Invite your friends over: it's time to rob the clockwork countryside blind.
Since its Switch reveal in a Nindie Showcase video in 2017, Light Fingers captured my attention. From the endearing unfolding game board to the weird musical instrumentation of the soundtrack, I was smitten with its style. After spending time with it, the style is likely the long-lasting highlight. Light Fingers is brilliant with the right group of friends in a multiplayer setting, but a disappointing single-player component and somewhat limited scope hold it back from being consistently incredible.
Two modes makeup Light Fingers: Board Campaign and Dungeon Rush. Let’s start with the excellent mode, the 2-4 player Board Campaign. The goal is to get bags of loot by finding or stealing them across the board. Everyone starts at the same space and ventures into the unknown after a dice roll to unfold new spaces, find treasures, and avoid being caught by guards. While it’s a little under explained initially, it’s quick to grasp as you play or by taking the time to read through the included rulebook. This mode takes elements of traditional board games and adds a chic twist with a charming clockwork design.
As players find loot, they accrue wanted levels that draw guards out to chase them. Loot must be stashed at a Thieves Camp, which changes throughout the game. Cards can be found around the board or purchased at shops with discovered coins, and they can change the amount you can move in a turn, protect your character against guards, or screw over your friends. If the set amount of loot for victory isn’t reached by a certain number of turns, the ruling goes to the Guild Master. The customization of the length is great, but the play always remains the same - mostly all that changes is the playtime.
Things get more video gamey and interesting with the dungeons that players can venture through to get loot. Other players can control hands that activate traps to stymie the platforming player in these isometric segments. It’s an exceedingly smart way of blending board game and video game. The perspective does make some jumps and movement harder, but in small doses, that doesn’t become an issue.
Unfortunately, Dungeon Rush mode is basically all platforming segments and draws far too much attention to the lackluster platforming perspective. The way that works is similar to the dungeons in the Board Campaign, but it’s just that’s all there is. And this mode is the only solo mode. For all that I enjoyed about the board game part, Dungeon Rush left a bad taste in my mouth. You’re encouraged to play it as new elements are unlocked in the other mode, but it’s just generally a drag. I’m happy a single-player mode exists, but it’s disappointing it focuses so much on the least interesting aspect of the game.
Still, the other half is excellent. The Board Campaign more than makes up for the disappointment of Dungeon Rush. It nicely balances simplicity and depth, as it is very easy to play but holds a lot of nuance beneath the surface. Getting deeper into the board allows for many ways to win and as many ways to try to screw over whoever is in line to win. Thanks to the sometimes brutality of the guards, it’s more difficult for one player to run away with the game as well. In the games I played, it was mostly well balanced, where often those who had rough starts could rebound for a win (or at least a near win).
With the single-player limitations in mind, Light Fingers has a narrower focus on local multiplayer. Thankfully, that local multiplayer is great, whether you have two, three, or four people to play. Even with less players, the involvement of the guards when wanted levels rise helps keep the board more perilous and populated. The board game segments are the draw of Light Fingers, and as long as you don’t venture off that path, you’ll likely have a fantastic time.