Full of crime and drama, who would’ve thought that the first game based on the popular TV series Peaky Blinders would be a puzzle game? Surprisingly though, it works.
Developed by FuturLab, Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a puzzle-adventure game played from an isometric viewpoint. It follows the exploits of the Shelby family, members of which players will be familiar with if they’ve watched the show. Featuring a self-contained story, however, the game can be enjoyed by anyone.
Central to the game’s story is Tommy Shelby, the silver-tongued boss of the Peaky Blinders gang. Though Tommy isn’t the only member of the gang that players get to take control of; over the course of the game they will, in fact, go hands-on with many members of the Peaky Blinders. They each have their own unique abilities that are useful in certain situations, but Tommy is the mastermind; effectively orchestrating the action to make sure that things get done quickly and cleanly.
Events in Peaky Blinders: Mastermind unfold over ten bite-sized missions, each packed with numerous objectives for you to complete. The first, for example, requires you to ascertain where a rival gang stores its champagne. Then, once you’ve found that vital piece of information, you’re tasked with infiltrating the location and stealing a truckload for yourself. It’s simple, but things get much more complicated from thereon.
In subsequent missions, you’ll find a whole myriad of obstacles in your way that you need to overcome rather than the CPU taking care of it for you. Guards will need to be distracted, keys found, switches pressed, and locks picked. With Tommy at the heart of the game, you’ll find him involved in most of its missions. But he’s not always present, and there are certain situations in which his set of skills won’t be particularity useful. That’s where the other members of the Peaky Blinders come into play.
First Ada is thrown into the mix; thanks to her feminine charm she’s able to distract guards, allowing Tommy and other members of the gang to sneak past undetected. Next up is Finn, a young boy whose small size allows him to fit through tight spaces. Then Arthur and John get involved, who enjoy a good brawl from time to time, and Polly, who’s adept at lockpicking and bribing. Whatever the obstacle, there’s someone with a skill to get around it.
Of course, Tommy has his own special skill too; thanks to his silver tongue he’s able to coerce others into do things for him. If there’s an out-of-reach switch located near someone impressionable, for example, he may be able to whisper into their ear, allowing you to take control of them momentarily and hit the switch remotely. And there are other uses for his skill, such as grabbing keys and taking them somewhere they can be easily changed hands.
What you have to consider in Peaky Blinders: Mastermind, however, is that everything takes time. If you do indeed use Tommy to coerce someone into action, such as holding a one-way door open for you, they’re not just going to stand there forever. And so, the key to finishing missions before time runs out in Peaky Blinders: Mastermind, because you are against the clock, is moving forward and backwards on a timeline, laying out paths and actions to all characters available.
Basically, synchronicity is key. You’ll constantly find yourself taking control of one character after another, rewinding time so that you can layer their actions on top of another’s. With a guard standing watch over a corridor that leads to a key and crawlspace that only Fin can fit through, for example, you might need to take control of Tommy and whisper into a workman’s ear standing nearby. Then, taking control of the workman, you can grab a crate of materials and drag it in front of the guard’s cone of vision, creating portable cover. Rewinding time and switching over to Finn, you can then use the crate as cover as it moves.
The timeline system forces players to think about the the timing of their actions. And with their performance graded at the end of each mission, those who want to earn the coveted Gold award will need to be as efficient as humanly possible. It’s possible to blunder your way through most missions, being haphazard with the timeline, but to be a true mastermind, you’ll need to carefully layer each character’s actions so that no time is wasted.
Trial and error does obviously play a role, especially when you find yourself flummoxed. Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is rarely, if ever, frustrating though. In fact, once you’ve got your head around its time control mechanics and layering of character actions, you really do feel like a mastermind as you effortlessly get all the members of your gang working together in harmony. Ultimately, it becomes hugely rewarding. You’re likely to muddle your way through all ten of its missions in as little as a few hours, but chances are you’ll go back to master your craft, and perhaps discover all of the game’s collectables.
There are some things that aren’t stellar, however. The gameplay is quite prescriptive, for example; there’s generally only one way to overcome a problem, so once you have mastered a level there’s little reason to go back. Perhaps Peaky Blinders: Masterminds‘ biggest disappointment, however, is that its story unfolds in such a dull manner. You get static images and text boxes and that’s it. It would have been great if a cast member or two had lent their vocal talents.
Still, the story isn’t the focus of Peaky Blinders: Mastermind; it’s the gameplay. It’s just there to give the missions some context. And the gameplay itself is inventive, engrossing and rewarding. It’s a great feeling to reach the end of a mission having carefully planned each character’s route and actions, watching them all play out like clockwork. FuturLab has taken a property, really dug deep into the heart of it, and created something that captures its essence. But you don’t need to be a Peaky Blinders fan to enjoy Mastermind; all you need is to enjoy a good puzzle.