The Swindle - A barmy heist story generator
| The Swindle

The Swindle is all about risk and reward. You'll never make a lot of money as a master thief without putting yourself at risk - but that's okay, because no movie was ever made about the thief who stole £36 and then escaped the scene.

Instead, the best heist capers come out of high-stakes scenarios and insatiable greed. The Swindle kicks into high gear when you spy a computer full of cash that's locked down by guards and cameras and mines - and you choose to go for it.

So you remotely detonate the mines to take out one guard, hack the brains of the other robo-coppers and make them attack each other.

You scramble up to the roof and fry the camera from above with an EMP blast. You bomb your way into the room and loot the money.

But your intrusion trips the alarm system. Electric bolts rise from the floor, giant fists smash down from the ceiling. You dodge them all and leap through a window. You land, hop over the police response robots, and dive into your escape pod.

Money money money

Now that's a story. And The Swindle is full of them - mostly because it's always egging you on to take more and more money.

You see, in 100 days, Scotland Yard will switch on a crime-fighting surveillance network. So it's your job to commit petty burglaries and huge heists, to build up enough cash, tools, and abilities to steal this supercomputer from police HQ.

Those burglaries take place in randomly generated buildings (the algorithm can screw you in early levels, when you don't have the tools to bypass the weird architecture), ranging from slums to warehouses to banks.

It's a platformer, and it's stealth-flavoured, rather than being a true stealth game. Guards have huge vision cones and can't see beyond them - and they don't care about dead bodies or broken glass, and most won't hear a door slamming open right behind them.

Breaking and entering

Anyway. The point is, with just 100 days to get money and buy abilities, you'll feel the pressure bearing down on you. And when you know that one big score could be the difference between success and failure, you'll want to be a master crook.

Money is used to outfit your hero with new stuff. And this makes the game's complexity ramp up at a staggering rate.

You start by whacking robot guards in the back of the head with a truncheon. You end the game by knocking out security cameras with EMPs, remotely brainwashing guards into killing each other, quadruple jumping up towers, and blowing the level to bits with bombs.

The enemies too get more advanced. You'll face whirring storybook coppers like a guard in a (mostly) impenetrable glass cube, a noise-sensitive gramophone that belches out a swarm of tiny drones, and a rival thief who pinches your money.

Things are doled out slowly, so you rarely feel overwhelmed. But, like most roguelikes, you'll often learn by dying. Luckily, thegame has a slightly different twist on permadeath.

Yes, your thief will be gone for good, but this doesn't end the game. A new robber is randomly generated - with a ridiculous name like Maisy Shaftmeister - with all the same abilities, but lacking the experience rewards you've earned. Risk versus reward and all that.

Cash grab

Two of the upgrades in The Swindle threaten to undermine the game's balance. You can buy extra days, which shatters the purity of that "you have 100 days" system, and I immediately vowed never to use it.

And the bug, which lets you collect money from computers even when you leave the level and - crucially - even if you die before escaping the level, can rid the later levels of that all important tension.

Watching your bank balance top up automatically doesn't exactly encourage risky behaviour.

The game also has some slightly finicky controls, and you'll soon realise that it's smart to stand around for three minutes waiting for your spent hacking abilities to come back online. Which doesn't exactly make for a rip-roaring caper.

Hit and run

This Vita version is, largely, well done. It translates the entire game from PS4 to handheld and looks gorgeous. But with long loading times and an inconsistent frame rate, it's hard to call this the very best version of the game.

But what a game it is. A complicated swirl of heists and capers which will leave you with sweaty palms, a dry mouth, and a bunch of brilliant stories.

And when you finally do make off with that surveillance system - well, it's quite the sensation.

The Swindle - A barmy heist story generator

The Swindle is a charming caper simulator, with clever risk vs reward systems that push you into brilliant situations and stories