The Adventures Of Poirot’s Robin Hood

HIGH The lovely blend of narrative and intense strategy.

LOW The characters are stereotypes.

WTF I could’ve solved my toughest challenge by watching the trailer.

Let me start with a confession — I’ve never heard of the TV series Peaky Blinders, and was only drawn to this game based on the post-Victorian English setting and tell of its innovative top-down puzzle-adventure design. My conclusion after completion? It was totally worth the gamble, although I will say that Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a poor advertisement for the show.

The plot revolves around a conspiracy to get rid of the Peaky Blinders, a criminal gang located in Birmingham during the interwar period. Since the game is level-based, every stage starts with dialogue that explains the central conflict and additional plot development is provided through dialogue that crops up as progress is made. When the player completes the final objective of a stage, a concluding chat resolves the conflict and speculates about events in the following stage.

Mastermind consists of ten levels, and each is filled with obstacles such as gateways to be opened by switches, security to be dealt with, and constables to be avoided or distracted. The player simultaneously controls up to six members of the Peaky Blinders group, and must coordinate their actions along a timeline to efficiently move from point A to B.

There are clear objectives at each stage of the process, as well as tile indicators suggesting which character should follow which path next, so the challenges aren’t all too complicated. Usually, these involve quests such as retrieving items from an office or conversing with a particular character. However, Mastermind encourages (and sometimes requires) the player to complete an area within a limited time, which is where the time rewind function comes into play.

The player can experiment with different routes for different characters and tasks, and then rewind the action to do it all again until they find the most efficient run possible. It’s also often necessary to combine the actions of several characters to pass a certain challenge. For example, Finn (a child) can crawl under fences and climb windows, whereas Arthur and John are the only characters capable of brawling to defeat bodyguards.

Getting used to each character’s skill set is easy and the level design is obvious enough for the player to see which character would be most fitting for each sequence. However, there are more challenging parts in later levels that require some out-of-the-box thinking. The challenge curve is perfectly balanced, I’d say – I’ve never been too frustrated, nor did I breeze through any level.

Adding to the challenge, Mastermind offers ranks for completion within certain times and there is a single category of collectables in every stage, which usually take a few seconds to collect once spotted.

There isn’t much wrong with Mastermind in a technical or design sense other than a poor framerate that dips at times, and some frustration with the timeline when planning long sequences between several characters.  When using the time rewind, the system sometimes registers it as completely rewinding a stage, making things a bit tedious.

While the slick dynamics of Mastermind’s gameplay are the selling point, the game also attempts to add a narrative layer to the experience as a (sort of?) introduction to the Peaky Blinders TV series. Unfortunately, this aspect falls well short of the bar set by the gameplay.

The plot is quite thin, and worse, it engages in awkward stereotypes that aren’t nuanced enough for today’s context. Groups are either “The Chinese”, “The Cops” or “The Family”, and characters are often written with a single trait in mind — Ada is the pretty woman who can distract cops, Tommy the manipulative mastermind, and Arthur the brute of the group, for example.

In my experience, good television shows rely on well-rounded characters who can change the audience’s perception of them within the span of an episode, and who sometimes become completely different people as a show progresses. After playing Mastermind, I didn’t learn much about the characters beyond their most basic stereotypes and didn’t feel motivated to try the program that inspired it.

Still, a thin plot is only a minor issue in the larger context of what the game gets right. With an innovative main mechanic and great balance of complexity within each stage, Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a nice, tight experience capable of making any puzzle player raise a triumphant fist after an intense sequence.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by FuturLab and published by Curve Digital. It is currently available on PC, Switch, XBO and PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Nintendo Switch. Approximately 11 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the game’s pegi-rating in the Nintendo eShop, this game is rated 16+ for Strong Language and Strong Violence. In my experience, there is some mild swearing and cursing in the dialogue, but not cruel or sexual implications to really be offended by. Violence is limited to comic, with only very limited splatters of blood after an exchange. I’m a little bit on the fence with the rating. Depending on the player’s sensitivity to these elements, a more accurate rating might be 12+.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue is subtitled, all gameplay cues are visually available. This title is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

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