Disaster Report: Sneak King (Xbox)

Sneak King is an oddity.

 

And it’s not because it’s a video game based on a restaurant chain’s mascot. In fact, this style of game, sometimes shortened to “advergaming” was a common type of game in the early days of the video game medium. Back when video game development was much easier thanks to weaker hardware, it wasn’t too difficult for a company to decide they wanted some title shilling their product on the store shelves, and it wasn’t even hard to make a passable game out of the end product. It wasn’t too much of a surprise to see the likes of the Chase the Chuck Wagon Atari game pushing dog food, two separate games based on the Cheeto’s mascot Chester Cheetah, and even a game from the fast food giant McDonald’s in the form of M.C. Kids.

 

However, when games started to enter 3D, the bar for quality on games went up, and it was much more difficult to plug a brand into a genre and turn out something acceptable. The days of licensed yet competent SNES and Genesis platformers seemed to have passed. This was essentially when the problem with licensed games arose, as video games based on a property like a film or show were no longer likely to be almost on par with the titles put out by bigger studios. Film-based games would keep coming despite their drop in quality, but blatant advergames began to disappear until the explosion of the mobile game market made it fairly easy for any company to put out a match-three puzzle game with microtransactions.

 

Between these two eras though, Burger King did something very peculiar. In 2006, the Xbox 360 was essentially the cutting edge of home gaming consoles, the Wii and the PS3 not to release until November when Burger King would put out its unusual project to bring back advergaming with the release of three video games that are playable on both the original Xbox and the 360. These three titles were: Big Bumpin’, a Burger King themed bumper car game that I can’t begin to imagine how they tried to make more than an instantly boring conversion of the real theme park ride, PocketBike Racer, a game that at least had the standards of the racing genre to fall back on with its design, and the game that is essentially the poster child for the bunch: Sneak King, an odd stealth based title with the burger chain’s mascot in the starring role.

These three Xbox titles were available for purchase at Burger King locations during the promotion for the shockingly cheap price of 4 dollars, a price you wouldn’t expect to even find a decent used Xbox title at, but the cheapness of the game certainly seems to be tied the games being lesser experiences in terms of quality and amount of content. The more shocking aspect of these titles though is that despite these quality of these products, the experience seemed to be profitable for Burger King itself, profitable for the game company that made it (Blitz Games), and seemed to generally benefit everyone tied to the game… except for the player. Because while Sneak King managed to prove to be an unusual hit for this style of game once thought a thing of the past, it certainly couldn’t match the quality of the older advergames and definitely showed why they knew they could only get away with charging 4 dollars for the title.

 

This is the story of Sneak King, an abysmal game that had no right to be as successful as it was.

 

But first, to understand Sneak King, we must understand the King himself.

 

MEETING ROYALTY

Burger King, as a restaurant, has always played second fiddle to the more monolithic success of McDonald’s. Both are burger joints that serve up fries, sodas, and the other expected staples of what became the stereotypical image of a fast food meal. If one of these chains succeeds at shaking things up with a new food idea, you can usually expect the other chain to fire back with their take on it, your preference between them usually coming down to a literal matter of taste rather than a matter of what’s on offer. One thing McDonald’s always had over it’s smaller competitor (besides sales numbers of course) though was a clear, identifiable mascot.

 

While the modern McDonald’s mascot is, essentially, a group of attractive multicultural twenty-somethings enjoying their salad meals at a fast food joint way too much, early on they had success in establishing a memorable mascot in the form of Ronald McDonald, a friendly clown so nice that he has a charity established in his name to help sick children and their families. While McDonald’s seems to be trying to be more mature in their advertising in the modern era, Ronald is still remembered by many, and his extended cast originally had more cultural penetration than anything Burger King had tried. People still know who the Hamburglar is, or that Grimace is a giant purple lump of a creature, and even lesser known characters seem to grab a few people, such as the burger-headed Mayor McCheese and my personal favorite, their moon-headed mascot for late night dining Mac Tonight. When it comes to Burger King mascots pre-2003, it would be difficult for anyone to name one let alone remember what they looked like save the extremely 90s Burger King Kids Club gang.

