Parent Talk: Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death was given an M rating by the ESRB because of violence, blood and gore, partial nudity, and strong language. This third-person action game features lots and lots of violence, but never goes too over the top compared to something like God of War. That doesn’t mean you don’t impale your enemies, or perform other devastating attacks, because you do.
Plays Like: Let’s get the obvious out of the way right now, this is a God of War clone, but that doesn’t automatically make it a bad game. It feature all the staples of the genre, including QTE events, light platforming, and lots and lots of button mashing action. The developers went a step further though, and added some much needed humor, which rounds out a surprisingly fun package.
Review Basis: Microsoft sent us a review code, and I finished the game in about five hours on the Normal difficulty setting.
The humor stands out above all other aspects. This is one seriously funny game, and not because of juvenile humor, no it’s funny because as a videogame it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Marlow makes one cliché comment after another, but then slowly starts to realize where he is. He’ll yell “wow having that turret here sure is convenient,” and then “how is it this whole place is trying to kill me,” referring to giant pistons that could crush him at a moment’s notice. His partner in crime, a possessed Mayan mask, is perhaps the real star. He names Marlow the dancing death princess, and all other manor of belittlement. When Marlow happens to fall to his death, he says one of my favorite lines, “did you see some enemies down there?” The back and forth banter goes a long way in making this feel like a fresh experience, even though the gameplay has been done a million times before.
+ Solid combat system. There’s a simple combo-chain system in place whereby you have a fierce and weak attack which can be used in conjunction with each other. There are special magical attacks, grappling moves, and much, much more.
+ Additional weapons also flesh out the combat system. While Marlow starts off with a weapon that has mid-range, he eventually finds three others with one that looks an awful lot like Kratos’ mighty blades.
+ Keeps things fresh by introducing new elements one after another. Just when you’re getting bored of fighting wave after wave of nameless goons, you get to use a turret to take out helicopters. Once that’s done, there’s a large platforming section followed by an upside down helicopter mini-game. By continuously throwing new things at players, the action never becomes overly monotonous.
+ There’s also the genre-mandatory experience system, which allows players to improve a weapon’s strength, or increase Marlow’s health and magic meters. It’s not original, but works.
+ While the cutscenes aren’t anything special, but the grand set-pieces look fantastic for a $15 arcade release. Marlow also animates very well while facing a nice assortment of enemies. The level design is also very impressive.
+/- Real-time cutscenes are interesting the first few times you see them, but get dull fast. They feature paused action sequences that have the camera sweeping around, and zoomed in for dramatic effect.
+/- Platforming sections don’t have the same fluid feel as the combat. Marlow often feels far too heavy compared to how agile he is while in battle.
+/- For the most part the fixed camera angles are great, but every now and then enemies will appear from just beyond the camera’s reach and cause you problems.
– Too many cutscenes break up the pacing. While all the cutscenes can be skipped, there are simply far too many of them, often back to back after only a minute of gameplay.
The introduction is jerky, low res and quite frankly poor in quality. I was thinking to myself, “oh no, not another one of these…” but then everything got so much better. Really wish the intro would have been reworked.
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death started off as a me-too clone, but eventually turned into something surprising. If you’ve got $15 lying around and are looking for a very fun way to spend five to six hours, this is a game you should look into. It’s not original by any means, but the gameplay is deep, the humor is top notch, and it feels as though the developers really let the game come into its own. This one might just surprise you.
Final Score: 8/10