and will even move by herself if a guard gets too close.
The only thing to take you out of the experience is the constant references to crowdfunding site Kickstarter, which paid for the development of Republique. There are posters for other crowdfunded games like Shadowrun Returns, and all the guards are named after backers.
You can also find fake video game cartridges for iOS games like Ridiculous Fishing and Curiosity by pickpocketing certain characters. It's a cool collection aspect and encourages exploration, but doesn't really fit the tone of the game.
Big Brother is watching
The first episode of Republique is a strong debut for an interesting stealth saga. The one-touch stealth mechanics generally work very well, and it's effortless to outsmart a guard by waddling from cover to cover and bouncing between different CCTV cameras to get a better look at the action.
But it's also very simple and can become woefully repetitive. And just when you're getting into the story, it ends and teases a second episode for 2014.
Stealth fans should check it out. And those who backed the Kickstarter will get it for free anyway. But if you're on the fence, it might be worth waiting until a few more episodes come out and make the game longer and (hopefully) more varied.