 

It wasn’t for lack of trying either, and Burger King fairly early on knew that a king was going to be a good fit for their brand. It took a while to get him there though, the first iterations of Burger King generic kingly types that would look at home on baking soda boxes or in forgettable Hanna-Barbera cartoons like “Yippee, Yappy, and Yahooey”. They would try again with a more defined character with the Marvelous Magical Burger King who looked like he was from Captain Planet, had vague magical powers, and was accompanied by a supporting cast that was definitely trying to mimic the group that had grown around Ronald McDonald. The likes of Sir Shakes-A-Lot, The Duke of Doubt, and Burger Thing had as little staying power as the forced attempt at making the King cool for kids, although the odd robot “The Wizard of Fries” captivates me in how he just appears to be a pack of fries piloting a mechanical suit.

(Unfortunately I could not find the proper art credit for this marvelous image, but if you can, tell me so it can be properly attributed.)

 

It wouldn’t be until the 2000s that Burger King managed to find an identity for their Burger King that stuck in people’s minds and became part of the brand’s broader identity, but it was with a very odd tactic that they achieved it.

 

This version of the King, save his paper crown, is as generic a design as any used in the past, but it’s the presentation that pushed him over the edge. People were beginning to realize that there was some sort of creepy undertone to a lot of their childhood mascots, the plastic statues of Ronald McDonald and crude animatronics from Chuck E. Cheese viewed as impersonal, emotionless beings that unsettled people more than intended.  Rather than trying to avoid that with their latest go at giving their brand a face, Burger King seemed to play deliberately into it, their mascot not really being the Burger King himself, but some obvious mascot character the likes of which you’d see walking around at Disneyland or Six Flags, a cartoonish being incapable of speech as to hide that the twenty-year old man wearing it can’t mimic a Mickey Mouse voice. This King is a mascot in the context of his own world, a figure wearing what is essentially a high-quality Halloween mask of a king and unable to change his expression because of it, forced to express himself only through his movements. While I don’t want to give Burger King too much credit, they did appear to be deliberately pulling on the trend towards finding humans dressed in mascot suits creepy, as Burger King wouldn’t even start calling him the “Creepy King” until the media coined the term for them. The ads, however, definitely played into his unnerving nature, perhaps the most famous one being the commercial where a man wakes up to find the King inexplicably in bed with him, ready to serve him up a breakfast menu item.

This may seem like a lot of preamble to introduce you to the star of Sneak King, but it is sort of essential to understanding the joke of the game. Sneak King’s premise seems to be relying heavily on the player thinking that the Sneak King is a slightly creepy character, the kind who would lurk about neighborhoods just to deliver Burger King meals to whoever might need one. It’s not really a sustainable joke either, as once you hear the premise of the game you’ve essentially got all the amusement the title can offer.

 

IT’S NOT GOOD TO BE THE KING

For the purpose of this report, I played Sneak King on the original Xbox which seems to only mean there’s a graphical downgrade compared to playing on the 360. Surprisingly though, it opens with a live action cutscene of the king sneaking about a small suburban backyard. Here the game is trying hard once again to go “boy isn’t this mascot character pretty creepy?”, something the box art I think does better with its deliberate posing of the king’s shadow. It’s certainly no horror game though, as you can likely tell by the big fat E for Everyone rating on the lower left of the box art, but it lays down the expected idea that the kind will be tiptoeing through environments to try and get the drop on his unsuspecting prey…

 

So that’s why three of the four game levels are in broad daylight. Yes, once you start Sneak King, you’re dropped into a bright open area where the king isn’t so much sneaking about as he is tiptoeing out in the open, people ignoring him so long as he isn’t standing in a very thin cone of vision marked by blue on the ground in front of them. It fills about as much space as if the person was pushing a hotel luggage cart in front of themselves, and you can even walk right next to them without being detected, so the stealth aspect, the main crux of the game, is immediately revealed to be incredibly forgiving. There is a noise meter to consider though, but the king will automatically sneak and not make a single noise as he does so, the noise only a concern if you get him running.

