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Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death Review

Kfoolu Nov 26th, 2013 56 Never
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  1. A game that deserves "cult classic" status. Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is by all means an obscure game. It practically had no exposure or marketing to speak of, besides the fact that it exists on Steam.
  2. Developed by ZootFly and published by the increasingly schizophrenic 505 Games, Marlow Briggs at first glance looks like... Well... Honestly it leaves absolutely no impression at first glance. I remember at one point browsing through 505 Games' library on Steam and coming across this game, and all I did was laughingly shrug it off as something not even worth looking at.
  3. Eventually, by a stroke of pure chance, I ended up looking into it some more and was quite intreagued by what I saw.
  5. So what exactly is Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death? To put it in simple terms, it's an action/platforming game much akin to God of War and similar titles, but set in modern times and with an emphasis on Mayan mithology.
  6. It's main appeal (at least in my opinion) stems from the fact that it's a self aware, tongue-in-cheek nod to cheesy 80s and 90s action movies. The idea, characters, dialogue and set-pieces are all so over the top and cheesy that they're excellent.
  8. You play as the titular Marlow Briggs, who comes visit his girlfriend, Eva, at an Excavation site in South America, where she's been working as a translator for her employer, Long, the most transparently evil person you have ever seen (but somehow the characters are not immediately aware of that, as it so often tends to happen). Eva, distraught by what they have been excavating recently and unsure of Long's intentions, decides that she doesn't want to continue working for him anymore. Needless to say that doesn't go over well, as Long kidnaps Eva, forcing her to continue her work, and has Marlow killed on the spot. Naturally, a simple gunshot to the head just wouldn't do, so Long has one of his henchmen stab Marlow in the chest with an ancient scythe they recovered from the dig site.
  9. As it turns out, the scythe served as a vessel for an enclosed Mayan spirit (taking the form of the titular Mask of Death) which resurrects Marlow, who now possesses the powers of a sacred Mayan warrior. Lots of death, explosions and hilarity ensue as Marlow (along with his cheeky new companion) sets out to save his girl and kill the villain.
  11. While the story in itself is as stock as they come, the writing is actually excellent, especially when it comes to dialogue between Marlow and the Mask, who tends to say things that you would expect from a 2000 year old Mayan spirit-god thing. I have to say the back-and-forths between our titular characters are some of the most genuinely funny conversations I've heard in a while, and they often tend to break the 4th wall by discussing obvious flaws or indiscrepancies you find throughout the game. This sets the tone of the game perfeclty and works to it's advantage, as the rest of it is so-so, and would otherwise end up being a mediocre and forgettable game.
  13. The visuals in Marlow Briggs aren't stunning by any means, but it doesn't look bad either. The environments are all very Mayan inspired, but range from lush jungle settings, to massive machines meant to exploit the flora, to caves, ruins and so forth. Overall, the environments are varied enough to not become too dull. Sadly, there are basically no graphics options to speak of except resolution and brightness, which is unacceptable for a PC game in this day and age. Luckily, however, the game performed smooth as silk on my machine, and I suspect most medium to high range PCs should have little to no issues with it.
  14. The musical score was decent, complementing the action with epic orchestral tracks, but ultimately being quite forgettable. The sound design overall was decent, as was the voice acting (especially the Mask and Long), but nothing extraordinary.
  16. Gameplay wise, the game essentially plays like God of War. You hack and slash your way through hordes of enemies, gaining experience that you use to level up 4 different weapons and 4 different powers that you unlock throughout the game.
  17. Luckily enough, the 4 weapons are all varied enough to feel unique, and excell in different types of encounters. You get a Scythe, Daggers, Chain-whip and Hammer. In addition to that you also have 4 "ultra moves" each corresponding to different elements that essentially just obliterate anything in your immediate area.
  18. While the gameplay in itself is nothing spectacular, the combat is responsive and fluid enough to be fun and with the variety of weapons that each have their own combos, it doesn't get too repetitive either. The game also has a neat feature, where it let's you get acquainted with your combos, for which you are rewarded EXP, essentially encouraging you to try out combos when you unlock a new weapon. Another interesting feature, is that there are two random shmup segments during the game, which surprisingly don't feel out of place at all.
  19. The game is roughly 6 hours long, has 3 difficulty settings and the odd collectible, that you actually have to go out of your way to find. Imagine that. For all your completionists out there, at least 2 playthroughs are required to 100% the game.
  21. Overall, Marlow Briggs might not bring anything new to the genre, but it does plenty of things just right enough to be fun. It's most outstanding feature, as I've said before, is it's playful charm, based on 80s and 90s cheese, which it puts in the forefront so well that it nevertheless ends up being a unique and memorable experience.
  22. If you, like me, are a child of the 90s and/or action movie fan, and if you enjoy hack'n'slash type games, give Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death a try. There's a pretty good chance you might end up loving it.
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