Video Games based on popular TV shows or Movies can very hit and miss and often it depends on multiple factors in order to give the fan an experience they would expect. These games can often lead to either very cheap tie-ins which take a standard game genre and just sticking the characters from the show or film in them with little fan service or attention to detail or they can go full on adaptation and try to deliver that “if the player was in the actual show/movie” style. So, it can be a rather mixed bag when approaching such a game which is where Peaky Blinders: Mastermind comes in and it is a very interesting take on the show that I personally did not see coming.
This really is a very unique take on the Peaky Blinders TV show and not the one that would automatically come to mind especially if you have played a GTA or MAFIA Remastered recently. I actually really like the take on the show for this game and appreciate the effort to step outside the box in terms of using characters and their traits in such a way that fits surprisingly well into a puzzle game. It was a weird sensation at times playing this and not all the mechanics worked well for me but there was certainly enough with the game to make it an enjoyable if limited experience as a fan of the show.
The story itself is set right in the early days of the Peaky Blinders, around the events of Season One which allows the game to focus on the family still trying to build their presence in the city. Split across ten levels, the gameplay will have the player controlling one or more of the Peaky Blinders, using their unique talents to complete objectives. As you move towards the later levels, the objectives get a little trickier and is really where the game starts becoming a worthy challenge for the player. It is certainly fair to say that this game is a puzzle adventure game which is what surprised me the most, certainly was not the genre of game I would immediately picture coming from the Peaky Blinders TV show.
Visually I love the story board almost comic book style of telling the narrative, reflective of the budget more than anything because this was not made by a massive studio, but it does suit the show for me and the animation and character designs represent their real-life counterparts in clothing perfectly. Audio in terms of the music is just spot on, where it does fall down a little comes in the dialogue between characters which sadly too often has that “not recording in the same room” feel to it but this is just a niggle more than a major complaint. When in the levels you do feel like you are in the world of the Peaky Blinders as you play, helped very much by a fantastic soundtrack to the game.
Gameplay is rather interesting here as well and naturally focuses on Tommy Shelby, taking his ability to evaluate a situation and persuade people to help create or resolve a situation. Other members of the Shelby gang feature and have their own talents such as Arthur’s ability to kick down doors or Finn’s ability to crawl through small spaces to get around obstacles. Understanding each character and their abilities is how you will solve the problems each level throws at you. How you control each character is truly what took me by surprise as the solution to each level requires the player to control one or more of the Peaky Blinders and to position them and use their talents as required. The surprise feature comes in the way that each level has a time limit and your main task is to ensure the job is done which can often require the use of the “time rewind” feature so that you work to set one character doing or completing their role but then having to rewind so that you can control another character to perform their tasks. Whilst this happens, the characters you have already used will play out the actions you completed for them so it really is a case of almost getting plates spinning and doing what it takes to prevent them from crashing.
So, this can mean positioning characters for example, to open a door or activate a switch in order to allow another character to progress or to take care of enemies in order for another to secure an item. The time rewind is a very clever mechanic and, in the end, it made me feel like the director or editor of the TV show as I managed each character to make sure they all completed their tasks in the time provided to make sure the level was completed. The only downside to this is that all too often there is a scripted solution to the level meaning that there is no real freedom or multiple paths available to complete the objectives which limits the replayability factor for the game. The early levels all feel like a tutorial as you would expect but the real meat and challenge to the levels fails to kick in until levels 7-10, which is quite a long wait to put into practice everything you have learned.
If you are a fan of the TV show than this really does have some fun aspects for you and you will get a kick out of the characters you can play as. It is just that this feels overall like a trial run, to test to see if this style suits the show and that fans will embrace. This format will work well to use more storylines from the later seasons of the show, bringing them to life via the game and it would work well if adapted in this fashion. When all the puzzle solving, character controlling and time management elements come together, this can be a really fun game but it is a shame that it is only in the final levels that you really get to combine them all in a satisfying way. Perhaps if there is a sequel they can focus on that far more and a lot earlier.
I can Peaky Blinders: Mastermind featuring in the upcoming end of year Christmas sales and this would be the best time to pick this up simply because of the very ‘one and done’ feel once you know how to complete the levels. But as a puzzle game, this certainly has enough clever elements to offer a fun experience particularly if you know the show and just as a puzzle game it works well. It just needed more substance to the earlier levels and the story to really make it stand out more and perhaps if there will be DLC or a sequel, they can focus on that and perhaps storylines from the seasons to help give the game the punch this sadly lacks.