Half-Inch Heist is the newest iPhone and iPad game to have one virtual foot planted firmly in the past. Although it works with touchscreen controls, its 2D pixel art and music were designed to resemble something people would have purchased for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the '80s. Taking this a step further, the developers at Mutant Labs made it extremely difficult. Playing as a burglar, your job is to steal a diamond and then play keep away from a variety of enemies and hazards simply by maneuvering the precious stone around the play area, but there's a catch. Remove your finger from the screen, and it's game over. On a lesser note, getting hit just once also ends the game. Either way, you'll have to restart from the beginning, which as you can imagine is quite maddening.
What ensues is a methodical and somewhat frantic game of cat and mouse, as you weave between killer robots, laser beams and missiles to keep the diamond intact. You'll even square off against a variety of bosses, where the goal involves placing the diamond over each bad guy's green area to whittle away health.
It's a fun experience overall, especially if you grew up with the likes of Contra and Ghosts'N Goblins, two of the toughest games in history. Half-Inch Heist is hardcore, without question, and the 8-bit style graphics and chiptunes music drive home its nostalgic feel. On the flip side, your finger will inevitably get in the way and result in some cheap deaths, simply because you're unable to see everything. Beyond that, restarting means having to endure the same old stages again. If anything, the developers should have randomized the levels to avoid tedium.
In the end, Half-Inch Heist is another solid retro homage, made even more appealing by the fact that it's free. That said, the high level of frustration makes it a bit too polarizing. You'll either relish the challenge, or delete the game out of anger.
What's Hot: Stylish retro graphics and music, simple-to-learn controls, extreme challenge.
What's Not: Your finger gets in the way, one-hit kills, having to constantly play through the same levels, no iPad version.