[Review] Peaky Blinders: Mastermind – Nintendo Switch

Written by Abbi Smith
  • Developer: FuturLab
  • Publisher: Curve Digital
  • Release Date: 20/08/2020
  • Price: £19.99 / $24.99
  • Review code provided by Curve Digital

Introducing: Peaky Blinders: Mastermind Switch Review

I feel obliged to state the following disclaimer before getting into this review: I’ve never watched Peaky Blinders, and have absolutely no pre-existing knowledge about the characters or story. This is a whole new world for me, so please bear with me if I tread some old ground from the show.

Welcome to Brummy

Peaky Blinders is the name of a post-Great War gang in Birmingham. It’s run by the Shelby family, the men from which have just returned from doing their part in the war. Mastermind takes place just before the pilot episode of the show, so we’ve got Arthur in charge with his brother Tommy as his right-hand-man. The other characters we’ll encounter include Ada and Polly, who held down the fort while the Shelby men were away, and young Blinder Finn who’s good at getting into those hard-to-squeeze places.

What starts as a little cheeky alcohol theft, for a welcome back party, quickly declines into all-out gang war with blood being spilled and tensions running high. It’s fast-paced, intriguing, and good fun; everything a puzzle game story normally isn’t, but this is definitely no normal puzzle game.

Do You Have What It Takes To Be The Mastermind?

I absolutely loved the gameplay. I’ve played one or two time-travel based puzzle games in the past, but this one took it to a whole new level. Each mission sees you take control of a character, or combination of characters, to achieve a specific set of goals within the given time limit. What makes Mastermind unique, however, is the fact that all of your characters will need to move in cohesion to stand a chance of succeeding. 

This is done using the time travel system. As an example, on starting a mission you may encounter a gate that requires two handles to be activated and held in order to open fully. You’ll start by taking control of one character, who will activate the first handle and hold it open (using A) for a few moments. Pressing X will pause the timeline, then using either ZL for an incremental rewind, or L for an event rewind, you’ll move back to the start of the section and use Up or Down to move to a different character. This character will then go and activate the second lever, meaning the gate is finally open. Another rewind, and taking control of the third character, means you can finally get through the gate.

The timeline is displayed at the bottom of the screen, which contains a list of the controllable characters and a rolling indicator of what actions they’re performing at a given time. Following this timeline and setting up your actions to be as efficient as possible, as well as picking up the hidden pocket watches along the way, is necessary to achieve the coveted Perfect score for a level.

Each character also has a specific skill, that require clever utilisation: Tommy can persuade NPCs to perform actions for a short period of time, giving them their own temporary timeline, Ada can distract guards to allow someone else to sneak past their line of sight, Polly can pick locks and bribe corrupt guards, and so on. It may sometimes be necessary to use one character’s special skill to enable another to use theirs, for example Ada may be required to distract a guard so that Polly can pick the lock on the door he’s watching. Each mission will contain all of the characters required, so there’s no need to worry about missing anything due to having an incorrect character.

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Mastermind pulls off gorgeous but grungy in a way I didn’t think possible, with the dank streets of Birmingham perfectly designed and in a stark contrast to the cozy classic pubs or old-fashioned interiors of homes. Everything is easy to see, though the occasional pocket watch requires a little more attention to spot, and while I have no point of reference I can safely assume the locations to be in-keeping with the show.

Ah, the sound. People shouting, engines whirring, children running across the cobbles… The environmental sounds are brilliantly done, with lots of attention paid to setting the atmosphere for each place. The menu music is far too catchy, and I admit I spent a while sitting on the menu screen just to listen to it while I drank my coffee. Voiced characters would have been nice, but without being able to get the show’s actors that would have been difficult to do satisfactorily.

Performance was my only real bug with Mastermind. There were occasions, normally after a while of playing that has me questioning whether it was my Switch rather than the game, where motions became slightly jerky or controls sluggish. I’m pretty sure it threw my time off by a couple of seconds more than once, but nothing significant enough to be a major problem or complaint.

Up For A Challenge?

Mastermind has 2 difficulty settings; Standard and Hard. Standard is the recommended play setting, and I must confess I found it challenging enough that I avoided Hard mode. The missions are increasingly complex, requiring more careful planning and precise co-ordination to pull off. I rarely got frustrated, other than when fighting for that Perfect rating and missing it by a fraction of a second at times, and always came back for another go. Simply passing the levels isn’t too hard, but each level also has a time rating (Gold/Silver/Bronze), a number of pocket watches, and whether you failed at any point.

Mastermind? Masterpiece!

I loved every moment of my time with Peaky Blinders: Mastermind. It was fun, challenging, and interesting, with unique mechanics and a quirky cast of characters that had me chuckling more than once. Even better, while I had no knowledge of the TV show I never felt like I was missing out on anything, which is a nice thing for a game based on an external media. There were occasional performance issues, and I’d have liked a longer game for the asking price (I was having so much fun I had to forcibly slow myself down) but all in all it was an excellent game, and well worth the coveted Golden Child rating.

Pros

  • Unique mechanics
  • Gorgeous graphics
  • Excellent sound design

Cons

  • Occasional performance bugs
  • I need more!

Verdict
While maybe a little short for the price, Peaky Blinders: Mastermind was an absolute gem of an experience that every puzzle fan should try.

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