Full disclosure – I was fully prepared for Peaky Blinders: Mastermind, by FuturLab, to be rubbish. After all, this is a video game based on a TV show, and rarely does that kind of crossover work out well. Particularly when the genre of the game (in this case a puzzle/strategy game) seems such an odd fit for the show in question.
The trailer is 50% footage from the show, of which there is precisely zero seconds of in the game. Then I really started to worry when the very first puzzle was ‘Find Tommy’s keys’. However, I’m pleased to report that such pessimism was misplaced! As it turns out, Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is an entertaining (if relatively brief) experience.
For the uninitiated, Peaky Blinders is a wildly popular British TV show which follows the exploits of the eponymous street gang, led by the Shelby family. Set in 1920’s Birmingham, it’s sort of a cross between Only Fools and Horses and Reservoir Dogs, in the sense that it features familial squabbles and dodgy deals, mixed with graphic violence and being really cool.
Led by the exquisitely cheekboned Tommy Shelby, the protagonists are frequently embroiled in the kind of crime and intrigue which forms the plot of the game. Peaky Blinders: Mastermind sees the Shelbys coming up against both rival gangs and a ruthless police inspector. The very existence of the Peaky Blinders is under threat, and the family need to rally round. Fortunately, the Shelbys have a secret weapon – time travel. Sort of.
The game is structured around ten missions. You’ll need to navigate the attractively portrayed streets of Small Heath, achieving your objective while overcoming obstacles and avoiding the attention of the police. To do so, you’ll need to co-ordinate Shelby family members, ensuring everyone is in the right place at the right time. You control each Shelby individually, but you’re able to rewind time and manoeuvre others into position as you require.
Each family member has their own special abilities; for example, family matriarch Polly can bribe police and pick locks, while youngster Finn can climb through windows and small gaps. So say you need the intermittently unhinged Arthur to punch out a rival gang member, but they’re in the view of a policeman. You can use Ada to distract the copper, then rewind time and send Arthur in once the coast is clear.
It’s a really neat mechanic, and can create some interesting puzzles. At its most complex, you can be juggling six or seven characters, each following their own overlapping timelines. If something goes wrong, you can just rewind and work out where the issue is. When everything is timed just right, it’s immensely satisfying and neatly replicates those iconic slow-motion-walk-to-camera moments.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is faithful to the aesthetic and themes of the source material more broadly, too. The original soundtrack is provided by the band Feverist, who soundtracked the international version of the first series. ‘Red Right Hand’ is noticeable by its absence, but the new material is a more than acceptable replacement.
It should be noted that, although the game features the likenesses of the main cast, there’s no voice work. The story is progressed by illustrated cut scenes and text. The artwork is attractive in its own right though. Besides, I defy anyone familiar with the show to not hear the characters’ voices in your head when you read the dialogue, especially Arthur (‘I’M SORRY, LINDUH!’).
My only real concern with the story is whether it would make sense to those unfamiliar with the show. It doesn’t give a lot of context around the characters or the wider situation. That said, it really just serves to link the missions together, and so it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for anyone interested in giving Peaky Blinders: Mastermind a go.
In fact, my biggest criticism of Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is that there’s not more of it. Of the ten levels, the first is the tutorial and many of the early ones focus on getting you used to the different Shelbys’ abilities. It feels like the game only really hits it stride in the last three or so. Admittedly, the tenth mission is a bit of an epic, but I would’ve liked some more genuinely challenging levels.
There is a certain amount of replayability, with awards given out for completing missions in certain times. I generally hovered either side of the gold/silver cut off on my first run on normal difficulty. There are also collectable watches in each level, which require a bit of extra thought to collect efficiently. However, I’m really not enough of a perfectionist to want to go back and ace each level.
Overall though, I enjoyed my time with Peaky Blinders: Mastermind. It’s not the most difficult puzzle game you’ll ever play, but it makes for a diverting few hours. Crucially, it does what every good puzzle game should do – makes you feel clever for getting it right. It carries over enough of the show’s style and character to make it engaging to fans, too. Even if you’re not already into the show, I think the gameplay should be solid enough to keep you interested regardless.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind was developed by FuturLab and published by Curve Digital, and it’s available on PC, Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. We played the PS4 version.
Disclosure statement: review code for Peaky Blinders: Mastermind was provided by Renaissance PR. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.
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