Developed by sodaraptor and NormalHumanSixx, published by RaptorSoft, and stealthily sneaking soon to PC comes Covert Critter, a 3D Stealth Action game heavily inspired by the Metal Gear series. In this indie title, you will play Koss as they infiltrate a base taken over by terrorists with plans of launching nuclear armageddon on an unsuspecting world. In the preview build, you’ll creep through eight levels and use a variety of gadgets and moves to try and save the day.
The game was originally developed for the Summer Slow Jams 2022 game jam but is being expanded out to a full title. This isn’t the first PS1-inspired title I have previewed recently. And I have to say that Covert Critter’s preview build is a hell of a lot of fun. I’ll be honest with you dear reader, Ol’ Chris really isn’t big on stealth games, but this one has been a joy to play. Offering a challenging experience but one that felt rewarding at the same time. But for more detail let’s get into the preview.
Covert Critter is coming soon to PC and can be wishlisted on Steam. A demo is available via Itch.io.
Story – The Bomb!
In Covert Critter, you take on the role of Koss, a Geko spy who must infiltrate a base that has been captured by a group known as the Red Hawks. This sinister group has taken hostages and plans to launch nuclear warheads to wipe out gekokind. The story in this preview build of Covert Critter is well delivered. The experience is bookended by a cutscene at the start of the first level and one at the end of the final one. Keeping very much in step with its inspirations and without taking up too much time. They add context to what you are doing which is always welcome in these preview builds.
The story is delivered via Metal Gear-style codec cutscenes which tell you everything you need to know. It’s a cute little homage, as is most of the title. Beyond this, the UI and tutorial text is well-handled and present everything that you need to know in a clear and concise way. The difficulty curve of Covert Critter is a smooth one. Each mechanic you need to learn is delivered gradually as and when the challenge comes up. It’ll be interesting to see if this story is expanded upon. As I feel it is a good foundation for a full title.
Gameplay – Covert Critter Creepin’
Covert Critter is a 3D Steal-based Action Game much in the tradition of Metal Gear. Your goal in this build is to sneak your way to the exit of each level. avoiding detection from enemy forces and finding key cards as needed. To add an extra layer of challenge there is a par time for each level. Though that isn’t needed. If you are detected then the enemy will try to kill you.
And you cannot kill them so stealth is your only weapon. However, there are a handful of different items to aid you, which can distract and even knock out your foes. With each of them having a slightly cartoony and tongue-in-cheek feel to them; you can knock out guards with banana peels, distract them with boomboxes etc. which adds a certain level of charm to the game. Making Covert Critter feel as much of a parody as it is a tribute.
Built for the Future
For a preview build, Covert Critter offers a drum-tight gameplay loop which, whilst it will be familiar to some, has an almost addictive quality to it. The title’s current selection of eight levels acts almost like an assault course; each offers a distinct flavour and challenge that you need to navigate with the moves and items available. All whilst trying to get a decent par time, if you are so motivated. Some have more enemies, some are in total darkness, and some have your mini-map blocked. But as difficult as they are it is nothing a little trial and error cannot overcome.
Naturally, some are easier than others. But there is a great variety here which offers a great preview of what will come in Covert Critter’s final build. It isn’t without its flaws though as I feel that the AI in Covert Critter can be a little too dumb for its own good. However, that might be more indicative of the detection system than anything else. But more on that in a moment. In general, it feels for the most part you can get away with just running through a map and not paying much attention to the stealth aspect. Especially given how easy to read the layouts can be. But with that, your mileage may vary.
Of course, if you do get caught you can use Koss’s natural cloaking power to hide you. Just stand against a wall and press space to turn invisible for a limited amount of time. This might sound overpowered, but given how quickly you can run out it balances out well and feels more like something to help you out of tight spots rather than a get-out-of-jail-free card. And is best used as a last resort when things get tight.
In the event you’re detected by the guards it isn’t an instant Game Over. And if you are quick enough you can run and hide out of sight. Possibly throwing down a banana peel to knock out a guard or dropping down a decoy to buy you some time. Again, detection does not result in an instant loss. But you will get peppered with machine gun fire until either you die or manage to hide. This keeps Covert Critter from being too punishing whilst at the same time ensuring that there are at least some consequences for your bungling.
Each enemy has a cone of vision which you can see on your mini-map. As you’d expect if you stand in that cone you are seen and then shot at and chased. It isn’t too difficult to get around them given how well they do show up on the mini-map. The only thing to be wary of is that your foes can hear your footsteps if you are too loud. So you can’t just run right past them to win, but you can get rather close. Which can make some challenges feel almost laughably easy. But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some weird enjoyment from just “yoink”ing a key card from a guard who likely should have seen me.
For a build that was made in fourteen days for a game jam, I’m honestly floored at how good it is. But then the talent of indie devs is something that sometimes feels underappreciated. As simple as the gameplay might be it works brilliantly. And is frightfully fun even to someone like myself who isn’t big on stealth games. Providing a game which is accessible enough to be fun but complex enough to add depth to it. In the current build, I had to use a mouse and keyboard. And it controlled well for the most part. Though I feel that the game controls well even if it feels like it will be more at home on a controller. But from what I can gather that is an option that will be available in the final build.
Graphics & Audio – Geared Up
Covert Critter does a fine job of replicating the look of the PlayStation 1. Whilst there are a couple of shadow effects that look a little more modern that are barely noticeable to most people. Hey, I grew up with the machine, this stuff sticks out to me! In seriousness though, I respect the craft that has gone into the graphics and art style of this title. I feel that our cast of characters (well, Koss and the villains) are well designed and convey their personalities well. Granted, a lot of that comes down to it being heavily inspired by Metal Gear. And as previously stated, many aspects of the game are parodies of that title.
Whilst there is an excellent variety in the levels, the foes you face get rather repetitive. But it is still early into the title’s development. So any issues that I may or may not have with it can be ironed out in due time, should the developer choose to. I’m not so egocentric to demand anything of any developer. Especially not one that has managed to create something as well produced as this. On a related note, I really do love the soundtrack for Covert Critter. It feels period appropriate to a brilliant degree, oozing with atmosphere and personality that is hard to convey. It not only sells the tone, genre, and era of this title but does it in a way that doesn’t feel derivative.
Covert Critter was previewed on PC.
This article features footage from Itch.io on YouTube.