Money = good. Long and hard work = bad. Quick illegal money = perfect solution! These equations sum up your motivation. But stealing a few wallets won't do any good. You want the real thing: become a criminal mastermind!
The first step is to select a target. In the 'scene', you can buy bluebrints of the building and lots of information about the value and location of the loot, alarm systems, guards and so on. All this costs money of course, and if you pay more for the preparations than you steal in the end, you haven't planned all that well.
As talented as you may be yourself, you can't be an expert for everything. So you hire a team consisting of electronical experts to disable alarms, locksmithes to open doors, thugs to beat up the guards, drivers to get you away safely and many others. All these of course want a share of the money, too.
And as much as you don't give a damn about laws, you're not an anarchist. You're the boss. You are telling everyone what to do and when to do it. Without a coordinated plan, you have no chance to succeed. And this is the core of They Stole A Million: working out a plan.
You're viewing the blueprints with more or less detailed information depending on how much of it you bought before. Now you can give exact orders to your team, tell them every single step. The normal procedure is to walk around, open doors, and steal stuff. Some rooms contain cameras, some boxes, cabinets or whatever are secured with an alarm system which you have to turn off first, safes can be blown up or opened slower, but soundless.
And all this has to be coordinated temporally. It would be foolish to break open a cabinet before its alarm system has been turned off for example. So you send your alarm expert to this system, let him turn it off and take a note of the time when he has finished. The other guys are ordered to start working on the targets after that. And this is just a simple example, in most cases, you have to take the actions of five people into account, just like several alarm systems, guards and of course the police which will turn up sooner or later.
Once you're satisfied with the plan, the action starts. In real time, your men try to carry out their directives exactly. But if you've misplanned and find a locked door for example, they have to improvise, and they're not very good at that. Fortunately, you get a message if something unpredicted happens and you can try to make the best out of the situation.
Apart from these 'last-minute commands' to the team, you can also command your own character during the raid. There is no plan which this character follows, you have to tell every step in real time. If you've thought of something, you're definitely at the advantage...
They Stole A Million will definitely keep you occupied for quite some time. The targets aren't that hard to rob, but only if you're satisfied with a minor part of the overall values lying around there! Perfecting your plan is what you'll spend most of the time with. And it's fun because it's all very logical, complex and realistic!
The joystick controls work great, the planning is done via icons which are explained in the game itself. The learning curve isn't at all steep. Only a few comfortable functions are missing: it would be very handy to have the abilities of the team members to be displayed during the planning for example. Or some indicator which doors are locked and which aren't. But overall, it all just works and fits.
They Stole A Million is still very unique. I only know of one other series with a similar concept: The Clou and The Sting (which are actually “Der Clou 1 and 2”). The first part is actually a worthy successor to its idol, the second part is just a very poor excuse of a game and a disgrace for this great concept! But no matter how these two 'modern' versions are, this one is the original, this one started it all. Or rather didn't start anything because almost nobody picked the idea up
This game contains an online manual which automatically loads on startup. To quit it, press Escape. The disk image contains both game disks, so if the game asks for the other disk, just press the fire button. The game needs some time to load then, don't grow impatient, just wait a bit.