Peaky Blinders: Mastermind
Developed By : FuturLab
Published By : Curve Digital
Category : Adventure, Puzzle
Release Date : Aug 20, 2020
Licensed games are often not very good, being made quickly to cash in on the success of an existing franchise. The last licensed title I reviewed, Narcos: Rise of the Cartels, did at least try some new things, but ultimately failed at being a good game. Peaky Blinders: Mastermind in many ways is similar to Narcos, having a few interesting ideas that are rarely used to their full potential.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is set before the TV series, showing the origins of the Birmingham crime gang. As someone unfamiliar with the source material, and with the prequel nature of Mastermind, I was hoping that the game would do a decent job at setting up each member of the gang. However, the way the story is presented is not particularly friendly to newcomers, and probably won’t impress fans of the series either. Cutscenes are completely unvoiced, being told through bland text and still images. This was likely due the costs involved with hiring actors from the show, but it makes for an incredibly dull introduction to the world of Peaky Blinders.
It’s clear that most of the attention went to Mastermind’s gameplay instead, which is at least appreciated compared to other licensed games. This is essentially a puzzle game, as you control multiple gang members to complete each level’s objective. Tommy, the aforementioned mastermind, is the gang’s leader, being able to think up plans on the fly. This is represented in game by a timeline mechanic, where you have free rein to go back and forth through time to change actions or control different characters.
The puzzle part comes in to play with how levels are designed. Most of them are short, linear areas full of NPCs and gimmicks for each member to make use of. To complete your objectives, you’ll have to control multiple characters, using the timeline system to have them do certain actions in tandem. For example, you can use one character to distract a guard, then rewind to have another sneak past. It’s a cool way of letting you play as each gang member without making you try and control each one all at the same time. Instead of trying to cram strategy gameplay onto consoles, this system makes things a lot easier to understand without removing the potential for complex missions.
Unfortunately, this system also removes any real tension, as you’re always able to quickly rewind from any mistakes you make. Likely a welcome feature for those not used to this sort of gameplay, though it does mean that trial and error ends up being the easiest way to complete a given objective. This wouldn’t have actually been too bad, if it wasn’t for the other key problem with Peaky Blinders: Mastermind: the lack of difficulty overall.
Early missions act as tutorials, letting you get to grips with the main gameplay mechanics and each gang member. New playable characters are introduced as you go along, only letting you use a few at a time. Nothing too out of the ordinary, since most games will try to ease you into things. Peaky Blinders: Mastermind‘s problem is that by the time you’re finally given control of all characters, the game is basically over. This is a short experience, only lasting around five hours or so, and for most of it you’ll just be going through simple tutorial-style missions.
Despite the game’s unique ideas and mechanics, you only get a small taste of what could have been. The last couple of missions do a decent job at making you use all the tools at your disposal, every member of the Peaky Blinders working in tandem to complete their goal. It feels like everything is slowly coming together, the training wheels finally being removed. And then… the game ends, right as it gets good.
For this reason alone, Peaky Blinders: Mastermind ends up being hard to recommend. Rather than being an awful licensed game, it’s a decent one that ends far too quickly. If the final mission was only the halfway point, leading into another five hours of more complex ones, then this would have been a fairly solid adaption of Peaky Blinders (at least when it comes to gameplay). Instead, it merely ends up being OK, stopping short of being a truly good game.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind
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The Switch Effect was provided a code for this game