Imagine if 24:The Game, Lost: Via Domus, and Peaky Blinders: Mastermind were all caught breaking into a sweet shop, only Peaky Blinders: Mastermind was trying to talk his friends out of it, and although present, hadn’t actually done anything particularly wrong other than getting involved in a bad crowd. As the arresting officer, you go easy on him because you see his potential and given the genre he is associated with, relatively speaking, he is not a bad kid. If that makes sense, then that is how I feel about Peaky Blinders: Mastermind. I was ready to find fault with a TV show tie-in (fingers have been burned) but this does just enough to avoid any substantial criticism.
Developed by FuturLab and Published by Curve Digital, Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is based on the award-winning BBC and Netflix show and is set prior to the events of season one. It is a puzzle game about time management and stealth, and it is available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch for £20.
The year is 1919 and the Peaky Blinders are trying to establish themselves in the Small Heath area of Birmingham, but a member of your crew has been linked with the murder of a Chinese opium dealer and you must uncover the truth. Throughout the game, you will play as the whole gang – Tommy, Arthur, John, Ada, Polly, and Finn – each with unique abilities and using every character is vital for success. This is a balancing act that the game does very well. Ada can distract guards, Polly can outright bribe them, Arthur can fight, Finn can crawl through small spaces, John can start fires, and Tommy can persuade citizens to help. Everyone is needed. What disappoints is that there are only ten levels on offer and by the time the game is in full swing, it is all over. There are just two difficulty settings – standard and hard – but this game will not give you any trouble outside of a little trial and error, and you can be finished in under three hours with no real reason to go again. Each level has you on a time limit with targets for gold, bronze, and silver. I was initially put off knowing that every level has me rushing to get things done but that is where the game’s main mechanic comes in. You can manipulate time. With the press of your trigger buttons, you can instantly rewind to alter your route, or if a guard sees you it can be easily undone.
There are also collectible pocket watches throughout each level and by getting a good handle on manipulating time, you can scoop these up with fierce efficiency. Levels play out guiding one character until they can do no more and then rewinding to the beginning of the level to take control of a different character. The game is at its best when by the end of a level you have six timelines all weaving in and out of each other. This happens most effectively around the eighth mission onwards but as mentioned, there are only ten levels in the game. The early levels take a matter of minutes to complete, but the last two missions will have you feeling like the conductor of the London philharmonic orchestra. These outings take much longer to finish and compared to everything before them, they are wonderfully complex and far more compelling. That is the potential I spoke of. I had fun but the credits roll just as things heat up.
As a fan of TV’s Peaky Blinders, the characters and locations are on point here. The game reminded me a little of Baldur’s Gate, the Desperado series, and old-school classic Commandos because of the character switching and top down view. It has a comic book art style which suits this experience, but fans of the show will be sad to find there are no voice overs. All dialogue is text only and it is not that great, which surprised me given that show creator Steven Knight was involved, but to what degree I do not know.
Overall, I liked this, but it is easy and too short. It has good ideas and when everything comes together it feels slick and cool, but at £20 it finds its feet too late for me to be comfortable recommending it. If it is on sale and you have a rainy day, I would say play it.