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Review

Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death Review

  • Game release: September 4, 2013
  • Reviewed: September 24, 2013
  • PC

Firemen have all the fun

by

His name is Marlow Briggs. The game named after him is a whole lot like God of War, but this brash action hero is no Kratos. He is, in fact, a walking and talking cliche, shouting out "Feel the burn" when he summons fire from the heavens, and "Trust me…it's going to be a bloodbath" as he wades into danger. Marlow Briggs--the game, not its star--is keenly aware of its unoriginality, poking fun at video game tropes and its own hackneyed tribalism. Sometimes, self-aware humor is a crutch used to excuse banal gameplay, but Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death earns the right to make fun of itself: it's a fast-paced confection that's quite good on its own terms. The silly attitude is just sugar on top.

At first, Marlow Briggs seems like a typical self-serious action game, presenting you with a cackling madman, a damsel in distress, and a brash action hero brought back from the dead by way of a talking Mayan mask with an ancient shaman's soul inside of it. Or something like that. The plot can be boiled down to "kill the bad guy and rescue your girlfriend after chopping up hundreds of nameless grunts," but it's not the story that keeps you pressing on, but rather the always-on action and the crazy dialogue.

Lift the wings that carry me away from here!

Early dialogue is straight from a silly summer blockbuster. "Aw yeah. Class is in session," Marlow shouts out as he violently slashes up anyone within blade's reach, giving you no reason to doubt his dim-bulb sincerity. But then your ancient friend melodramatically bestows a new name upon you, Kamikal Alixel Xojol, before informing you that this means "dancing death princess." "Do you like it?" he snickers, before quieting down while you wave your fancy weapon about as if you've been practicing your whole life. The humor isn't highbrow, but it's rarely juvenile, with Marlow poking fun at video game conventions like conveniently placed machine-gun turrets, and the mask making fun of you when you miss a jump and fall to your death. ("Did you think you saw some enemies down there?")

The good news is that Marlow Briggs doesn't use its humor to explain away its shortcomings. It is, in fact, a good action game in its own right, changing up the environments, the gameplay, and the camera angles often enough to keep tedium at bay. This is by every definition a God of War clone. You chain attacks together using two buttons, occasionally stopping to climb up some vines, slide down ropes, move a few objects around for platforming purposes, and so forth. And because Marlow Briggs takes place in the modern day, you occasionally get to shoot some stationary guns before switching back to your blades, and even get to gun down some aircraft in top-down shooter sequences.

The temple of our purest thoughts is silence. This temple is neither pure nor silent.

So no, Marlow Briggs is hardly original, but it's gleefully entertaining nonetheless. You begin with a medium-range melee weapon but eventually earn three more, including a longer-range set of chains with a remarkable resemblance to Kratos' weapon of choice. You earn experience as you kill and find extra caches of experience along the way, and then use it to enhance your health and mana pools, while your new playthings come at specific points during the story. There's a good sense of continuing rewards over the game's four-hour or so runtime, as well as a sense of increasing challenge.

The melee action is typically fluid and rewarding, with a few kinks here and there to remind you how hard it is for a game to live up to the legacy of the classic that inspired it. Marlow tumbles and swipes about with ease in battle arenas, rewarding your button taps with colorful displays of violence. He squashes bugs under his feet, carves up scorpions, and summons electrical tornadoes onto the battlefield, and his lively animations make him look like he's having a good time. And that good time sure is infectious.

It's in the details that things get a little messy. For instance, some enemies can be dispatched with an exploitable violent finishing move, which makes certain sequences too easy. The platforming is functional, but the jumping doesn't have the responsiveness of combat, and the fixed camera angles aren't always ideal, leaving you to struggle during certain sequences, like one in which you leap across a bridge while meteors fall upon it. (Additionally, it's hard not to laugh at the ridiculously sped-up animations when you hurry across ropes, hand over hand.) Boss fights are also problematic, particularly one that springs a small quick-time prompt on you way down in the corner of your screen after a very clear preceding prompt.

Archaeological dig sites are not to be trifled with. Did Indiana Jones teach us nothing?

Marlow Briggs goes for drama during boss fights and elsewhere, though some long, unusual cutscenes come across as more anticlimactic than exciting. In these scenes, the action is paused and the camera swings about, Matrix-style. The image changes throughout the course of the cinematic to indicate action, but what was meant to be a slow-motion payoff comes across as a low-budget mockery. Luckily, Marlow Briggs' grand set pieces more than make up for the silly still-image scenes. As you shinny across a narrow ledge, the camera rotates to reveal a smoking industrial complex and an ancient temple existing side by side in the jungle. You whale on security forces while a demonic head rises up to gaze at you, its giant blue eye and toothy grimace making for a fearsome backdrop.

