Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death (XBLA) Review

marlowbriggs
What we liked:
+ The mask
+ Solid combat
+ Environments
What we didn't like:
- Boss battles fizzle out
- Some awkward camera angles
- Enemy variety
Good
DEVELOPER: ZootFly   |   PUBLISHER: 505 Games   |   RELEASE: 09/20/2013

Review
The definition of dumb fun.

Marlow Briggs is a dumb game. Thankfully the developers knew this coming in and made the most of it. Spouting cliché one-liners and destroying everything in his path, Marlow Briggs is the budget God of War game it sets out to be. There is nothing unique or original about what developer ZootFly has crafted here. Instead they decided to focus on poking fun at genre tropes and crafting a solid title that was entertaining from beginning to end. While there are a few hitches along the ride, Marlow Briggs might be the best, worst-named game of the generation.

Things start off like any other character action game. There is a defined villain, Marlow has a love interest that drives the plot, and there are plenty of henchmen to dispose of. The opening cinematic also sets the tone for the ridiculous. Marlow is quickly murdered and then resurrected by an ancient mask that dubs him the “Sacred Warrior”. From here it is a mish-mash of goofy dialogue from both Marlow and the aforementioned mask. It feels like a cheap action movie, and it works.

Don’t look down.


Marlow will spout off eye-rolling comments such as “feel the burn” when something is on fire. He isn’t the only wise-cracker though. The mask accompanies Marlow throughout his journey, offering up advice and tips, as well as a fair amount of ridicule. Fall of a cliff, the mask is there to poke fun at your skills. Again it is cheesy, but it never feels forced or out of place. Everything feels deliberate.

There are also plenty of jabs at game clichés such as conveniently placed turrets, or walled-off areas with waves of enemies. Marlow loves to point out the action which his game is built upon. Thankfully underneath all the satire is a pretty solid action title. This is by definition a God of War clone in every sense of the word. There are two attack buttons, mixing up their inputs result in new combos. Weapons and magic are earned throughout the game, and a fixed camera showcases the insanity of the action. Dodging is mapped to the right stick, and even the pickups are separated into three neat colors for XP, magic and health.

Kratos is likely blushing right now, but again it is never a secret what ZootFly is attempting to achieve here. The locales remain fresh, the action never tires and the dumb jokes never wear thin. I enjoyed the experience from beginning to end; it just never excels at any one thing.

Combat is a simple two button formula with magic and new weapons tossed in throughout the surprisingly lengthy campaign. Combining buttons will result in named combos that even display on the screen. Some enemies can also be executed with the tap of the B button for quicker dispersal. Boss battles are more drawn out and less exciting than I had hoped for. Again, they copy Sony’s flagship series by concluding with button prompts, but feel less epic than likely intended. Magic plays a considerable role in wiping out screens of enemies. I also enjoyed the diversity of the weapons, though again they feel like the textbook set of blunt devices.

The upgrade system is bare bones. Weapons and magic can both be upgraded three times, with mana and health also receiving a boost with each tier. XP is gained from fallen enemies, as well as yellow pick-ups around the world. It felt like I was hitting my upgrade of each weapon/magic right as the new one was introduced, so there was never a need to decide what to upgrade next. This makes the system feel almost pointless, and tacked on as simply another checkbox.

I’m just gonna slap this rocket. Yup.


Not everything in Marlow Briggs is mindless fun though. The camera angles are sometimes more of a hindrance than anything else. There is also an issue of some of the platforming segments and one-hit deaths that served to be some of the only places I died. These are frustrating to say the least. I am also not a fan of the Matrix-style cut scenes where action progresses through still motion scenes. They were novel at first, but boring by the end.

The visuals here are about what I would expect from a title of this caliber. Some of the locales are really well-designed, with others feeling like the typical industrial hangouts. Animations are sometimes good, and other times awful. The speed up animation when traversing ropes or ledges is downright laughable. The menu structure also feels bare-bones and stale. The voice acting has its moments of greatness and not-so-greatness. The dialogue is always cheesy, but some of the performances clearly outshine the rest.

Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death sounds like a straight to VHS (DVD or Blu-Ray for the kiddies) action movie starring a washed up 80s action star *cough* Carl Weathers *cough*. But this doesn’t make it any less fun. In fact for anyone searching for a quick God of War-type fix, I can’t recommend it enough. I had fun from beginning to end, and the cheese was just the right amount of thick.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Screenshots

Ken McKown

Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.

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