The multi-award-winning TV show Peaky Blinders is phenomenal. I would go as far as to say it’s a modern masterpiece of recent TV history. As one could imagine, I was pretty stoked when I discovered a videogame adaptation of Peaky Blinders was heading our way. Who doesn’t want to play as part of the Shelby family criminal empire and shout at their screen:
“This place is under new management, by order of the Peaky Blinders!”.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is developed by FuturLab and as the game’s name suggests, it’s a strategic puzzle adventure. Let’s be real, the majority of us fans would have envisioned a Peaky Blinders game going down a different genre path. However, it’s not the strangest avenue to peruse for the gangster drama. For people unfamiliar with the show, our protagonist, Thomas Shelby’s, main strengths rest in his mad smarts and wit. He’s able to strategize a multifaceted plan to get the upper hand in any situation. Therefore, a game in this direction has potential. On that account, I entered playing Peaky Blinders: Mastermind with a completely open mind.
The plot is a prequel to the first season of Peaky Blinders. A Peaky Blinder by the name of Scout is accused of having involvement around a suspicious murder, in an elaborate plot to bring down the Shelby Clan. It is now down to Tommy and his fellow family members to organize a plan to defend the Peaky Blinders name, and show the people of Birmingham why they are not to be messed with.
The gameplay is the embodiment of tactics and execution as it utilizes a reversing-in-time mechanic, regarding how you solve puzzles. I know, I don’t remember Tommy having time-travelling abilities either, but presumably, the rewind ability embodies the manifestation of Tommy playing out scenarios within his mind. I hope it’s that anyways…
Either as Tommy or as another member of the Shelby Clan, you’ll be able to use the ability to go backwards or forwards in time to help accomplish objectives such as avoid being spotted, enter a building in a certain time constraint or manipulating your environments to your advantage. However, if you’re unsuccessful or run out of time, the game will pause and from there you’ll have the ability to reverse-in-time and retrace your steps until you hatch up the ultimate mastermind plan to complete the level. This is pretty much unavoidable as the game is designed for trial and error and encourages you to try out different paths for success.
In the later levels of the game, additional characters from the TV Series will become available to control such as Arthur, John, Polly and more to help assist Tommy in his elaborate planning. You’ll have to reverse time and simultaneously get several characters to take numerous actions to complete all the objectives presented in the time-limit. Nevertheless, only certain characters will be able to take certain actions. For instance, Arthur can break down doors, John can commit arson and burn down obstacles blocking the path, and Polly can bribe folks to look the other way from your mischievous deeds.
At face value, this sounds like a fun feature to encompass into the puzzle formula, yet, these actions are achieved with a single press of a button, and it feels awfully unsatisfying. Seriously, Arthur and John can knock people off and it’s achieved with a single X on the controller. I know an ironic quote from the show is Thomas Shelby shouting “no fighting”, but it feels like the game took this a touch too seriously.
The reversing-in-time mechanic is displayed at the bottom of the screen as a timeline. Where you can see how much time has passed, switch between characters and see symbols displayed on the timeline that represent each character’s actions. In a weird way, it reminded me of the old school program Windows Movie Maker with the way they displayed their timeline. It was bright and colourful and is reasonably easy to follow.
The timeline will come in handy as you’ll need to reference it often, as knowing what exact time a character will take action helps tremendously. For example, a particular character may not be able to proceed until a door is opened by a lever being pulled. Therefore, you could control one character to pull down the lever, reverse in time where the timeline displays the lever being pulled, switch characters and walk through the door with that desired character. After each level is completed it is ranked by either bronze, silver or gold by how fast you complete the level. Consequently, you’ll have to master the reversing time ability if you want to achieve the perfect score. The gameplay may sound complicated but it’s not too taxing for the mind, for the most part, it’s a fun brain-teaser that will make you think for a minute or two before moving onto the next puzzle segment, even if pulling levers down for doors isn’t the most exciting gameplay in the world.
Visually, the graphics are nothing spectacular, but I did enjoy the subtle nods to some of the iconic locations in the Peaky Blinders TV show featured in the game, such as the Shelby Parlour and The Garrison Tavern. The story unfolds by static images, which is adequate as the few images that are shown across the game are dramatic enough to hold the tone for the text dialogue. Yes, text dialogue. There is no voice acting in this game, so don’t be expecting to hear Cillian Murphy sweet voice. Despite this, the text dialogue featured in the game suits the characters spot on. I could imagine each character saying everything that transpired and it really did feel true to the characters. The game is massively enriched by the soundtrack which is composed and produced by the rock band Feverist, who featured in the very first season of Peaky Blinders, which is certainly a nice touch.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a fun brain teaser that will hold your attention for a few hours. But, that is pretty much it – a few hours. The puzzles aren’t super challenging nor is the length of the game long enough for it to stretch out the experience long term even with its best time ranks. The gameplay could have been more engaging as well, with potentially more button commands to achieve certain actions or desired outcomes. Licensed video games often have a reputation of not being the best, and even though this is by no means a bad game, it didn’t feel like it hit the true potential that a Peaky Blinder’s video game adaptation could have achieved.
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind PS4 Review
Overall - Good - 6/10
Peaker Blinders: Mastermind is a fun strategic puzzle adventure that includes a gimmicky reversing-in-time mechanic and you can control multiple characters from the TV show, which will keep you occupied for a few hours. Inevitably, with its uneventful gameplay, it’ll lose its appeal fast. It’s not an essential game for Peaky Blinders’ fanbase, and it ultimately feels like one big missed opportunity.
- Fun reverse-in-time mechanic to solve puzzles
- Features multiple characters from the TV show
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Gameplay can be uneventful at times
- Actions sequences are unsatisfying
- After a few hours, the game will lose its appeal
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.