Throwback Thursday #2: Robbery Bob - “An enigmatic, sneaky, and goofy tale of thievery”

A retrospective for this series of picture perfect sim to express your inner artistry for heist.

Throwback Thursday #2: Robbery Bob - “An enigmatic, sneaky, and goofy tale of thievery”
| Robbery Bob

I’m digging into the archives yet again to wind down after a tough day’s work on Wednesday. From my own perspective, games are viewed as an asylum for burnt-out workers like me to recharge themselves with recreational fun. However, some bright individuals turned to games with the sole purpose of simulating a job: dream to be a pilot? Simulators are there to spin that figment of imagination into a reality.

On the darker side, however, are sims for things that are not much coveted like the glorifying crime GTA engenders. Then there's a much lesser-known diamond in the rough that scales down on the adult tone. A kid-friendly approach to the whole robbery genre. Allow me to introduce Robbery Bob and its much-welcomed sequel Double the Trouble.

A tale of thievery turned heroic - story

The premise is simple: You play as a hapless burglar named Bob, the legendary Man of Steal, with his iconic black knit cap covering his ginger hair leading a sleazy life of crime. Here’s the caveat - Bob lacks a sharp sense of thievery acumen as the items he nabbed are not the usual trinkets of the shiny calibre.

We heard that you love sims:

You do all this from a top-down view, spending the bulk of your time tiptoeing swiftly from room to room, rummaging for valuables, and are rewarded with satisfying clinking of coins. Just like any thief, you lay low from the watchful eyes of patrolling guards to avoid prison time. Fortunately for Bob, they suffer from goldfish memories that provide an opportunity to easily outrun them. Playing by the deviant rules of mischief, your earbuds will be rewarded with a chorus of funny grunts and shrieks from the guards.

Down the Robbery Road is one with epic proportions, featuring hundreds of stages with a linear progression curve that see Bob’s story unfold, often under the command of unscrupulous captors taking advantage of his meek facade and unfortunate circumstances. Through twists and turns, Bob manages to land trouble for his captors dramatically, leading to their comeuppance.

Stealth or squeaky - Flexible gameplay mechanics

The logical key to success for every burglar to get the job done is stealth. Robbery Bob adheres faithfully to that notion with its own twist, Bob's talent of staying silent carries the gameplay well. Of course, when push comes to shove, you can break into a sprint to make a quick getaway. With that said, stepping outside the invisible barrier you'll see not every robber has to go by the book. The total opposite approach of being a roadrunner - dashing past guards at close proximity without being noticed provides grease for any speedrunner.

Other than the monochromatic black and white garb, in the armoury you can outfit Bob with a pink bunny mascot suit to put laughs on the guards’ faces (though some serious, buff bodyguards can see through the ruse). Du reste, a parody of popular pop culture is evident with the Superman costume that makes every stage a cakewalk. No, you don’t shoot fiery lasers from your eyes, your only superpower is that you’re super fast like the Flash. On the other side of the spectrum, if stealth is up your alley, you can fulfil your calling with the ninja garb that ratchets up your stealth attribute.

Through the lens of a heist artist

For a long time, the craft of thievery had an eccentric, artsy flair, if done right. While Robbery Bob is not comparable to heist masterpieces such as Ocean Eight, you draw strength through organic interaction with the stage's environment to complete your heist, not without an extravagant display of ninja-like professionalism.

Much to your advantage, certain objects like vending machines or fax machines can be used as a distraction to lure unsuspecting civilians and officers away. You can forego simple etiquette, like closing doors, as leaving them open can rouse suspicion of officers and create an opportunity for you to sneak by.

But wait, there are more supplementary mechanics at your disposal. Dotted throughout the layout are crevices perfect for Bob to conceal himself, with the most ridiculous option being the toilet bowl. Certainly, patience is a virtue as precise timing is necessary for Bob to save his tail from any looming threat posed by guards, dogs, or cams.

You can line your pockets with dandy items ranging from a laxative-laced doughnut fresh out of Chernobyl's radioactive fallout-filled oven that gives nasty diarrhoea, to a wind-up mouse toy that distracts. Heck, there's even a gooey mysterious red substance that momentarily makes him invisible after consumption. Perhaps the most ingenious of them all is the portable teleporter mine you can deploy to whisk away those persistent NPCs hot on your trails into the shadow realm. I’ll leave it for you to discover.

Perhaps the one guilty pleasure I have is the discovery of glitches that break the game. While the sequel patched the loopholes, my fondest example is getting the NPCs stuck in the muck literally.

A sneakier sequel

Considering the length of the first release, it comes as no surprise that a sequel is planned backstage without any deviation from its core gameplay. Fulfilling its calling as a sequel, it doubled down on its variety of puzzle mechanisms and enemy types, featuring more chapters where Bob embarks on the noblest journey of saving humanity by allying with unsuspecting allies such as an Einstein-like conspiracy theorist and an undercover journalist.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, some enemy types can be cunningly used against each other. Left: A mysterious drone (possibly extraterrestrial) can send other enemies into a realm unknown. Right: manipulate spooky ghosts to wallop your enemy

The overall gameplay also took a bold approach. Instead of encouraging sneaking and snooping around, it calls for you to dance with the perils of danger, sneaking past guards swiftly in close proximity. Stages also see a lot of challenging additions such as conveyor belts, ground buttons that require a solid object to trigger, movable objects and so many more to behold. The greatest expansion is reflected in the costume and disposable item sections. My chief favourite among them is the green screen suit, meaning you can now dress Bob like iDubbbz.

Oh and psst, here's a secret series of missions you can undertake to stimulate your puzzle-solving neurons with a sweet reward at the end of the tunnel. In these levels, Bob will either came down with a debilitating malady that hampers his expertise; or in another case, hauling puppies instead of goodies. 

Closing verdict

At the end of the day, I dare say there are no other games that mirror the whacky madness Robbery Bob has to offer. Quirky stage designs, nonsensical dialogue (in a good way), loveable goofy characters, and gameplay that's challenging enough to stimulate a good workout for the neuron fibres.

Anderson Han
Anderson Han
A wanderlust by nature who regards video games as an artful medium for creative storytelling. I implore thee to join me on my jubilant voyage through the sea of video games. PS: I find great pleasure jamming to Touhou songs while riding on public transports.