Based on the British crime drama TV show and sporting an ensemble cast of debonair post World War I petty thieves and filchers – Peaky Blinders: Mastermind aims to capitalise on the success of the series by giving its players a compelling if rudimentary isometric time-manipulating romp where the Peaky Blinders aim to get their hands dirty playing perpetual games of hide and sneak. Does Mastermind do justification to the TV show or do these Blinders need to start using a cane?
The set up to Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is simple; the brood is back in town after two months away and they want to throw a party to celebrate their return. All the more reason to uncork the celebrations by depriving the booze from the hands of enemies – in this case the Gilroys – who are only loosely spoken of at the start of the game as the rival faction. Mastermind wastes no time upon their return and that’s a good way to swoop players right into the action and feel like a new initiate in their ranks.
From the outset you play as Tommy and are taken through the first mission to acclimate yourself to the game’s time-bending and stealth mechanics, as well as being introduced to fellow Blinders like Ada and Finn who have their own unique abilities; the former being able to distract folk by disrupting their cone of vision with chit-chat, and Finn who can squeeze into holes and reach places other characters cannot. These distinctive special abilities for each character allows the gameplay and time fast-forward/rewind mechanics to synchronise harmoniously in a pretty satisfying way once you figure everything out in each of the game’s ten missions.
At first it can be rather daunting trying to work out how everything works. You start out as one of the Blinders, but you can use the D-pad to select the mission’s other available characters and use them as appropriate to complete certain tasks. You’ll have to use each Blinder to complete the entire mission thanks to the game’s emphasis on time. At the bottom of the screen you will see a meter that ticks along in accordance with the time limit you’re given to complete each mission. Certain icons will pop up on the timeline indicating actions you have taken, which you can manipulate by rewinding time and using another character to complete an objective whilst the Blinder you were controlling runs on auto-pilot. As complex and contrived as it all may seem, the satisfying working of a mission when you are able to successfully complete everyone’s assignments and manipulate the timeline so you can tweak actions into a seamless flow, it becomes rewarding enough for you to advance confidently.
If you are mired in trepidation by all the intricacies of the time mechanics, thankfully there are a batch of tutorials and on-screen markers that make things significantly easier to grasp, so you can get on with missions un-puzzled and unperturbed. Coloured objective markers are always found onscreen to help you out, and you can tap the select button to receive hints-all of this heightens the games accessibility and saving the bewildered and intimidated from being scared away – so kudos there FuturLab.
On the downside it does feel a tad autonomous as you’re only following objectives and initiating actions that are specific to a singular Blinder – making the experience funnelled and dry despite the quality inherent in its framework.
Furthermore, when you use Tommy to beat up good, you don’t satisfyingly hammer foes with blunt-force punches, you simply tap A to initiate an automatic beatdown with the foe’s health bar draining. In fact, most of the game’s more “hands-on” actions are reduced to a nonchalant tap of A. Tap A to break a wall, tap A to pick up a fire lamp and tap A to threaten the innocent – the lack of agency you have in the world of Peaky Blinders feels quite limp when all you do is rewind and tap ad-nauseum.
There’s also a lot of opening doors and leaving them open for a sufficient amount of time for another character to pass through it, sometimes it feels like most of what you do is act as polite door-opener and that can be rather distracting when this occurrence happens too many times.
Mastermind’s visual identity is quite hit and miss. The painterly aesthetic to the art style is very pleasant during cut-scenes, giving admirable credence to the post WWI time period. The simplification of the environments and the over reliance on greys and browns do dampen the palette somewhat, but the grittiness of the cobbled streets appear as brazen as the Blinders themselves.
The sound in Mastermind is fairly minimalistic but has its flourishes. There is no voice acting in Mastermind, but to compensate the tapping of typewriters slapping letters and words as character dialogue across the screen is a decent enough alternative. Mastermind’s music does a compelling job of drawing you in – utilising electronic and percussion to emphasise drama, whilst strings are incorporated in less tense and more surreptitious moments.
A cursory glance at Peaky Blinders: Mastermind might fool you into thinking that it’s a cheap, defective product that rides on the popularity and success of the TV show on which its based. The positive reality though is that once you get your head around its gameplay quirks, you will find a decent but brief foray into a post-World War I plunge into the sneaking thievery of the Peaky Blinders. Yes there are a lot of basic and unfulfilling design choices, and more could’ve been done to immerse you into the Peaky Blinders universe, but what’s here is executed sufficiently well enough to provide several hours of entertainment. You won’t be blown away and you would wish and crave for more substance and intrigue, but Mastermind – whilst not a master – is certainly a handy companion.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.