Crime isn’t a new subject matter for video games. Properties like the Grand Theft Auto series have included the most profitable entertainment product of all time, while the independent gaming scene has also got in on the action through titles such as Thief Simulator. Picklock is the next game to dive into some shadier subject matter, from developer Deqaf Studio, but it’s a very up-and-down experience.
Picklock is a game where the player takes on the role of the titular Picklock, who decides to get out of their slightly mundane existence by returning to a life of crime. Tasked with getting $1 million in order to retire to a luxurious villa, Picklock takes on jobs from their local pawn shop that steadily ramp up in complexity. Picklock takes the form of an isometric puzzle game, with the player hopping around the city of Greenville and taking everything that isn’t nailed down.
Those who are used to stealth games or platform puzzlers will get on well here, even through Picklock switches it up to an isometric viewpoint. The game covers plenty of tropes from stealth games, such as the need to watch out for guards who have a cone of vision similar to games like Metal Gear Solid. Meanwhile, success can be found by finding the right point of entry, unlocking doors, and disabling alarms and cameras to ensure a smooth getaway.
Initially Picklock is quite fun. The game never dives into absurdity – the player will, at the most dangerous, steal from a ‘gentleman’s club’ or a biker gang – and Picklock stays relatively grounded because of that. It helps that the game has a vector graphics style, giving it a retro vibe that ties into its short, focused levels. Overall it’s a light-hearted experience in general, aside from the odd decision to be able to visit a strip club at will which feels a little closer to Saint’s Row.
When everything works smoothly, the game is quite successful. Those who have played the Hitman or Sniper Elite games will know that scouting out a location pays off before diving in, with Picklock allowing the player to get a good overlook of each location with the use of a drone that maps points of interest and guard routes. Occasionally the game will also throw curveballs that require the player to think on their feet, such as an unexpected alarm that forces the player to find a hiding spot quickly.
However, Picklock does have its problems. For all the potential of its main conceit, the game controls extremely poorly, mainly because of the awkward movement of the main character and a chronic lack of precision with the player’s choice of actions. If the player comes across some interactions that are close together, such as an alarm, a secret switch, and a wad of cash all held within a wardrobe, it’s extremely hard to select the right one.
This is an issue because of the tight timeframes required to make sure everything runs smoothly. Picklock is just the right level of difficulty at a conceptual level, with the player’s lateral thinking skills challenged as the game steadily increases in difficulty. However, the control issues mean that the short timeframes become frustrating when the player selects the wrong item at the wrong time.
There are also a few relatively obscure puzzles that go beyond the realm of just being challenging. One such example is a bar that’s one entry point is constantly guarded, and the player must go back to their house and speak to a homeless person in their neighborhood, hiring them to distract a guard. It’s the first and only time Picklock offers a solution outside of each location’s map, so it could be difficult to work out for a lot of players.
All in all, Picklock‘s central gimmick is good idea that occasionally works well, and as a brief indie puzzle game it could be a good way to distract oneself for a few hours. However, its control issues do hamper how enjoyable it is, meaning that the game more often than not might be a little too exasperating for some.
Picklock is out now for PC and Nintendo Switch. Screen Rant was provided with a Switch download code for the purposes of this review.