Once you get past the menus in the Switch-exclusive Never Stop Sneakin’, the only control input that you have to use is the control stick. This is a simplified, top-down pseudo-homage/parody of Metal Gear, with essentially all of your actions being entirely automatic.
This is a stealth game for people who do not like stealth games.
Consider me part of that demographic, because stealth games have always been too much to wrap my head around. In this game, running up near an enemy or turret will have your player character automatically slice them with a sword. If you’re spotted by a guard in their limited cone of vision, represented by a flashlight, your player character will automatically shoot them—keep in mind, however, that bullets are sparse. If you don’t have bullets, you automatically deploy a smoke grenade to help you either escape or dispatch your enemies. Without either, expect to get shot at. Similarly, turrets and security cameras require EMP grenades to dispatch. Even hacking computers or opening lockers involve you standing near them without a button press.
It was surprising to me just how good all of this felt while playing the game. Slashing at enemies, especially in chains (they certainly like to bunch up a lot), is immensely satisfying. Having your character shoot enemies the instant you are spotted, either deliberately or accidentally, is actually quite startling. In both cases, the HD Rumble feature of the Switch Joy-Con, a generally underutilized feature, gives some good feedback. You’ll spend most of your time collecting ESP on the field or from fallen enemies, to spend later in the game; these are represented by tiny green and yellow dots, and every time you pick some up, the HD Rumble makes it feel like each individual dot is flying into your hand. The game feels like something designed for phones, even including touch controls (I used them for a couple of minutes, before I got annoyed that my finger was obstructing my view of my own character), making its Switch exclusivity all the more surprising—but as a Switch enthusiast, I ain’t complainin’.
The premise is delightfully bonkers: as an agent of the Department of Sneakin’, you sneak through the base of the evil Amadeus Guildenstern, a madman who has used a time machine to kidnap all of the U.S. Presidents, past and future (even the bad ones). Aesthetically, it resembles a game for the original PlayStation, a look that I didn’t realize I could be nostalgic for until I saw these blocky character models and pixelated faces with mouths that never moved. But the biggest surprise was how expressive these characters were, and it solely comes from the excellent voice acting. Major Milestone, the player’s commanding officer, and Guildenstern are silly and memorable characters, and the voice talent behind the microphones knew how to navigate through this offbeat script.
You’ll definitely crack a smile when you encounter the members of Guildenstern’s Evil Executive Branch, who act as the game’s bosses. The first one you’ll encounter will be Vice President Helicopter—who is literally just a helicopter. But in time, these bosses demonstrate the biggest flaw of the game: repetition. You’ll laugh the first time you encounter Health Secretary Dr. Acula (who may or may not be a vampire), but will you feel the same way the twelfth time you do so? The game’s structure is this: you’ll infiltrate the base, which has multiple levels (a metal industrial Metal Gear Solid style level, a forest, an underground bunker, etc.). Dispatch the enemies, collect packages and ESP, and get to the elevator at the end. On the third floor of each level, you’ll encounter one of a handful of bosses. You can extract yourself and return to the base at any time when you feel satisfied with your mission, even if you haven’t gone through all of the levels. At this point, you’ll spend ESP to build structures, starting from a tent in the forest with the goal to get into space and build your own time machine. But along the way, you’ll have to rescue many figures (i.e. a survivalist, a scientist, an astronaut, etc.) or objects (i.e. blueprints) to help you build these structures.
This is not a game meant to be binged, but rather one to revisit every once in a while.
Never Stop Sneakin’ probably works better as a mobile game than a home console game, because boy did I get tired eventually. You’ll be going through the same environments and maps over and over, killing the same stupid guards over and over, defeating the same bosses over and over. As you progress through the game, you’ll have the ability to go through more levels of the base, but all that does is to extend the time you spend playing the game. Enemies barely get more difficult to encounter—eventually, they may be walking faster, but they always display any lack of awareness of their surroundings, and have the same predictable back-and-forth walking pattern.
This game might actually be too easy. It gives you passive perks that can be used during the mission you find them on the field; they reset once you extract. The earlier ones you find are simple, such as finding more health or bullets from the field. But by the end of the game, you can find perks that have you invisible when you stand still, or ones that allow you to collect ESP from farther distances and through walls. By the end of my playthrough, I was going through missions where I had perks that automatically EMP’d turrets and cameras and killed enemies within a fairly generous radius. The game was no fun at that point. There’s a clock in the bottom right side of the pause screen, and I must have made it to there around 13 hours in.
Ultimately, it was the strength of the comedic script that kept me going. While the action became predictable, the visual and verbal gags never were. But while you might appreciate the James Bond-like theme (with vocals), playing this game for long stretches of time will guarantee that song will haunt your nightmares.
The novelty of Never Stop Sneakin’s gameplay wears off after a certain number of hours, but the charm of the game’s presentation is always intact. If developer Humble Hearts (whose previous game was Dust: An Elysian Tail) were to make a sequel, which is something they appeared to set up with the final scene, they at least have an excellent foundation to work off of. But if variety is the spice of life, Never Stop Sneakin’ is lacking in the spice department.
At least Vice President Helicopter is still freaking hilarious.
Never Stop Sneakin’ was developed by Humble Hearts. It’s available for the Switch.
Chris Compendio is a Paste intern and proud Switch owner. Check out his personal website here, and follow his own absurd Twitter account @Compenderizer.