The basic premise of the game is that the Burger King is patrolling locations where people have forgotten to eat, the King waiting to pounce on them with a silly move and free food once he’s determined who’s actually hungry. Hunger is represented over a character’s head as a little thought bubble with a burger in it, the burger’s outline and coloration changing from a calm green to worried yellow and finally a few levels of red to show they are absolutely starving. So long as the thought bubble is overhead though, you can sneak up on them and spring your food on them, but you get more points if you do it when they’re about to keel over from hunger. Once you do surprise the unsuspecting citizen, you have a bar that will fill up quickly, the player needing to time their press of the A button to determine just how they are going to present the food. There’s the regular surprise, where the king just basically hands them the food, but then there are three levels of Flourish, each one increasing your score multiplier just like hunger levels but coming with what at first is meant to be a reward: a silly animation. However, these flourishes, despite perhaps being the defining trait of Sneak King’s gameplay, are what make it drag out into an excruciatingly dull and repetitive experience despite only taking a couple hours to complete.

Perhaps the first time you see a flourish animation you might be a touch amused by the King’s corny behavior, but in a single stage, you will have to feed people over a hundred times. By the time you’ve done a flourish animation the second time, the appeal is already gone, and the game refuses to let you skip it, holding you hostage as you watch the king gesticulate in the same canned animation you’ve seen countless times before. Regular Surprise, Flourish 1, Flourish 2, and Flourish 3 are all unique, and in different levels the king will have new animations for these ratings, but I almost didn’t notice that was the case, as I essentially got into the habit of looking away from the game to do something a bit more interesting like look at my clock as I waited for the animation to end. Some of the animations are incredibly long as well, perhaps the worst one being the Flourish 2 animation at the construction site, where the king will do a fakeout of offering the person food, pull out the real meal, and then slowly and silently laugh. Most of the missions in this game are timed in some manner, either by an actual clock or by the hunger meters of the citizens you’re trying to feed, but the game is merciful enough to freeze time during these animations. If a mission doesn’t require high scores or specific flourishes though, you can mercifully get away with the Regular Surprise to do the shortest animation and move on with your life much sooner. The only animations you can skip are the mission reactions done when you succeed or fail at a mission, so these at least don’t wear out their welcome, although the music certainly does. In fact, since each flourish has a musical sting and most of the normal background music is the same bland tune, you’ll no doubt get tired of the sound direction in general unless you get the Mute button involved.

 

While the regular sneaking is made so easy that it hardly feels like stealth, there is an unfortunate element added to it that is required by some of the game’s missions, and that would be hiding places. In each of the four levels there are designated spots where the king can lie in wait to spring out at a hungry passerby, but there is so much wrong with this system. First of all, the king is incredibly slow in climbing into a hiding place and climbing out for the surprise, something timers don’t care about, and it’s just another case of the game making long animations that add nothing to the game. Perhaps it’s a touch amusing to have the king hide in a port-a-potty or a pile of dirt with his head sticking out, but his surprise is just him slowly extracting himself from it rather than a true jump out to shock the hunger passerby. That is, if you can get a hungry passerby.  Most of the people in the game have some set route they slowly take, and outside of special missions, it’s not really guaranteed who will become hungry when. That means it’s incredibly hard to find a hiding place where you can reliably get in before they’ve reached it. If they get too hungry before being fed, they’ll pass out and no longer be hungry when they get back up, and the radius on the hiding spots is the same as your regular surprise radius, so the only real advantage to it is the huge score boost you get for using these hiding spots. You can chain together food deliveries without getting caught to built up a score multiplier though, and that’s a much more reliable method of getting to higher points than waiting in these hiding spots where you might wait full minutes for even the chance someone could pass by, let alone someone that is hungry.

 

The only other mechanic really worth mentioning is one entirely done for color, that being that you can get a first person view as the King and see the world as if you were wearing his eerie plastic mask. He even has a sort of Darth Vader breathing pattern in this mode, but it has no practical use, as there is a radar to show you a minimap of your current location and has color-changing dots to indicate where hungry people are. Outside of that radar, pretty much every tool given to you for your sneaking missions is clunky or unnecessary, the task already too easy for the most part since it’s not too difficult to avoid detection once you notice how thin the vision cones are.

