Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death Xbox 360 Review
Publisher: 505 Games Developer: Zootfly Genre: Action Players: 1 Age Rating: 16+
Other console/handheld formats: N/A
To give the game its full title, this is the story of Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death – the mask bringing Marlow back to life after he is murdered with a vicious ancient weapon at the request of the bad guy. Brandishing the twin-bladed artefact Marlow sets out to save girlfriend Eva by slaughtering henchmen and spouting action movie cliches.
The gameplay will feel instantly familiar, a mixture of chaining attacks to fight enemies with jumping and climbing through hazardous environments. The genre’s beloved Quick Time Events pop up too. Collecting masks and energy from the levels boosts the player’s health, with XP earned by killing and long combos used to unlock new weapons and magic attacks. Puzzles appear in the familiar form of moving blocks and levers. Challenges break up the chase, from shooting down waves of helicopters to sliding down a rock face ahead of a giant boulder.
The environments range from industrial to caves, snowy mountains and jungle, with plenty of ledges and ropes to climb. The enemies start out as simple guards and later gain vicious flamethrowers and rocket launchers. Time the block right and a rocket can be returned to sender with explosive results. The jungle also unleashes giant beetles and scorpions to take down. Boss battles rely on hit and run tactics to deplete the energy bar.
This style of game has been done before, and has been done so much better. There is very little depth behind the average graphics and sound. The talking death mask becomes an irritation with constant sarcasm about dying. Button prompts and messages lead the player by hand through so much of the game, and button bashing proves as successful as learning the combos. The stylistic decision to deliver cutscenes in slow-mo, with the camera panning through the action, is a mistake – it feels like the player misses out on control and what could have been fun, climactic moments.
The control method can feel sloppy at times, making jumping off ropes awkward or lining up a jump easy to miss. If the intention was to create a homage to an overblown action movie, the cliched characters and clumsy dialogue hit the mark. From the stereotyped Chinese villain Heng Long to the audio messages from the captured Eva, so many aspects of the game are borrowed from better games without feeling accomplished. Even the extra weapons and elemental magic powers are startlingly unoriginal. When you have opened your tenth door by mashing B and discovered another banal jumping section, it is tempting to switch off and play something else.
It is often said that the end of a console generation brings the strongest games, with developers accustomed to the hardware. This, however, is gaming by numbers and feels boring. Replaying levels and challenges (with an online leaderboard for best times/scores) to earn the Achievements is a chore. By the end this reviewer was wearing a mask of boredom.