Release Date: September 20th, 2013
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform: [Reviewed: Xbox LIVE Arcade], PC
Rated: M for Mature
There’s a certain charm to over-the-top entertainment that I can’t help but love. Movies like ‘Machete’ and games like ‘Serious Sam’ are full of blood, carnage, and ultra-violence, but they don’t take themselves seriously. Though they aren’t meant to be; the fun is all in how absurd it is. Marlow Briggs is all of that, plus one part Black Dynamite, one part Dante’s Inferno and (I’m sure this joke has been told a thousand times already) Shadow Man.
Marlow Briggs is a firefighter that is maintaining a long-distance relationship with his lovely girlfriend who is away on an archeological dig. He ends up visiting her, but as luck would have it, he ends up killed and his girlfriend gets kidnapped! Our main villain believes that Briggs’ girlfriend can reveal the secrets of an ancient codex and so he has Marlow offed. The twist is that they kill him with a scythe containing the spirit of a deity that resurrects Marlow to avenge his own death, save his girlfriend, and be accompanied by a flying, talking death mask.
There is not an original bone in Marlow Briggs’ body. Everything from the combat to the flying talking mask has been seen and done before. That is the case, plain and simple, but the elements it does borrow plays to the game’s strength and keeps things interesting enough till the very end. By wielding a giant scythe the combat closely resembles that of Dante’s Inferno. Well timed and varying button combos performs devastating flurries of scythe attacks, blocking to nullify damage and reflect projectiles and a healthy dose of grabbing enemies and chucking them off a ledge or into other bad guys.
The scythe can also be transformed into various other forms such as a warhammer, whip, or a sword. You also wield magic with a large area-affect that decimates all nearby foes. You earn XP for kills to use toward upgrading your skills and unlock other combos; stringing together multiple kills will reward players with XP bonuses. There is the occasional puzzle that needs to be solved that breaks up the never-ending explosions-barrage, but nothing to really get that cog in your brain turning.
I’ve noticed that some of the most visually impressive arcade titles are those that use hand-drawn sprites, environments, characters, etc. Braid and Bastion are both examples of this, boasting gorgeous visuals and hardly can that be said for games that go the realistic route. That’s were Marlow Briggs’ comes in and beats that statement into a bloody pulp. Everything from character models to gorgeous backdrops dazzles the screen, but with the quickly paced segments of all the action will be focusing more on explosions and your surroundings.
A lot of enemies and rockets can come at you from any direction possible so you’ll need to stay in control. The weapon combos are easy enough to remember, the one thing that threw me off a bit was that the game is always at a fixed angle and the right stick is used to quick-dodge, after a while though you get used to it. There are some issues with hit detection that I noticed; most of the time the hits registers and sometimes it doesn’t, and that can drag things along just a bit longer than they need to be
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death know that none of its parts are particularly that great. Every moment is rushed along like it wants you to hurry which at times helps and hurts the game simultaneously. There’s even an achievement to skip all the cinematics! But it’s the silliness of the game and admittedly fun combat that warrants a full playthrough. The combat of Dante’s Inferno/ God of War with none of the seriousness and replace it with wacky moments and humorous dialog. If you’re looking for an action game with an emphasis on action then this title deserves a look at.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5