Its concepts may be familiar, and its mechanics are not best-in-class, but Marlow Briggs switches gears often, always moving forward at a breakneck tempo. You go from severing limbs in a trainyard with locomotives zooming through it, to dodging flaming boulders barreling at you down a narrow corridor, to leaping across moving platforms Frogger-style in a log-sorting facility, to riding a scorpion and jabbing scarabs with its poisonous tail. Here's hoping the sequel teased by the conclusion comes to fruition; Marlow surely has a few more tricks up his bloodied sleeve.

The Good
Fun, self-deprecating sense of humor
Excellent pacing keeps you constantly entertained
Beautiful and dramatic set piece levels
Smooth action lights up the screen with violent fireworks
The Bad
A number of unrefined elements make for awkward moments
Exploitable finishing move
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

Kevin VanOrd likes big explosions and cheesy humor, which Marlow Briggs has an abundance of. He spent about four hours completing the game's campaign, and another hour fooling around on hard difficulty.

Discussion

75 comments
Keivz_basic
Keivz_basic

Four hours? I don't think KVO was counting correctly. It's 6 hours on howlongtobeat.com. Took me just over 6 hrs, too. Anyway, I don't totally agree with the content of the review (I had no problem with the jumping, camera angles, or QTE's), but it's still a 7/10 to me. The gameplay grew tiring (I've played all the GOW games) but  It's so derivative it could almost be consider satire (which is nice especially if you're growing jaded to this sort of genre). It's under $4 during the steam sales fwiw.

Necrotron
Necrotron

Been playing this this week, this game is actually really fun.  Great sense of humor, good voice acting, and a solid combat system.  It feels like playing through an 80s/90s explosive action movie.

santinegrete
santinegrete

It's good to know quality saved this game instead of just using humor to justify it's existence. Hell, with Van Ord giving it a 7, I'll probably enjoy it more. I like when games exude this brutal energy in their pacing and gameplay.

philMcCrevis
philMcCrevis

KVO is just simply the best reviewer on this site...word

rzayas28
rzayas28

Just downloaded it via Steam for PC and playing it big picture mode 1080p on a 57". It looks fantastic and plays like a polished game. Not quite God of War but on par, if not better than, Dante's Inferno. If you like 3rd person top down button mashers (my favorites for whatever reason), then this is for you, and it's only $15 on top of that.

korvus
korvus moderator

This actually looks entertaining!

nilaymoripatel
nilaymoripatel

I FINISHED THIS GAME.... HAVING LOT OF FUN IN THIS GAME... AND FOR FINISH LAST CREATURE I WASTE TOO MUCH TIME... THANKS FOR MAKING THIS KIND OF GAME 10/10 ... BEST GAME EVER

sinatra666
sinatra666

Looks like fun. Stupid but entertainnig.

AAKn
AAKn

fair review

focuspuller
focuspuller

I'm blown away by the amount of people who seem to think that 4 hours of gameplay for 14.99 is value.

alcatraz223
alcatraz223

this game sucks ass, so low budget, graphics sucks ass, the voice acting sucks major donkey ass, camera sucks ass, kinda everything about this game sucks ass.

leikeylosh
leikeylosh

It's $15 for a silly action flick-ish game. I think 7 is a good score for this. Maybe 6.5.

focuspuller
focuspuller

You give this derivative 4 hour long game a 7 but Lost Planet 3, with an actually good story and fun game play gets a 5?

I must be taking crazy pills.

jflkdjs
jflkdjs

The only thing I liked in this game was the talking Mayan Mask :)

dmastor
dmastor

Okay this review make we want the game could hold me for about a week. I'm going to marketplace now to download it 

MrAVKV
MrAVKV

I don't know why but I get major stuttering with this game.

LalchandTudu
LalchandTudu

Very good game...but had its few problems....except for that it was entertaining

moesuir
moesuir

Marlow Briggs SUPERIOR!!!

Kratos inferior.

mori70
mori70

Now here's the reviewer that I like, good job Kevin!

Fia1
Fia1

this game is very funny but too short and the jumping is a bit ackward

shreddyz
shreddyz

nothing special here. It's a 15$ game and has 6-10 hours of gameplay. Like wongph said below, watch totalbisuit's review(i know he's annoying sometimes) but he's very in depth. 

