So on Friday, I headed towards the newly rebranded Xbox Games Store to download Takedown: Red Sabre. To my surprise the game wasn't there. Apparently a serious bug was found last minute, preventing that game being released on time.
But instead, I stumbled across another game; Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death. Never heard of it before but with a title like that, I had to check it out! To my surprise, Marlow Briggs is a competent character action game but its overly familiar gameplay halts it from being anything special.
Story-wise, Marlow Briggs attempts to weave all of the classic story MacGuffins together into one tale. We have to get revenge, save the girl and while doing all of that, save the world. It's all pretty standard and story generally takes a backseat to the action. Most of the dialoglue you will hear throughout the game is between our titular hero and his titular mask.
To be blunt, this dialogue is awful. The writers aimed for comedy but instead struck tragedy. Marlow himself is alright, he's just a no nonsense guy doing whatever it takes to set things straight. It is the Mask of Death who is the main offender. His voice is painful enough but the things he says just make you want to turn the voice volume down. He is at his worst whenever you die as he feels the need to mock you and he is just an awful character. The rest of the story is completely forgettable and you are better off just skipping the cutscenes, as the game will give you a 20G achievement for doing so. Yeah, it is like the developers knew the story wasn't any good!
The gameplay in Marlow Briggs is very similar to God of War. Or Dante's Inferno. Or Garshasp: The Monster Slayer. Yeah, there are a lot of games that play like this... There is a light attack, heavy attack and a grab. You can also roll by using the right analogue stick, which means you can't move the camera as it is in a fixed perspective. The combat offered here is flashy and works well enough. It is easy to perform cool looking combos and the game does a good job of slowly introducing new enemies, weapons and abilities.
The weapons and abilities aren't very exciting though. There are four weapons but they don't feel particularly different from one another. Yeah, you could maybe use a slow but powerful weapon rather than a faster yet weak weapon but it's just personal preference and you aren't given a good reason to change up your fighting style.
The magic abilities are just as uninteresting as they also all feel the same. Whether its a raining fireball attack, a freeze blast or a lighting strike, they all do the exact same thing; kill/weaken all the nearby enemies. Why couldn't we have more interesting abilities?
Aside from the combat, Marlow Briggs also focuses on offering plenty of good ol' fashioned platforming. These sections of the game work well as the controls are responsive and work as they should. My only problem here was that sometimes the fixed camera angle made it hard to judge jumps, making some sections more frustrating than they should be.
The main problem with Marlow Briggs is that the game does absolute nothing new and what it does do, we have seen it so many times. God of War is a good game, don't get me wrong, but blatantly mimicking a game that came out 8 years ago feels so uninspired. Perhaps my tune would be different if Marlow Briggs was better or even on par with God of War, but it isn't.
At least the game is competently made and has a good amount of variety throughout. There is plenty of combat and platforming but you will also occasionally solve a puzzle, do a turret sequence or fight a menacing boss. Marlow Briggs is good at what it does but overly formulaic gameplay bored me after an hour or so.
The graphical presentation in Marlow Briggs is well done. The main standout here are the environments. They are detailed, have nice lighting effects and they all feel appropriately grand. The game also contains some good looking character models and they animate pretty well too. The framerate also does a good job of remaining stable, though it can stutter slightly during the game's most hectic moments.
The sound used throughout is also well done, but none of it stands out as being particularly noteworthy. The only memorable thing is that awful voice coming from The Mask but I am really trying my best to forget about him...
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is a decent game. If you want a solid character action game that lasts for around 4 hours then knock yourself out. However, if you have played a lot of games like this before, you will be disappointed in how run of the mill Marlow Briggs is. But with games like Bloodforge and Garshasp existing, it is clear that you can do a lot worse than Marlow Briggs.
THREE OUT OF FIVE
(A balanced game that has a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, meaning that it alternates between being good and bad in mostly equal measure.)