80’s action movies left their mark on society with films like Terminator, RoboCop, and Action Jackson starring Carl Weathers. The developers at Zootfly and 505 Games decided to develop a game based around their love of 80’s action movies and titled it Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death. The problem is, 80’s action movies are violent, they have nonstop action, and the lead characters are tough guys who break the rules to get the job done. Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death tries its best to live up to the 80’s action tropes but falls into bad video game tropes instead. In short, Marlow Briggs charges forward with its bad story, over the top action sequences, and interesting gameplay mechanics. Fortunately, the game’s bad writing doesn’t overshadow what is essentially a decent hack and slash game forcing the player to mute the volume in order to avoid a series of bad puns and one liners.
I loved Big Trouble in Little China (1986) which had an excellent and funny story. The story for Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death seams to be loosely based on that movie but isn’t even close to being as entertaining. Marlow Briggs is an African American firefighter visiting his girlfriend at a Mayan dig site where she is translating ruins. Her employer is a Chinese business man named Heng Long wants to use the ancient power of the Mayan ruins to become a god. One thing leads to another and Marlow is stabbed with the Kukulkan’s Fang and dies. He is then resurrected by an ancient Mayan Death Mask to become the sacred warrior, rescue his girlfriend, and save the world from Heng Long.
The story isn’t the most appealing but it helps set the stage for the almost entertaining dialogue. The death mask delivers the majority of dialogue which usually consists of bad puns and one liners instead of the much needed background information. Marlow and the death mask interact as if they were an old married couple from time to time which can be funny but ultimately detracts from the story. Heng Long comes across a familiar villain and sounds a lot like Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China. Heng Long turns out to be the one shining voice that not only fits but is entertaining to listen to. Fortunately, the action compensates for the story.
Over the Top Action
Over the top action is one of the few things the game does well. Marlow Briggs was designed to be like an 80’s movie, so the developers created these large heavy industrial sections of the game that are meant to topple over and blow up. The action early on in the game is flashy and gives the feeling of being on a roller coaster ride as Marlow jumps from exploding sky trams to exploding catwalks. The action doesn’t stop there as the game trades one explosion for another.
There are two sections in the game that break from the normal hack and slash and jump straight into shooting. The first is when Marlow climbs into an anti aircraft gun to shoot down helicopters and must also destroy a giant crane. These shooting sections were few and far between so the player never gets overwhelmed. The second shooting section in the game is a top down flying section that’s more reminiscent to Galaga or Galaxian. Although they technically don’t fit, it’s nice to take a break from the standard hack and slash to mix up the action.
The portion of the game that stands out the most is the gameplay mechanics. Marlow Briggs is first and for most a hack and slash type of game. Marlow is equipped with a three bladed staff called the Kukulkan Fang. This weapon has three other forms that are unlocked at different areas of the game. There are also the Tacab’s Bloodthirsty Claws, Forsaken Sting, and the Patan’s Tusk. Each is a different configuration and has a different attack style but there is only one combo system used. I actually liked this approach as the combo’s are easy to remember making each form easy to get used to. The different weapon configuration showed off the time and effort the developers put into the game’s mechanics as well as the game’s excellent animation and combo system. Not every aspect of the game stands out like the animation does.
Marlow Briggs isn’t the prettiest game out there. In comparing Marlow Briggs to God of War II, the animations both look good. Its’ the graphics that separate the games. Textures look great from afar but lose a little luster as they get closer. That’s not a bad thing, but it is noticeable.
For its $14.99 price tag, gamer’s are getting their money’s worth from Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death. The game clocks in at a respectable 7 hours. The developer’s desire to base the game around the 80’s action movies is great as long as they can make it work. Was the game fun… yes. Could it have been better… yes. Would I recommend this game to anyone… yes. What works about Marlow Briggs is the simplicity of the combo system, the over the top action and the fact the gameplay changed to break up the monotony. What didn’t work is the less then stellar story and the barely palatable dialogue. Fortunately, those two aren’t enough to completely break the immersion into the game. Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is a fast paced hack and slash action game that keeps the player guessing as to what’s coming next.
Chris received a review copy of Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death from 505 Games. He played the PC version of the game on normal difficulty which took 7 hours to complete.
+ The combo system was easy to get used to.
+ The gameplay changed to support different genre’s.
+ The heavy action sequences.
+ The kukulkan’s Fang became different weapons.
-The graphics look like the PS2 erra.
-The game needs a better story.
-Limited character development.
-Not enough dismemberment.
Available on: PC
Version Reviewed: PC