Set in the bizarre circus-like world of “The Realm”, Masquerade: the Baubles of Doom epitomises the RPG style, while taking a whole new spin on the genre.
Usually, if someone utters the words “fantasy RPG” when describing a game, my mind instantly imagines a medieval world filled with dragons and greatswords. But Big Ant Studios have developed Masquerade, a completely different take on “fantasy”, by creating a highly unusual world filled with clowns, a witch called Comedia and our protagonist Jaxx; the wise-cracking jester.
The player must take control of Jaxx in order to save his partner in crime, Comedia, from the clown guards, who have taken her captive. Jaxx must rescue her in addition to securing the safety of the infamous, all-powerful druid orbs – preventing them from falling into the wrong hands and stopping the clown invasion in its tracks.
After being knocked unconscious, Jaxx wakes to an omniscient narrator (implied to be actual God) teaching him (and the player) how to fight (the most important aspect), move and what the basic aims of the game are. You must defeat the guards as you find your way around the town, collecting red noses for boosters and destroying outhouses to stop the clowns from reproducing.
The first distinguishing feature is the graphics. From the get-go, Masquerade incorporates anime-style cut scenes and cinematics, before transforming into a 3D, realistic-cartoon world, very much in the same vein as the Borderlands series. Small details, such as pop art text bubbles of “thud!” and “whack!” bring the screen to life with comic book charm. It all makes for a very unique and attractive visual feast.
My favourite aspect of the game has to be the tongue-in-cheek humour of the whole thing. It never takes itself seriously, smashes the fourth wall, and even the potty jokes are funny. The dialogue is filled with wise cracks and sarcasm from Jaxx , while our narrator and tutor doesn’t seem fussed in telling Jaxx that he needs to “left click the mouse” to attack, which our hero seems to just go along with. The well-executed comedy of the game seems to be a big feature that makes players want to come back. Masquerade: The Baubles of Doom is easy to replay and thanks to its light-hearted nature, it’s a great choice to play for a short time as a breather from something more in-depth – although it still can become massively immersive.
Unfortunately, the controls of the game tainted the experience for me somewhat. Although the controls themselves are reasonably simple to get the hang of, I really struggled with the movement mechanics. Swapping from mouse and keyboard to a handheld controller helped a little, but ultimately it seemed to be the game fighting me and not my bad co-ordination. The button mapping is fairly standard as you’d expect from a game of this type, but for some reason the camera sensitivity was really high, making turning round quickly an epic task. There also appeared to be a lot of lag in fighting moves and sometimes jumping, which I thought might be my computer’s fault, but even when turning all graphical settings to “low” as a test, those movements were still jerky as hell – making me assume otherwise.
Despite the control issues though, Masquerade: The Baubles of Doom is still very much an enjoyable game. There is a very high level of detail to appreciate, and the developers have clearly taken much care and attention to almost all elements of the game, but for me, there is just a little something missing. A spark of something truly unique maybe? Masquerade is fun in every sense of the word – nothing less but also nothing more. Having said that, it is clearly a masterful work that has taken endless preparation and has been very lovingly nurtured by its creators. It’s something I will definitely keep coming back to often enough, but it’s probably not something I would spend a night staying up and immersing myself within.