 

A KING ON A MISSION

The story, for what little story Sneak King has, is based around a mission structure. Upon entering a level, you’ll see newspapers bobbing up and down on the ground. During this phase you cannot feed anyone, but you can get acquainted with the level design if you like and then walk up to the newspapers when you want to accept a mission.  Each mission lays out some goal and will rank you on your performance with a C, B, or A depending on whatever metric it’s decided on for that round, although the ranks only matter for Xbox 360 achievements (which I assume is why the box touts Xbox Live online functionality). So long as you don’t get an X, which is just the mission failure indicator, once you’ve done a mission, you can move on to the next challenge to unlock more missions and new levels.

 

While the missions in Sneak King aren’t particularly engaging or fun, I must give them credit: they contain perhaps the most thorough exploration of a game’s mechanics I’ve ever seen in a video game, and probably show why you shouldn’t try and do that. Most of the early missions are straightforward, deliver food without getting caught or earn a certain amount of points in a time limit. Seems simple enough, but as the game goes on, you have to deliver food with specific flourishes, in specific sequences of flourishes, you have to deliver food only to women or people wearing gloves, a particularly inventive shakeup comes in trying to get detected by everyone in a level instead of avoiding them, but mostly it’s all about delivering the food and hitting some small, barely changed metric. In an early stage maybe they want you to deliver to four guys, well in a later one it will be seven, and the boundaries slide around on the time challenges and such as well to make it technically harder. An inventory system is introduced, in that you only have a certain amount of each food order to complete a mission, but the only way to lose inventory items is to press A when you aren’t able to hand anyone food (which only punishes people who hammer it pointlessly, as there’s a loud flashing indicator over the King whenever he can successfully deliver food) or when there’s some secondary goal such as delivering food to people who are only a certain level of hungry (which, considering previous levels just ended the mission immediately if you got it wrong, seems like a step backwards).

 

Each level culminates in perhaps the only challenge in the game that seems to be a test of intelligence and skill, as you must deliver a meal to every character in a level (usually around 20 characters) before any pass out from hunger. Here, the characters get hungry in a set order and pace, the player having to feel out the route necessary to succeed… but “feeling out” anything in this game is a slow, tedious process full of the king’s long dance animations. If you lose you can instantly retry from the start, but this means more waiting on people to move, more forced watching of the king’s dance moves, and if you get detected it’s of course an immediate end as well, with each level usually having some spot on these challenges meant to catch you well into the mission. At least these missions are a challenge where it can be a bit satisfying to succeed, whereas others are mostly gimmes, involve a lot of waiting and luck, or are basically retreads of earlier missions with a number cranked up. The game tries to be funny in the way it gives you the mission details, often throwing in some softball joke to hide that it’s saying “make four deliveries without begin caught” for the fifth time. They also mix up which trademarked Burger King meal you’re delivering for faux variety as well, but it of course effects nothing of the actual play and the King does not change his actions whether he’s pulling a hashbrown out from behind his back or a piping hot morning coffee.

 

THE KING’S DOMAIN

There are four levels in the game, the game starting you off in perhaps the second worst possible choice for an opening area: the Saw Mill. While the opening area with men sawing logs is a fairly decent home for the easiest starting missions, it also plays into some of the navigation issues Sneak King has that will crop up again in the Construction Zone but are mostly absent in the much friendlier Cul-De-Sac or the final Downtown level. Cul-De-Sac and Downtown are both open areas where you can access wherever you need to go just by walking to it while avoiding the view cones of pedestrians. Saw Mill, though, has three distinct areas, the opening area the only one immediately accessible without some sort of player action they’ll have to discover by interacting with the environment without any real clue from the game itself that such actions are necessary.

