Creating a parody video game that feels fresh on its own merits is a difficult task. It’s even more difficult when that game is a parody of the legendary Metal Gear Solid series. Despite the monumental task at hand, Humble Hearts’ Never Stop Sneakin’, out on the Nintendo Switch, is a gloriously goofy homage and a tightly designed game of its own.
Right from the outset, the game makes its influences — and ridiculous tone — clear. A gruff, PlayStation 2 era-looking captain skydives out of an aircraft with no parachute, the main character is an over-the-top, anime-style ninja with a soft voice, and the first boss fight is against a helicopter. The plot is just as nonsensical as you’d imagine: A disgraced former vice president has built a time machine and captured all of the presidents throughout time, and it’s your job to build a time machine of your own to stop him.
The absurdity of the plot is explored mostly through dialogue between the player, as the ninja, and the aforementioned captain. The exchanges between them are thankfully much briefer than those in the Metal Gear Solid series. While Never Stop Sneakin’ doesn’t focus too much on banter, the writing is lighthearted and silly, often taking jabs at the game itself or the ridiculousness of the villain’s scheme. The game is much more about getting in and out of levels, because Humble Hearts does something magical with the gameplay.
Never Stop Sneakin’ won’t surprise you, since all of the standard stealth-game fare is there: sneak up behind guards to take them out, shoot enemies who spot you before sounding alarms and hack terminals for resources. The difference is how you perform all those actions. Throughout my first hour with the game, I almost exclusively used the analog stick. That might sound surprising to fans of the stealth genre that are used to seeing button prompts to perform a stealth takedown, or relying on the game to go into slo-mo when a guard spots them. Instead of using a mix of buttons or complicated setups to stay alive, everything you can do is stripped down to its simplest form. If you can control an analog stick, you can do 99 percent of the game’s required actions.
Need to take down an enemy from behind? Just run up behind them, and you will automatically do so without skipping a beat. A guard spotted you? As long as you have bullets, your character automatically shoots them and takes them out. What if you run out of bullets? Well, if you have a smoke grenade, your character will drop one of those if he is spotted, allowing you to take out any guards in proximity. If you have to hack a computer, just stand in front of it for a few seconds, and voila!
This may seem like an intense oversimplification for a genre that demands loads of precision and timing, but I loved the arcade-style feel of it. At times, it felt like I was playing something more like Pac-Man than Metal Gear Solid. There’s a breeziness to the gameplay that lets you focus on feeling empowered rather than overburdened with a laundry list of controls and mechanics. Being a powerful spy has never felt so easy, and that’s great. The game gives you a lot of slack if you really need it, which is something that’s rarely the case with the stealth games.
Never Stop Sneakin’ feels like a lighthearted remedy to some of the challenges of its genre. At best, stealth games take themselves way too seriously, and at worst, they can be challenging for players to understand. In Never Stop Sneakin’, you’ll either be laughing at a dumb joke, slashing your way through corridors and feeling good — or, ideally, both of those things. And thankfully, this game makes it real easy for you to have it both ways.