By Michael Fontanini / January 28th, 2021
|Developer||No Gravity Games|
|Publisher||No Gravity Games|
|Release Date||May 7th, 2020 (PC)
November 26th, 2020 (Switch)
|Genre||Adventure, Indie, Simulation, Strategy|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam)|
|Age Rating||ESRB: T for Teen|
Picklock is about a nameless man who’s grown weary of the everyday rat race and decides that making an honest living is just not for him. So, of course, he returns once more to a life of crime! To get started, he first needs to go talk to an old friend at the pawn shop in town. The old man in the store gives him his first job, and his shady new life begins. As he sneaks around and progresses in missions, he can use his ill-gotten gains to improve his house, and buy fancy new cars or luxurious properties in exotic locales. Can you succeed as a thief in Picklock?
You first get control of your character at their house. You can walk around a small portion of the neighborhood, and find a bit of money on the ground. There is one mission that requires you to come back and find a person in the neighborhood to help you but, other than that, there’s nothing to really do in this map. You can interact with the desk in your house to select a place in the town to go to. A cutscene then plays where your car drives up in front of the location in question. Generally, you’ll alternate between visiting the Pawn Shop and mission locations. Each time you complete a mission, you’ll need to return to the Pawn Shop to get a new one, and, sometimes, a new tool like a saw.
The gameplay of Picklock is pretty simple. The missions are the focus of the game, where you need to sneak around to steal everything you can get your hands on. Items to be swiped come in two types: money, and not money. Non-cash items become cash after you finish the level though. You are not required to collect everything in a given mission to succeed, so getting a perfect clear on a mission is an extra challenge. In most cases, it will take you a handful of tries before you know the level well enough to perfect it. The levels do get trickier as you go, but once you know what to do in a level, it is fairly easy. If you get seen by someone or a security camera, the police are called. They will begin patrolling outside the building, making escape virtually impossible. I would’ve designed it so that it was still possible to escape, but much trickier than if they hadn’t been called. Some levels have locked doors that are alarmed, so you have to interact with a panel somewhere to disable the alarm before you attempt to pick the lock on that door. Security cameras can often be disabled this way as well.
If you’re going to be successful at your new life of crime in Picklock, you’ll need to make use of your trusty drone. You can toggle it on and off with a single button press, but your character cannot move or do anything while using it. The drone highlights all interactive objects, from cash registers to doors. Objects with green outlines are things you can steal, while yellow just means it can be interacted with. A door with a red outline means it is locked, so you’ll need to put your trusty lock pick to work. Your drone also shows lines on the floor indicating the patrol paths of other people in the area. At each point where they stop along the way, you’ll see a number indicating how long they stay there. This information is super handy in choosing when is the best time to try to sneak into a given room. On some occasions, you’ll find a cabinet that you can hide in to wait for someone to go away or pass by until it’s safe again. There are two in the screenshot above. Don’t ask me how the drone sees everything as if the roof doesn’t exist. Apparently, it’s pretty high tech!
The gameplay in Picklock is simple, but enjoyable. However, it is not without its flaws. There are a few glaring problems at play that definitely undermine the experience here. The most minor issue is a few typos in the text here and there. A more significant problem involves the camera, whose movement takes some getting used to. If you try to move it like you would in most games, it will rotate at ridiculous speed! You don’t need to tilt the joystick much to move it at a reasonable speed, so you have to get used to only tilting just a little bit. This makes the camera rather annoying at times. Another significant issue is that your character is apparently not very bright. You see, when he bumps into any obstacle, he just stops. In most games, if you touch a wall, your character will just keep walking along the wall. This is very annoying when you need to quickly hide, but your movement auto-stops because you brushed up against something! This also makes walking through doorways a finicky and irksome experience at times. However, this problem is not the only one affecting doorways. You see, walking up to a doorway is risky if someone is nearby. When you get close to a doorway, your character wants to auto-walk through it for a second. This may get you accidentally caught, in some cases, if someone is on the other side. It is especially problematic if you’re trying to hide in a corner next to a doorway.
I also encountered a bizarre bug in the late game. There is a mission in an old, abandoned motel that is now just full of drug addicts. On the second floor, there is a room where I walked through fine the first time, but then, every time after that, it seemed I could not. This was because a mischievous invisible wall had appeared between the cabinet you can hide in, and the burning barrel on the opposite side of the room. This room is the bottom-center room in the screenshot above. I thought I was screwed and unable to proceed, until I discovered, by chance, that this bug is directly related to the current camera angle. If the camera is too close to a top-down view, then you can’t pass. If you use the joystick to move the camera to a lower angle, suddenly you can walk through fine. This very strange bug also cropped up once more at the end of the second floor of this building.
Picklock has a voxel-based art style with colorful yet simplistic graphics. The levels are quite varied in terms of locales and appearance. Meanwhile, in the sound department there is a pretty chill, jazzy soundtrack, which is very nice to listen to as you play. It embodies a sense of sneaking around and complements the game quite well. If the police get called, the music changes to a somewhat more tense track. The sound effects are also pretty well done. They accentuate actions like picking locks and breaking into safes.
Picklock is a fun little indie puzzle game, but, unfortunately, its execution is significantly marred by the grating issues discussed above. The game just feels unpolished and also too short after its abrupt ending. For the most part, Picklock is just a series of missions to beat. You can try to get a perfect run on each one, but this won’t add much extra gameplay. I beat the game with all missions cleared with a perfect score in around 5 hours. In addition to being short, another issue is that all of the stuff you can buy is just cosmetic and has no real effect on the game. Getting a new car just changes what car you see in the cutscenes when you go to locations on the map. Redesigning the interior of your house just changes how it looks. The four exotic properties you can purchase are just static scenes showing your character relaxing, with one or two other animated characters, and maybe some animated water. All you can do when you go to one of these places is listen to a relaxing, tropical themed music track until you decide to open the pause menu and leave. They are accessed via the real estate agency in town. Some players may also be annoyed that once you’ve gotten all the money you can in the game, it’s not enough to get everything. As a result, you’ll have to forego at least one thing in the shops. If you’re interested in the game, it’s one that you may want to wait for a sale on. Picklock is available on the Nintendo eShop for $7.99, as well as on Steam.
Review copy provided by publisher.
ActionAdventureIndienintendo switchno gravity gamesPicklockReviewssimulationstrategy