Peaky Blinders: Mastermind Review

It’s a hat
Criminality takes a certain kind of mind. Analytical and exploitative. Ruthless and calculated. It’s not too often though that a game represents those involved as anything more than gun-toting sociopaths, often focusing on the violent aspects of those on the wrong side of the law and little else. Peaky Blinder: Mastermind seeks to take a different approach though, putting you firmly in the role of plan maker – ultimately, and unsurprisingly, the mastermind of the Blinder’s activities.
Viewed from a fixed, isometric angle, Peaky Blinders: Mastermind tasks you with solving logic puzzles to progress. Cut scenes set the stage for scenarios such as the Blinders stealing champagne from a rival gang or gathering intelligence on murders taking place in the local area, with steadily increasing complexity building mission by mission. The progress is evenly paced, introducing new characters and concepts at the right speed to keep a fresh player from being overwhelmed and to whet a veteran puzzler’s appetite for more.

Playing a blinder

Primarily taking the role of the Blinder’s rather unsavoury leader, Thomas Shelby, you’ll be organizing a slowly growing crew of equally unsavoury characters with an assortment of useful skills as they steal, spy, cheat and try to maintain their hold over London’s criminal enterprises. Levels consist of one-way doors, cranks that open passages, gaps for an unfortunate child gang member to crawl through, guards who will need the distraction of a pretty lady to turn their heads away from your wrong-doing, amongst other roadblocks for you to get around. Each obstacle requires a specific tool, and the order that you approach these problems is a large part of the problem-solving.
What makes Peaky Blinders: Mastermind unique is that the tasks your crew members complete are all on a timeline that you can rewind, adjust and tweak until your gang is running like clockwork. Move one character to a one-way door and have them hold it open, rewind time and change to another character and you’ll see your last actions played out, allowing your second character to pass through the door. There’s some strange satisfaction to working with yourself and trying to time actions just right so things go off without a hitch. There’s also a decent amount of frustration at oneself when that door you were holding open closes just before you got through it. And of course, it’s your own fault so back you go to do it correctly the next time.
What it all adds up to is something akin to the classic Commandos games, with timing at the core of success and a solid appreciation for your characters skills needed to avoid putting the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thankfully, unlike that series, the ability to rewind time makes failure impossible, allowing you to rewind to any major action you have taken and re-think your approach. That’s not to say that there’s no challenge mind you, with each level having an overall timer and bronze, silver and gold completion levels, with gold requiring a near-perfect level of planning to be achieved, often asking for sub-three minute runs on the first few levels – levels which can easily take ten minutes on the first try.

Dreary times

Visually, Peaky Blinders: Mastermind isn’t going to blow minds, but it is functional. The drab brown-ness of it all suits the style of the show and the time and place well. Small detail does become hard to see when playing in handheld mode and this isn’t too much of an issue when it comes to the core gameplay, but if you’re one for grabbing collectables then you might struggle to see some of the tiny, collectable time-pieces this game uses as an incentive to scour its maps. Performance is great in docked mode and only struggled a little from time to time in handheld mode when the screen was densely packed with characters and clutter. There’s no voice work to go with the cut scenes, but those who enjoy the musical choices made for the tv show itself will find themselves served up with a dose of similar stuff when it comes to this game.
In all, Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a solid, if perhaps unexciting puzzle game with enough fan service for those looking to spend more time with the stylized criminals of old London to keep them on the hook.
[Reviewed on Nintendo Switch]