Peaky Blinders Mastermind

DEVELOPER: Futurelab
PUBLISHER: Curve Digital
EXPECT TO PAY: $36 AUD ($40 AUD Deluxe edn)

Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a curious little puzzle game based on the TV series of the same name. It lets players control various members of the Shelby crime family in a journey of crime, corruption, murder and revenge.

Having never watched the Peaky Blinders series, I was interested as to what I would find, to see just how accessible this tie-in would be for a complete outsider. I’m happy to report that not only is this game perfectly accessible for those with no prior knowledge of the series, it’s also a pretty decent game, built around the conceit of being coordinating the actions and abilities of whatever characters the 10 missions throw at you.

For example, Tommy Shelby has the ability to sweet-talk certain people into helping him out (for example, by opening doors or moving obstructions), Ada can distract guards, Polly and bribe guards and pick locks, little Finn is great at squeezing into narrow spaces, whilst Arthur and John can brawl, and remove certain obstacles by either a sharp kick, or engaging in some light arson (yes, the ‘flammable piles of debris blocking your path’ trope makes an appearance).

In essence, each mission sees you trying to navigate your team through Birmingham’s dreary industrial landscape, trying to get from point A to point B (and maybe plant the odd stick of dynamite along the way). The faster you go, the more efficient you are at coordinating your actions, the better your final score. What makes this game different is that players individually control each character, and can scroll forwards and back through the timeline of events.

To take a simple example, focused on speed, of getting an ally to open a door, and then helping Tommy get past a policeman. This will involve the player sending Tommy to acquire talk to an NPC to turn him into a temporary ally, taking control of the ally and making him collect a key then unlock a door, and hold the door open for several seconds. The player can then ‘reverse’ through the timeline, take control of Ada, and time her movements so that she gets through the door the instant it is opened, walks up to the guard and distracts him for several seconds. The player can then take control of Tommy, send him through the door the same time as Ada, and delay a moment until the guard is distracted before walking past the guard’s normal field of vision. In order to shave precious seconds off, the player can then reverse through the timeline again, take control of Ada, and stop distracting the guard the moment that Tommy is in the clear, freeing her up to follow him as closely as possible. As the above indicates, players are free to change whatever actions they like in the timeline, with the restriction that if you alter one character’s actions, then any subsequent actions they did are lost (think of it as an branching timeline that you’re filling in).

Basically the player is building up layer upon layer of actions, backtracking and tweaking them to maximise their synchronization, or tweak their walking route to save a few precious seconds. Just what difference does optimisation make? Well, in some missions, to net a Bronze Medal the player will have complete the mission within 15 minutes of ‘real time’. To win Gold, they have to complete it in under 3 minutes.

While some levels give each character a clearly defined goal, others unfurl in a more organic manner, with the player exploring an area, figuring out what characters need to do what in order to progress, then backtracking through the timeline. This is something that is undeniably focused on the perfectionists, and those who want to see just who can get the best speed for any level. While there are some moments when it can become a little frustrating or a tad tedious (such as when making three characters take a longer than interesting walk through the same location), these moments are few and quickly forgotten.

In terms of presentation, the game has a the increasingly popular cartoon-ish caricature-look, whilst story, providing the set-up for each mission, is delivered through illustrations and text (no audio).

Different, interesting and fun, with a strong appeal to those with a perfectionist steak, Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a game that’s quite easy to lose track of time, whilst always keeping an eye on the clock, as you go back and tweak each characters actions again and again. It’s definitely easy to recommend to fans of the puzzle games. ■

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