 

Outside of the opening area where people are working, there are two spots on the other side of a trench where people are just walking about. The lower one is reached by way of a door on a building, and for the most part, doors on a building are a place for the king to hide in and wait to surprise people. The fact this door is a teleport has to be figured out by context, and it’s of course a slow animation that is required in some of the Saw Mill’s harder challenges like the “feed everyone” mission. The third area is an elevated area that can be reached either by figuring out the king can punch down a tree to make a log bridge up to it or by going over to other side of an actual bridge and watching as the king slowly raises a finger to press a button to lower it.  These aren’t too hard to figure out, but the fact it adds another slow animation to the necessary navigation of missions makes them even more frustrating to play. Even worse, after completing a mission successfully, it teleports you to the entrance of a stage, and the newspapers with missions on them are scattered all throughout. To even get to the missions to play them, you’ll have to sit through transitional animations again and again.

 

Nothing can compete with the terrible ladder mechanics when it comes to poorly designed elements of Sneak King though. While many video games struggle with ladders in a 3D space, it’s usually because there’s no agreed upon approach for them. Does the player need to just run up to it and hold up to climb? Do they need to press a button and then the climb is automatic? What about coming at a ladder from above, will the ladder register the player input to climb down it or will they just drop off to their death? Sneak King’s issue with its ladder is surprisingly none of these usual suspects. You press the same button you hide with to start climbing up a ladder, but then the King seems to control like someone incredibly anxious they’ll fall if they take the climb too quickly. The Burger King takes each set of rungs at an obnoxiously slow pace that requires player input, and here and in the Construction Zone, the only place they put these ladders are spots where it’s fairly easy to be spotted. In Construction Zone, the person likely to spot you is someone walking by the ladder the king is nervously climbing, but in the Saw Mill, there is a person walking circles around a water tower at the top of the ladder, the king’s slow pace making it easy to miss your window to get up there undetected by her patrol.

 

There doesn’t seem to be any clear reason why the Saw Mill is first besides maybe it’s the least generic level concept, and the game does try to pitch the idea the King is going through the breakfast-lunch-dinner menu over the course of the game. Between stages, odd newspaper scenes crop up trying to make your actions in the previous stage sound absurd, but it’s a lot of the expected rhetoric about people being creeped out by the King but than accepting the food because they were hungry and Burger King food is just that good. The King, according to one of these papers, almost killed a man by pushing him off a girder, but it’s based on an actual commercial and played for laughs. It is the only real highlight in otherwise predictable reports on what you just did in clearing the 20 missions from the previous stage.

Cul-De-Sac feels like it should be the first level of the game. This open suburban area at the end of a dead-end street has no rigamarole surrounding its navigation, the player able to get to any area of the map so long as they walk the right path. Some areas are gated off by fences, but they always have some opening to allow you to pass into the yard next to it. It’s not a particularly challenging area because of this, but that’s why it and Saw Mill almost feel like they were swapped.

 

The mission design clearly does begin to stretch its legs here, the game getting a bit more picky about what it will accept. By this point though, you’re already likely numb from the constant dances and generic mission design, so it’s not really enough to inject life into a game you should have quit playing already. I wouldn’t say it gets much harder, the sneaking is still very basic and hardly has the room to grow through more complex mission parameters, but some of these easier missions are sabotaged by one of the first glitches I encountered in the title (save the camera sometimes clipping into walls or the floor during flourishes). There are two ways people can detect you in Sneak King, that being you step into their vision cone or you are running when you’re too close to them. Running will create noise, and in a mission where you can’t be detected, sometimes hearing you at all is enough to end it, others they’ll need to see you after they hear you to end it, and then some missions just don’t care if you’re caught by an unimportant character so long as you complete the goal. Well, the glitch encountered has to do with detection in a stingy mission, and while running is a risk, it does become necessary in timed missions or to catch people before they keel over from hunger. The particular issue in this stage though was that I was being detected in the same area between two men working in their backyard without any obvious reason why. I made sure to only sneak after it happened, but I was still randomly detected despite neither fellow being close enough to possibly catch me in their view cone and the radar didn’t show anyone else approaching. It cropped up a few other rare times, but that moment in the backyard was the only consistent one, and I didn’t really change my approach to overcome it, it just finally worked after a mission restart.

