Having sprung seemingly out of nowhere, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is now available to download for both Xbox 360 and PC courtesy of 505 Games. A distinctive contrast to the publisher’s summer sensation Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons in both approach and gameplay design, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is an all-out action videogame, a high-octane running and gunning affair that borrows from some of the best in it’s genre.
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is a scrolling beat-‘em-up, another modern take on the Streets of Rage formula that has been inspired by 3D action titles and ended-up drawing parallels with God of War. Such a comparison is never likely to work in Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death’s favour of course, but taking the videogame for what it is will ease that burden. This is a digital-only pocket-money product, and a good one at that.
The videogame features four weapons and four magic types which the player can mix into their combat as they wish. The combo-heavy system is satisfying, but never as exciting as they original God of War – but then so very few videogames are – what Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death does do well however, is balance these moments of brutality with platform sections and other significant changes to the gameplay.
After some considerable progress has been made Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death will slow the action down a little by throwing puzzles at you. It’s a rather brash adjustment at first – abruptly changing from non-stop action to logistical block puzzles featuring several stages for completion – but it’s a welcome change nonetheless. With more progress a few further puzzles will reveal themselves, but the mental taxation always plays third wheel to the dexterity and reaction challenges.
Aside from the combat and platform gameplay, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is full of interesting moments. A race on a minecart, being towed against your will upside down by a helicopter and mounting a flaming platform as it flies through the air are just a few examples of how the videogame manages to mix-up the gameplay, and yet the pacing remains steady and enjoyable throughout. A few difficulty spikes somewhat dampen the experience but by-and-large Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death’s campaign is an enjoyable rollercoaster from start to finish.
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death looks fairly generic for the most part, relying on the established theoretical appearance of a maniacal dictator’s habitation in ancient Mayan ruins; equal parts Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. Some of the vistas seen in the videogame are grand in scale and reasonably impressive, but much of its gameplay takes place within much more confined spaces. Notable moments of progress are rewarding with interesting still images panned through one after another in variable time 3D sequences. It’s an odd effect for a videogame like this to employ, but it which works wonderfully.
A videogame that adds a few minor reflections to a genre that has benefited from great innovation over the past decade, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is neither revolutionary nor stale. It’s an enjoyable videogame that’s not designed to be taken seriously: its story is ludicrous and paper thin, its combat system is methodical yet not particularly deep and its progression system is nothing more than a compliment to the action. However, players will still keep pushing through the videogame thanks to its momentum. Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death always appears to be offering something exciting around the next corner, though sadly it’s not always as thrilling as the development team had clearly hoped.