Where the Money Is Review
Where the Money Is is an action-strategy game developed by both Flaming Bat Studios and Bareware Studios. The project is the first from each and a fine start for both developers. Although I wouldn't normally choose to play Where the Money Is, the title was compelling enough to get me to complete it.
The Basic Concept
In Where the Money Is, players are bank robbers trying to get away with the money. To pass each puzzle, players must get all the bank robbers out of the building without getting caught by the guards. The robbers must escape with a minimum amount of money and within a certain number of moves. If a player exceeds the allotted number of moves, then the puzzle isn't over, but additional guards appear to make escaping that much harder. Players lose the puzzle when the robber is caught by a guard.
Challenging, Intriguing Puzzles
The puzzles in Where the Money Is are well designed, and the solutions are exact. There's little room for wasted steps, but some puzzles do have multiple solutions. The puzzles are batched in sets of eight, with a new type of robber introduced with each set of puzzles. Types of robbers vary from those who can blow open vaults to locksmiths who can open locked doors and allow the robber(s) to access other parts of the bank. These new robbers keep the game from getting repetitive.
The introduction of each set also comes with the the wonderful sound of dial-up Internet (if you know what I mean), announcing an incoming mechanics explanation in the bottom right-hand corner. The explanations are helpful, but the game controls are pretty simple: arrow keys to move, SPACE to use the robber's special power, and ENTER to exit the bank.
I'm not sure how much replay value Where the Money Is has. Players do get a high score at the end of the puzzle, but as far as I could find, the high scores aren't shown or stored anywhere. I know there are a few puzzles where I could score higher because I wasted steps figuring out what I needed to do. I wouldn't mind going back and doing those puzzles again, but I can't without trial and error and recording all the scores myself.
It Was the Little Things
Although I enjoyed the puzzles, I didn't enjoy the graphics and the sound effects as much. The choice to use 2D pixel graphics is a good one; the game itself doesn't need 3D or anything too fancy. However, there were some text and color choices that hindered the playing experience.
First of all, I thought the robbers could've been a brighter color so they were easier to spot on the map. There were a few puzzles where I didn't realize there was another robber I needed to control because they blended in a little too well with the rest of the game's color scheme. A bright green or yellow would've been a better choice while also keeping the game accessible to color blind players.
Second of all, the guards were sometimes hard to track. The guards always move one step and always move after the robber(s) move. If the guard is facing a wall or is impeded by a flower pot, then they spend the next move turning around. However, it was difficult to tell at times which way the guard was facing. Making that clearer would've prevented a lot of headaches. I'm not asking the game to be easier; however, the hard part should be in solving the puzzle, not in spending time deciphering what every person on the map is doing.
Third of all, I wasn't fond of the "Game Over" sound, which plays when you're captured by a guard. It could've either been softer or a different sound effect entirely. The loud clap of capture would make me jump out of my chair, especially if I unknowingly walked into a loss. The other sounds in the game are fine. The game's soundtrack was perfect, in fact. It was so much fun to move the robbers to the beat. But that "Game Over" sound was just too much.
Overall, Where the Money Is is a fine game. The puzzles are challenging enough to push most gamers to find the solution. It's great to play when you have 10 or 20 minutes to spare or in longer spurts, even if there were some aesthetic choices that did take away from the playing experience. Where the Money Is is available now on Steam for $3.99.