 

While this level introduces more interesting hiding spots like a treehouse, you still can’t overcome the flawed execution of the system in general. There’s only really one character who will ever go near the treehouse, his hunger is unreliable outside of special missions, and it takes so long to get in and out of them that you might as well just surprise him the normal way instead of investing over a minute trying to get it all to work. Not like any of the score challenges really require the hiding spots yet, although some missions are about using a certain amount of hiding spots effectively here, meaning it’s best to just camp a door since those have reliable traffic. As in, maybe once every minute and a half you can hopefully surprise a hungry person for the total of four or five you need. Still, this is perhaps the most inoffensively designed level, but it’s not like the level design is really what makes Sneak King so dull and repetitive.

The Construction Zone, on the other hand, is perhaps the worst level in the game. Interior areas characters can go in that you have to knock and hope they’ll come out of in time for you to deliver food to, multiple areas only accessible through a chain of slow actions, a ladder, and a timed crane that makes the bridge to another area but seems to glitch out and sometimes lurch about rather than following a clear pattern of rising and lowering. Since almost all objectives at this point will emphasize time, you can bet these roadblocks and convoluted paths will be an issue, although some of the fairly more unique explorations of the game mechanics happen here like the earlier mentioned mission of being detected by every person.

 

Most of this stage will be the tedium of having to open up every route to get to missions, opening up the routes during the missions, and then actually doing whatever task is currently on the table. There are at least a few people who linger in one place to rely on for the simpler challenges, but the Construction Zone is also where failure becomes more likely due to requiring specific hunger levels and flourishes, meaning that if you fail a mission, you get to open up those paths again if you need them! It certainly feels like you spend the most time in this level because of the bad mix of harder missions and poor navigation, but it’s not the last one.

Your final challenge will be Downtown, and while the many buildings you see here might excite you, the King can still do nothing more than enter doors to hide in them, if he can do that at all. Even the big night club with the booming bass is just a setpiece for other characters to enter rather than its own location, and this stage has a lot of people going into and out of doors themselves, the King unable to follow after. This can mean that a character about to pass out from hunger will enter a store, and when they exit it they pass out immediately. What you have to do to prevent that if you need that person to be fed is you must wait outside the door and press A before they even exit, the glitchiness allowing you to give them their food before they would faint. People here have some fairly simple paths to glean like the Construction Zone, but that still doesn’t help hiding places finally find their footing. You’ll definitely need them for score challenges here though, so you have to hope the easy to surprise people get hungry near the hiding spots in a reasonable timeframe. I am half tempted to say characters are less likely to get hungry here if you are looking at them, but it could just be a “watched pot never boils” situation caused by the game’s incredibly slow timers.

 

Downtown is also the first place that seems to really encourage level shortcuts due to the tougher mission guidelines. In earlier stages like the Construction Zone, you could go into one area and pop out another. In Saw Mill the door with that function was almost necessary, but Construction Zone’s manhole was an almost entirely pointless shortcut, teleporting you from one side to another in an area that is already accessible with a short run over. Downtown has a few teleports, like it’s own manhole (with, of course, a long animation that the timer doesn’t stop for) and a subway you can enter to pop out elsewhere. This is incredibly important to take note of, because Downtown’s final mission to feed everyone is the hardest because of the problems with the teleport. People will go in the subway and pop out the other end, and the first hungry person to do that during the last mission you can follow into the subway and surprise on the other end. However, the second pedestrian who went in had an odd glitch where they’d go down into the subway and just stand there. Since the subway entry is done by the player with a cutscene, they could not go down there and reach the pedestrian, and the time it takes the hungry person to walk back out is too slow and they’ll pass out, dooming your mission to failure. I tried to glitch it to reach them from around the edges of the subway entrance, but no dice; if they get down there, they need to spend some time just standing around. However, the workaround required repeated attempts to basically optimize my route. In this style of mission, the next person only gets hungry once the previous person is fed, so I had to do the early ones fast enough that a certain person would not be in a shop when he’s too hungry. Once I got that speed down, I had to let that person exit the shop and build up their hunger as long as I could, the subway pedestrian on their preset path to go down and stand out of reach.  Now when I fed the shop guy, the subway pedestrian got immediately hungry, but they were already doing their time down in the subway entrance, meaning they could exit in time for me to feed them before the mission was deemed a failure.

