Sometimes a game launches that has you slapping your forehead and saying ‘Of course! Why haven’t those two genres been smooshed together before?’. Geometric Sniper is such a game, as it brings together the sniper game and the hidden object game, two genres that have you scanning an environment from afar in the search for an objective. They were destined for each other, and the results are predictably ace.
Being a £2.49 game (or £1.99 at the time of writing), Geometric Sniper doesn’t aim too high. It offers a relatively small environment in black-and-white line art, and then lets you have at it. You are given a target to assassinate (plus a couple to protect), and your job is to first find them in the cityscapes, before popping one in their noggin.
In less accomplished hands, this could have been run-of-the-mill. It could easily have been Whack Wally, but it’s better than that. Instead, you get missions and developing situations that toy with you, making your mission so much more than a simple ‘find-and-neutralise’.
Targets arrive late to the party. Others deliberately surround themselves with crowds, or take hostages. Some targets are plural, requiring you to kill multiple people at once – but shoot once and their comrades get spooked and run, so you have to time your executions well. Sniper Elite would nod its head with approval.
There’s a narrative running through Geometric Sniper, but we really rather that it didn’t. It’s hard to tell if it’s intended as parody or not, as the narrator mopes about a past love and a mission that went south. It provides a last-act surprise but very little else, and we couldn’t help but think that a black-and-white, cutesy approach to sniper games would have benefitted from a lighter, less serious touch.
Eleven missions (twelve if we’re being charitable) pop up in sequence, which isn’t a huge number until you remember the two-pound price tag. But it’s the flow through a mission that confuses us. You’re given a briefing before you head into the level, where you’re shown a mugshot of the target and some mission parameters. But you can’t access either of these in the mission proper, not even when you press the pause button, which means that Geometric Sniper is stirring a spot of memorisation into the sniping and hidden objects. We’d rather it didn’t: since you can restart a level with ease, we’d have preferred that the identity of the target was always to hand.
Then you’re into the level and the timer is ticking. First point of order is to learn the map, scanning every corner for early signs of the target. You might be flagging areas of the map as likely locations, or earmarking characters as potential targets. But eventually, it’s time to make a decision – either because the timer’s waning, or events develop – so you pull RT and kill your perp, or who you think is the perp.
The controls and sniping are absolutely on point. They’re everything you would want from this kind of game. You can hold LT to stop breathing, steadying the scope for a clean kill. But it’s temporary and on a cooldown, so timing is everything. And LB and RB zooms in and out, allowing you to scan or shoot with a touch more precision. We’d often completely forget that we were playing a game that was cheaper than six Chicken McNuggets.
But it’s not foolproof. To make the missions more complicated than simply spotting a mark and then offing them, Geometric Sniper uses dirty tricks. There are characters who look exactly like your guy, but have their backs turned. You can’t see their faces to make a true confirmation of identity. But is that because Geometric Sniper has plans to turn that character around later? Or is it a character that never, ever turns round – red herring, if you will? You can spend a lot of the time in a mission’s opening moments trying to work out what it wants from you. What is the puzzle in this level?
NPCs, when they turn to the side, look exactly the same as each other. A hexagon dude looks like a triangle dude. And this is frustrating too, as you wait for the damn person to just walk towards the camera. Is this what it’s like for all hitmen? Do they get grumpy when their marks don’t turn to face them? We’re genuinely not sure.
And there are other dirty tricks and obfuscations: enemies turning up late in a level is a form of cheating. You can’t play Where’s Wally? and have Wally offscreen for the opening acts. It’s just not cricket. Enemy snipers kill the targets you’re protecting, even though they have no clear line of sight. Some snipers can kill with only a tiny silencer poking out of some blinds, and we’re genuinely not sure how we were meant to spot them first. Geometric Sniper can feel unnecessarily cruel in its missions, because it has to. We’d be completing missions in seconds otherwise. But it doesn’t mean we have to like it.
The campaign is over in less than an hour (longer if you get as stuck as we did on missions 4 and 10), which is both understandable for the price, and also south of what we wanted. We were having a whale of a time with Geometric Sniper, and the end materialised before we wanted it to. Understandable, but also gutting.
There’s an elite difficulty, which yanks away the ability to hold your breath and steals the zoom, too. It’s not what we’d call a difficulty mode – it’s more a removal of basic usability. We didn’t care much for it. A ‘Find’ mode has you searching for items in a true hidden object stylee, which is better, but finding the last Eiffel Tower of thirteen can be a ballache without any hints or tips. We found our interest in them was on a downward curve. Something that’s bizarrely called ‘Game Mode’ is the Find mode as a sequence of levels, rather than just one.
And a note for achievement hunters: Geometric Sniper’s is borked. You won’t get an achievement for the final level, or any of the Find levels. Replay the campaign to hunt for other achievements and the campaign will crash, forcing you to reboot. A fix is in the offing, if forum posts are to be believed, but you won’t come out with anything more than 500G.
For the price, it’s killer. Geometric Sniper is a goofy, fun-filled sniper game that shuffles in some hidden object stuff seamlessly. Better still, its missions are far cleverer than you might expect, so you’re going to need your brains while your opponents lose theirs through a bullet hole. Just be ready to curse the odd level that cheats you out of a hit.
You can buy Geometric Sniper from the Xbox Store