Rated NF- not worth paying full price.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@focuspuller You think value is a matter of a price-to-hours ratio? If I was so shallow as to think that, I would have missed out on games like Journey, or Gone Home. 

Consider a similar game, Dante's Inferno. The final third of that game, leading to the final boss, was a series of increasingly boring battle arenas that padded the game with meaningless content because the game had blown its load early on and had nothing left to show you. 

That game sold for $60. And it lasted six hours, including its padding. 

And yet I'd tell anyone to pay full price for Vanquish, which is just as short. Why? Because it's awesome and unique, unlike anything else you can play. It might take you five hours to finish, but those five hours are more awesome than, say, the five hours you might get out of a Call of Duty campaign. 

In any case, many games we call classics were an hour or two of gameplay stretched thin by extreme difficulty and secrets hidden away in their corners. And lest anyone forget: they were expensive. We had a few games we received from our parents each year and exhaustively played them over and over. And so I am grateful for awesome $15 games. I am grateful for Braid. I am grateful for Limbo. I am grateful for Flower. I am grateful for Fez. For Outland and Comet Crash. For Pac-Man CE DX. 

Feel free to reserve your money for games that meet your hours-to-ratio expectations. Let's see... I guess you can play... well, every retail game that costs $60 could have 16 hours of gameplay and still be a rip-off to you, since you think that $3.75 an hour is bad value. So let's say you think $2.50 an hour is about right, meaning you'd need 24 hours from a $60 game, and 6 hours from a $15 game. (Would you say that's in the ballpark? Does this system have a sliding scale, so you expect the ratio to change at different price points? I wish I knew the exact rules.) 

Anyway. So I guess you missed out on BioShock. And BioShock Infinite. And Metro: Last Light. And Journey. And Amnesia. And Outlast. And Dishonored. And Gone Home. And Guacamelee. And Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. And Kentucky Route Zero. And the Swapper. And Hotline Miami. And God of War 3. Man, you'd have missed out on Half-Life 2. Actually, if you only play single-player games, you're stuck with a small handful of games, like Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto, Dark Souls, Minecraft, and so forth. 

How does multiplayer factor in? If you don't play games online, you've missed The Last of Us. Uncharted. Assassin's Creed. Every Call of Duty ever made. Actually, almost every shooter ever made. Tomb Raider. Devil May Cry. Gosh--you'd probably finish every Mass Effect game in that time if you didn't dawdle too much. Metal Gear Rising. There goes Papers Please. You'd probably be done with Far Cry 3 before that. Arkham City and Arkham Asylum? Bye bye. Poor Darksiders and Darksiders II. Hitman Absolution. Gosh, so many handheld games out of the question. Mark of the Ninja wouldn't make the cut. Max Payne 3. (Actually, you wouldn't have bought any Max Payne games; the first two were both short.) Alan Wake. Pikmin 3. Sine Mora. Binary Domain and Spec-Ops. Rayman Legends, Rayman Origins. Katamari Damacy! Trine.

Man, this is depressing. So many awesome games you must have never played. I am glad I don't have such a stringent definition of the things that are valuable to me. So many games that have been important to me are on this list. That would suck. 

Edit: Oh--just saw your post below. Weird, though. Lost Planet 3 is about... hmm... 7 hours long? (Obviously I am not including multiplayer, though no one plays LP3 online, so I doubt it factors into your value equation.) So let's see. $60 for 7 hours comes to.. holy cow! $8.57 per hour. Seems like Lost Planet 3 is WAY outside your limits! Weird how you would call this game a poor value when it gives you more than twice as much gameplay per dollar spent.

So what's up with that?

Oh, wait! I know! An Internet troll! They're so adorable in their natural habitat. 

shakensparco
shakensparco

@focuspuller 

Actually 4 hours for $14.99 is above average. If this was a $60 game, that means it would have a 16 hour campaign which is longer than the majority of  AAA campaigns today.

o016945
o016945

@focuspuller wow, I'm blown away that people like yourself think that 4 hours is not a value for $14.99. Apparently you have never went to a movie theater where 8 dollars is 90 minutes of value (no soda or popcorn). Dude, you would have really hated the 80's and early 90's where games were 50 to 70 dollars for maybe 2 hours of game play. Maybe you're too young to realize the value you're getting.

Setho10
Setho10

@focuspuller You are really focused on length aren't you? Journey was GS's GOTY last year and it is like 2 hours long for $15. It is also one of the greatest games ever made. Length and quality are not the same thing. And $15 for 4 hours of gameplay is a lot more than what we got back in the 70's and 80's. If this was $60 I might see some people complaining, but for $15 I think this is a perfectly fine value.