 

This wasn’t some rewarding speedrun strat mind you. This was me trying to accommodate a major flaw in the mission design. Needing to repeat a long mission to learn how to overcome bad AI behavior does not make the stealth more complex, and this is the only moment like this in the whole game, so it’s not a deliberate challenge. Considering this is the 80th mission in a game that very few players likely bothered playing past the first 5 or so, it’s not surprising that the QA didn’t pay too much attention to this issue, and it’s always likely their own path during testing could have just lined up right to avoid the problem.

 

Once you’ve overcome Downtown’s missions, you’ve conquered all there is to Sneak King. You can try to get the A ranks, some easy enough to get just by chance and others requiring more effort than the game could ever hope to earn with its incredibly basic and tedious surprise mechanics, but there is one reward the game will give you for playing all 80 missions… The Stealth Suit. Now what could the Stealth Suit be? Changing up the King’s appearance, potentially with a humorous look like a ninja or maybe a movie reference to something like Mission: Impossible?

 

Well, once you turn it on, you’ll see just what the Stealth Suit is…

It turns the King’s clothes black. That’s all. Your reward for all the suffering is a “suit” that you don’t really have any use for anymore as you’ve played the entire game. It’s not likely that Stealth King could have offered a fulfilling reward at the end, but it feels like it could have tried at least a little bit, even if the joke failed to land at least an attempt at humor would be appreciated in a game predicated on Burger King’s marketing campaign of the King being a deliberately strange mascot.

 

CLOSING TIME

The best joke Sneak King has to tell is that it exists at all. From there though, the game is basically going through the motions of the execution, and it’s clear that the idea of the King sneaking around to give people Burger King meals wasn’t one that particularly inspired Blitz Games. The act of sneaking is basic, pedestrians incredibly oblivious, and modifications to the process like hiding spots huge time sinks often not worth the trouble. The bar that appears when you do surprise a hungry person plays an animation that could be exciting once, but you’ll inevitably see each one so many times that the appeal evaporates nearly immediately, and since they can’t be skipped, Sneak King becomes a game much longer than it needs to be due to the constant downtime caused by playing out tired animations. The missions try to plumb every possible depth the shallow mechanics have to offer, but it can never escape the banality of the gameplay.

 

While the sudden presence of an advergame on the cusp of the seventh generation of video game consoles was an interesting idea, the game serves as a pretty good example of why they fell out of favor on 3D consoles. Sneak King is barebones, boring, and a one-trick pony that’s being trotted out over and over again as if the audience has never seen it’s singular trick before. I don’t dislike Burger King or its mascot, and learning that he’s made a small resurgence these days after being briefly retired in 2011 actually does make me a bit happy… so long as he stays out of the video game medium. We’re all better off for it.

 

I must, however, put my heart out to Redditor nomercyvideo, who, as I was writing this review, revealed he had acquired over 200 copies of the game in the hopes that it may one day prove to be a wise investment. While awful games do sometimes earn a high price tag for their infamy, Sneak King found its success by being cheap by all definitions of the word, the secondhand market not likely to suddenly demand this title en masse.  For those of you wishing to find a hilariously bad game, there are better places to look like Superman 64 or Bubsy 3D. Sneak King unfortunately falls into the incredibly dull category of Atrocious titles, where the incredibly poor quality comes from a task being driven into the dirt by repetition.

Sneak King certainly feels like a game that should remain hidden from modern gamers, although it’s no surprise that a game with such an odd story behind its creation turned out so helplessly bland.

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2 thoughts on “Disaster Report: Sneak King (Xbox)

  • August 27, 2018 at 7:45 pm
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    I have Pocketbike Racer, and played it a decent amount. It’s passable because it’s a by-the-numbers kart racer and you really have to make something incredibly poorly to screw that up (not that it can’t be done, heh)

    The bikes are not small enough to fit in a pocket, though, so I have to deduct points for that.

    I miss when McDonald’s was allowed to have personality.

    Reply
  • August 27, 2018 at 9:52 pm
    Permalink

    I wanna feed the king

    Reply

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