By order of the Peaky f*****g Blinders, here’s our review of Peaky Blinders: Mastermind – the new puzzler based upon the popular BBC TV series that throws you into the chaotic yet brilliant world of criminal mastermind Tommy Shelby and his family of no-gooders.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a prequel to the TV series, with the events in the game taking place before any of the shenanigans that have occurred over the last few years. Sure, the Peaky Blinders are still a well-known organisation, but they’re nowhere near the heights that they’ve reached over the last few seasons of the show.
I actually preferred this. Sure, it does lessen the stakes given that you know the fate of each of the characters, but it also means you won’t be re-treading familiar territory by simply playing out sequences you’d have seen on the TV show already. It has given the team at FuturLab a bit more creative freedom too, and they’ve done a good job in offering a tale that feels believable and that could easily fit into the Peaky Blinders universe. That being said, you shouldn’t expect anything TOO deep here – whilst the characters and their personalities are consistent, the story follows a simple path and never explores things such as each character’s relationship with one another in too much depth.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a puzzle game at heart, with players utilising a selection of six different members of the Peaky Blinders and using their skills in synchronisation as part of a scheme to progress through each level. Each of these characters bring with them unique abilities that tie in nicely to their personalities, so each is useful in different situations. Need to talk your way past someone blocking your path? Tommy is great for that. Need to beat someone up? Arthur will happily oblige. Want to distract a guard and pull them out of your way? Ada will whisk them off. Need someone small and nimble to sneak through an opening? Get Finn on the job. You’ll give each character their actions individually in real-time and it’s easy enough to get the cogs in motion for each of your schemes… sounds simple, right?
Well, you’ll actually be working to a timeline that plays out in real-time in Peaky Blinders: Mastermind, meaning you’ve got to co-ordinate all of these actions so they synchronise with one another in-game. Finn might not be able to sneak through a small gap if a guard is in the way for example, so you’ll have to have Ada distract them first. Alternatively, some thug might be blocking off Tommy’s path, so you’ll have to have Arthur deliver them a knuckle sandwich before he can move on. Luckily, you’re able to pause time, rewind it, and flick between characters freely when playing, meaning you can continually fine-tune your actions until your plan plays out perfectly, with a bit of trial-and-error involved to figure out what exactly you need to do.
I’ve probably made it sound a bit more complicated than it actually is there, with the puzzling itself proving to be both intuitive and accessible when playing. I really enjoyed tinkering around with the characters and their different abilities, whilst the time-bending aspects of the game all work really well – you really will feel like a bona fide mastermind when everything comes together perfectly for you.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind can feel genuinely thrilling to play, especially in the latter levels of the game where the complexity of levels increases and you’ve really got to be quick and concise with your planning. However, it doesn’t really have a whole lot of depth to its puzzle-solving, with only one method available to clear levels. There’s not much room for experimentation, but you’ve instead got to simply follow the level through as the developer intended.
This really hinders the replayability of the game, with the tougher difficulties only removing some of the guidance and markers that would have helped you earlier on. The same applies to the bronze, silver, and gold time-limits you can work to achieve, with each level proving easy and quick to beat once you’ve cleared them once. It’s a little disappointing, especially since it only takes around five-hours to beat the game in the first place.
Still, it’s certainly fun during that initial playthrough and it was neat to be a part of what feels like a genuine Peaky Blinders story… well… outside of the lack of voice acting and the iconic theme song, that is. In fairness, I can understand why the voice actors weren’t on board as it would greatly increase the budget of the game, but it is a shame we don’t get to hear the iconic theme song at all – especially since it is one of the best on TV right now.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind’s puzzle-solving is intuitive and clever, whilst it manages to capture the vibe of the TV series perfectly – even if it is lacking voice acting and the iconic theme music. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t have a whole lot of depth, with the puzzles themselves only offering one real solution and lacking any real replayability after you’ve beat them once.
Still, that initial playthrough is thrilling and you’ll feel as clever as Tommy Shelby when a plan plays out perfectly. Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is one of the better TV show adaptations out there and fans of the series will certainly enjoy the puzzling-action that the team at FuturLab have whipped up.
Publisher: Curve Digital
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC