Peaky Blinders is set to take the video game world by storm with two unique adaptions coming over the next few years.
First up, a game from the brilliant Futurlab – best known for the ridiculously addictive Velocity 2X – and they’ve turned in a top-down time management strategy sim.
Surely a game about the Peaky Blinders would be about razor-capping rival gangs from the shadows, gang management across enemy lines, and epic shootouts? Perhaps, but I really, really like what Futurlab have done with the license.
It could even become one of my favourite licensed games because it doesn’t play it safe, it does take risks, but in a way that still feels completely faithful and authentic to the BBC show.
The designers were inspired to make a game that plays on Tommy’s ‘Mastermind’. His ability to conceive an elaborate plan that uses the unique skills of the Peaky Blinders to the absolute full.
Set before the events of the show, Tommy and Arthur have returned home after two months away of leaving Polly and Ada in charge of Peaky Blinders business.
Polly and Ada have done a fantastic job and Tommy wants to celebrate, which ties you into the first mission. Tommy has decided the only true way to celebrate is with champagne and figures the Gilroys will be willing to part with some. Whether they want to or not.
The first mission is, as you’d expect, pretty much a tutorial. But you are on a timer so you can’t dally around the house all day. At the top left is your objective and the time you have left to complete it.
The aim is to ultimately steal some champagne and load it into the back of your truck before the Gilroys notice.
Fortunately, in Mastermind you can rewind, pause, and fast forward your way through the game’s timeline at any point. Mastermind is a bit like a top-down Braid but there are several characters in play – sometimes all at the same time.
Of course, you’ll don the razor cap just like Cillian Murphy, playing as Thomas Shelby himself. But early on you’ll also get to play as Ada and Finn Shelby, with additional characters popping up later in the game.
Tommy can call in favours with people he meets on the streets, temporarily creating an alliance which enables the player to control them for a limited time. They might help Tommy by collecting a key, pulling a lever, or even opening a door.
The trick is to time Tommy’s movements so they synchronise with the ally. You can alternate between characters by tapping ‘tab’, then rewind back through the ally’s action and move when they move, bringing the game’s action into real-time.
The mechanic is very creative and for the most part works really well, though there were some minor AI pathing issues and forgotten actions in our preview build. Nothing a quick rewind and reset action didn’t cure.
Finn, meanwhile, can crawl into incredibly tight spaces like slightly open windows, or small cracks in the ground. This often lets him open up doors for Tommy or lets him find a hidden key.
Ada, on the other hand, seems to have the most important job in distracting gang members. Rival gangs have beacons coming out of their person – think Desperados – and if Tommy or Finn walk through them, they’re spotted. Ada can walk through those beacons, chat to the gang member and have them avert their gaze so Tommy and the other Blinders can pass safely.
Once again, synchronising actions will be key here. But the game goes deeper still, letting you jump between a character’s key action on the timeline so you can actually time movements even more precisely, or have characters do two different things at the same time to maximise your efforts.
It’s early days, but I’ve greatly enjoyed what I’ve played so far. This has obviously been developed by people with a true love of the show, clearly shown in the game’s stunning art style. I’m particularly impressed with the character’s side profiling in the game’s cut scenes, Futurlab have absolutely nailed the look of each actor and actress.
Even the game’s music makes you feel right at home in 1920’s Birmingham, though the iconic Red Right Hand theme doesn’t appear to have made it into the game, sadly.
My one main concern is the narrative. For a show that relies so heavily on hard-hitting, gripping dialogue, some lines in Mastermind feel convoluted and fall a bit flat. As a result, some characters don’t manage to feel like their show counterparts.
While Polly’s quips remain sharp as ever, my early impressions of Tommy were very mixed. It’s a small thing, but Cillian Murphy regularly calls his Aunt ‘Poll’ in the show, but from what I’ve seen so far, he doesn’t in Mastermind.
There’s not an ‘Eh’ or an ‘Alright’ in sight either, and while Tommy almost always seems to have an epic monologue in his back pocket, I actually felt like he had some of the game’s weakest lines.
With no voice acting in Mastermind, having some characterisms present in the dialogue helps the player recreate that voice themselves so they can re-immerse themselves in a familiar world. In this case, I actually felt a little bit of detachment.
Fortunately, the story itself takes an interesting turn once you’ve wrapped up level three that you’ll soon be swept up in it all and feel like you’re part of the Peaky Blinders anyway.
I’ll save my full impressions for when I’ve played the whole game, but so far, I think it’s very safe to say that Futurlab have been respectful and faithful to the license, while iterating in a very imaginative and creative way.
I want to see how other characters play out and how the difficulty stacks up heading into future levels, but for now, most importantly, you can pet the dog. And really, what else do you need to know?
Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is coming this Summer on PC, PS4, and XO
Previewed on PC
Code provided by PR