Nostalgia is a tricky thing. We all feel it at one time or another, and it often seems nothing gets butts in the proverbial seats as reliably as the promise of remembering everything as it was, when you didn’t know any better and assumed the world was a simpler place. Maybe that’s why so many corporations and creators use it as a crutch for storytelling.
When you overuse nostalgia, though, it stinks of the laser-focused cynicism that launched Ernest Cline’s career. But there’s a happy medium. You can use reverence for the classics to launch into something entirely different—paying homage to the past without simply replicating it whole-cloth.
Never Stop Sneakin’, the stealth-comedy game from developer Humble Hearts, does just that. Anyone who has ever played one of the first three Metal Gear Solid games will immediately recognize Never Stop’s inspiration. The chunkiest of 3D graphics obviously mime the original PlayStation, a style that’s still a rarity in a sea of indie games leaning on pixel art. Its starting protagonist, Agent Hummingbird, is a stylistic mix of Solid Snake’s gruff masculinity and Raiden’s skinny-and-sultry gait. Even the game’s crooning theme song is an overt recreation of the iconic Snake Eater theme—itself a callback to early James Bond tunes.
Developer Humble Hearts clearly appreciates some tactical espionage action. But Never Stop Sneakin’ isn’t a direct riff on Konami’s once-flagship series. You stealth around enemies and take down a variety of wacky bosses, sure, but the action is extremely minimalist. You can play an entire level with a single finger: either a thumb on the control stick or a digit dragged across a touch screen. That makes it a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch, where I’ve been playing the score-based sneak-em-up.