Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death
God of Bore

By Seán O'Sullivan - October 8th, 2013


Sitting down to play a game for review involves a completely different mindset than what most gamers experience. It doesn’t matter how high profile a game is; before you sit down to play, it’s an obligation, not a pleasant leisure-time activity. The best games will charm and even enthrall with their craft and proficiency to neutralize this initial mindset, but there are many games like Zootfly’s Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death that fail to register as anything more than a chore.

Marlow Briggs starts off with a great pace, both killing and resurrecting the eponymous hero in the opening cut-scene. Briggs is a super-powered zombie on a quest to rescue his archaeologist girlfriend from megalomaniacal employer obsessed with controlling an ancient evil magic something-or-other. This God of War clone doesn’t treat the exposition with a great deal of importance; a decision was made for the protagonist to be an American with motivation to traverse through South-American jungles and temples while fighting over-sized monsters and mercenaries (whilst wielding magical powers), so the opening cut-scene is the only one in service of a plot, with the rest focusing on some kind of ass-kicking.

It’s a good thing Marlow Senior played so much catch with Marlow back in the day…

Marlow’s journey takes him through some fiddly platforming, and into open arenas where enemies spawn. There’s a significant variety of enemy types on offer, and an ever-growing tool-set as the game progresses; but the combat itself never evolves into something that will warm up your gray matter. Some enemies will stun when you attack, so some basic mashing will dispatch those; but the “difficult” enemies won’t stun when struck, so they must be defeated by running in, landing a hit, and dodging away. The combat gets so odiously dull that, whenever possible, I would opt instead to soak up damage for as long as possible before running over to the generously placed health packs around each combat encounter.

Considering that this rote combat is 90% of the game, that’s a real problem. Borne of necessity on the first sub-boss you encounter, this tactic then applies to every other enemy, including the ultimate baddie at the end of the adventure. There are wrinkles that make the combat more interesting (in the form of three additional weapons that trade off reach, speed, and power), but the only difference that they make is how many hits you have to land, and how close you should get before dodging away.

Novelty is injected throughout Marlow’s quest in the form of “challenges” (each with their own leaderboard), where Marlow must collect items, or pilot a helicopter in a 1942 style vertical-scrolling shooter. As pleasant as it is to be taking a break from the under-baked melee combat, these challenges are slapped together and don’t make much impact on the overall experience.

Here we see Marlow practicing his climbing chops for his date with infinity.

The only interesting thing to happen during this game was during the last hour of the campaign. I controlled Marlow onto an invisible wall, and began to climb. Floating in the air, grasping tightly to nothing in particular, he began to rise, away from the vapid platforming challenges, high above the clichéd swinging axes, and up through the rock facade. Out into the blackness he climbed, above the world, until the camera -still a slave to a broken system- dared not follow him any further. Marlow’s figure began to grow distant as the pantomimed climbing continued. I exhorted him to continue, to climb forever and never look back, to never again be party to such a dreary and uninspired bloodsport. And before long all that was still visible of Marlow was a speck.

And shortly after that, there was no Marlow at all, there was just the black.

Marlow Briggs had escaped the crushing monotony of Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death, and I realized that for the first time over the course of the entire game, I was happy.

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