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Vandals – A familiar but artful turn-based puzzler

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Developer: ARTE Experience
Price: $4/£4
Size: 336 MB
Version: 1.11
Platform: iPhone & iPad


Update! Aside from some improved graphic quality settings and some hidden art, there’s little new to Vandals in 2020. There have been the usual bug fixes, but this is largely the same game we played in April 2018.

How does it play today? There haven’t been too many notable attempts to ape the established GO formula (Lara Croft GO, Hitman GO), since Vandals was originally released. So while it doesn’t feel massively original in 2020, it’s still somehow quite fresh. Especially when you factor in its unique focus on street art and stealthy tagging. If you’re done with the GO games, this is still a fine next step.

Revised rating: Its tags have weathered well. ★★★★½


Our original review, written in April 2018, is presented in its entirety below.

Like one of its stealthy street artist protagonists, Vandals sneaks onto Square Enix’s territory and sprays its stylish signature all over the hallowed walls of Deus Ex GO, Lara Croft GO, and Hitman GO.

Not that we’re complaining about such a wanton act of vandalism. There’s real art to the way this game emulates the GO series of mobile puzzlers.

Aim for the spray icon before exiting

If you’ve played any of the aforementioned GO games (and you really should have), you’ll feel right at home with Vandals. Each level resembles a simplified yet graphically rich digital board game, with the same aim of moving your character past a variety of AI-controlled sentinels to the level exit.

Vandal’s major twist on the formula is that you need to paint your tag on a certain section of wall before you make your exit. Doing so involves getting to the appropriate point and tapping on an icon. This will open a little window in which you can sketch to your heart’s content, and the resulting masterpiece will then be imprinted on Vandal’s isometric world.

The game lets you scrawl your own tags

Given the turn-based nature of the action, you’re welcome to stick around and admire your handy work for as long as you like. Just know that the guards and policemen who roam the levels will have been alerted to your “crime” and will be hot on your heels.

In order to slip past these guards (who begin in varying states of alertness), you’ll need to employ some clever tricks of deception. You might get close and whistle to attract their attention before scooting around another way. Find a handy bottle, meanwhile, and you can lob it to a point of your choice for a similarly distracting effect.

Once you spray, the cops will be hot on your tail

Diving into a bush allows you to stay in the same spot and wait for a patrolling guard to pass, while arriving in New York opens the possibility of entering the sewer system and emerging on the other side of the level.

The way Vandals moves through the various historical hotspots of street art culture is a nice touch, as are the little snippets of backstory that can be found in the levels. Indeed, it’s an incredibly handsome game in general, with a distinctive art style and moody lighting.

You can play in portrait or landscape

We also approve of the decision to enable the game to be played in both landscape and portrait – although the latter view frequently cuts a section of the board off on iPhone X.

Ultimately, it’s a bit of a shame that Vandals doesn’t go a little further in distinguishing itself from the GO series. The fresh ideas that have been implemented are both fun and interesting, so we wish that ARTE Experience had been a little braver with the core experience.

Still, those who have exhausted the GO trilogy and are after more polished turn-based stealth-puzzling can turn to Vandals with confidence. It’s not an original piece of artwork, but like many of the finest pieces in the street art world, it is a smartly crafted and highly entertaining copy with a couple of original flourishes.