ArcherRO
ArcherRO

@moesuir No.Also why are so many people inclined to bash the direct competition of a thing they like?I never understood that.

Ultra_Taco
Ultra_Taco

@shreddyz Totalbiscuit doesn't do reviews. In most of his first impressions videos, he even says that these videos are not reviews.

focuspuller
focuspuller

@Kevin-V First let's remind ourselves that anyone's post (yours, mine) is an opinion.

I probably should have been more specific. Perhaps I should have said I don't see how a game like Marlow Briggs with it's 4 hours is worth 14.99. Or more specific still, perhaps I should have just said, I don't think Marlow Briggs is worth 14.99, and I don't. You know when a film is so bad you want your time and your money back? I think that was more or less the point I was trying to make.

I love all the games you mentioned, of course I do. How could I not. To try and make that point (however loosely defined) is a bit hyperbolic. Maybe more then a bit.

As for trolling, I wrote that comment about a month ago. Does trolling work both ways? Can the writer of a review be a troll? I could comment, but given your response, I'm not sure I'm allowed to have an opinion.

Perhaps your something a bit worse then a troll. Perhaps you're unprofessional.

But what do you I know, I'm sure there are loads of professional writers that during the night scan comments of their own reviews and then aggressively heckle those who don't agree with him (or her).

focuspuller
focuspuller

@o016945 @focuspuller I deleted my comment because there has been a lot of anger and hate slinging on the comments lately, and I'm not going to add to it.

Enjoy the rest of your day and week.

shreddyz
shreddyz

@o016945 Are we now comparing video games to films? when did that happen. I miss the good old days where games had substantial content.

focuspuller
focuspuller

@ArcherRO @focuspuller Yeah, after all, metacritic is such an accurate measuring tool of what's really good.

I weep for society.

shreddyz
shreddyz

@Ultra_Taco @shreddyz true enough. let's rephrase then- check totalbiscuits impressions about the game. 

shreddyz
shreddyz

@Ripper_TV @shreddyz No I don't think it's too little but from my point of view, it just doesn't look like a good game.

Setho10
Setho10

@shreddyz Really? Super Mario Brothers had like, what 2 hours of gameplay? Maybe 3? I know I've personally beaten Sonic in under 2 hours. And the beat-em-up games like Double Dragon and the like? Half an hour of gameplay at most. I'm pretty sure Streets of Rage was something like $70 and it can be beaten in less time than a Saturday morning cartoon. Outside of RPG's pretty much every game genre has vastly increased in value since the early days of gaming. Hell in the 70's you had to pay $50+ for things like Pac-Man which had one level with one mode of play that could be beaten in about 2 minutes.

No, you aren't getting Morrowind value here, but compared to other ways you could be spending your money for entertainment, this is definitely up there in value.

Also I think it is silly that people judge games by length. Do you only buy books that are more than 500 pages? Only go to movies that are more than 3 hours long? Only download albums that last more than 2 hours? Of all the types of art and entertainment out there not a single other one is rated by how many hours you get from it. Quality over quantity. I'd rather pay $60 for a great 10 hour experience than a 100 hour boring one.

o016945
o016945

@shreddyz No, we're not comparing films and games here (both which are actually forms of entertainment and can be compared), but the value you get for the money paid out. 4 hours of entertainment for 15 bucks is good value.

Please tell me about those "good 'ol days" as I'm all ears. I've been gaming since '83, so enlighten me.

o016945
o016945

@focuspuller @ArcherRO You pointed out a statement with no follow through on why the statement holds weight. Great job there!

focuspuller
focuspuller

@ArcherRO @focuspuller And I pointed out that following metacritic as a basic for what is really bad or good is nonsense.

Let's do this again sometime.

ArcherRO
ArcherRO

@focuspuller You are the one that complained about the score.I just pointed out that most reviewer didn't like that game very much and they don't recommend it.

focuspuller
focuspuller

@Kevin-V @focuspuller @Saketume I didn't say that. I said Lost Planet had a good story and fun game play and you gave it a 5, and you gave this rubbish a 7! I can't think of a gave you gave a 7 but it's got to be better then this. lol

Of course Lost Planet is derivative. But compared to Marlow Briggs, it's game of the year.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@focuspuller @Saketume I played both and did say that. This game is better. 

And you think Lost Planet 3 is *not* derivative? Ha. Ha ha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death

  • Xbox 360
  • PC
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is a third person, hack and slash fest.
ESRB
Mature
All Platforms
Check out even more info at the Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death Wiki on Giantbomb.com