Marlow Briggs Review
The clunky camera hurts the action and simple elements needed further refinement
Marlow Briggs is dead. Fortunately for gamers, his death makes him a formidable fighting machine in this new action-adventure game from ZootFly. Death is thrust upon Marlow during the opening cut scene, before players engage in any action. During this first cut scene, Marlow’s girlfriend tries to quit her job as artifact translator for a powerful man. Mr Long, her evil employer, will not allow this when she is needed to release power within ancient artifacts. She is taken against her will and Marlow is skewered like a shish kebab. It just so happens that the utensil used against Marlow is linked to a Mayan Death Mask. This Mask brings Marlow back to the world with ancient powers and a thirst for revenge.
Marlow Briggs before his death, and the only time he wears a shirt
The Mask joins Marlow on his quest for vengeance throughout tropical rainforests, snowy mountains, caves, and industrial machines. The Mask refers to Marlow as the Sacred Warrior, or Chuchu when it wants to be less formal. Marlow and the Mask banter outside the action, although this rarely provides the intended humour. The benign tale lacks distinctive character although there are strong themes relating to the industrial infesting the natural. The Mask is generally a voice that belittles you when you accidentally stumble to your death. The story is far from the main strength of this arcade adventure.
Marlow Briggs is all about fighting, and the game draws heavy inspiration from God of War and Darksiders. The mechanics are simple enough: you fight against a wonderful array of different enemies while chaining combinations for more points. These points can then be spent on damage upgrades or extra mana reserves. Mana will fuel ranged attacks or special, devastating abilities. Marlow may be dead, but his health can drop and cause a second, or final, death. Fallen enemies release orbs containing health, mana and experience, bringing the system full circle.
The game does nothing to cure my hatred of riot-shield enemies
Marlow wields four weapons during his adventure. The weapons types are easy to predict: Scythe, Daggers, Chain and Hammer. After unlocking each, the previous weapons become fairly redundant. The Chain, for example, has a large attack range and looks amazing compared to puny daggers. When you get your hands on the Hammer, there is little reason to use anything else. The Hammer secondary attack can easily interrupt large enemies and provides hefty damage. You might switch back to the chain when dealing with dozens of small spiders, but the necessity is rarely there. There was never a reason to equip the Scythe or Dagger during the second half of the game and there isn’t enough diversity between weapon types.
Powerful offensive spells are granted to Marlow much like the new weapons. These spells are disappointing because they consume a huge chunk of mana and obstruct the screen with gregarious effects. The unlocked powers might freeze foes or create a mini-tornado that eliminates smaller creatures. They aren’t nearly effective enough against the tough enemies, which is the only time you really want to use them. Since you can only perform one powerful attack before refilling on mana, they don’t fit well within the combat structure.
The combat rarely changes from mashing attack buttons, even though enemy types are varied. Marlow does have access to a ranged throwing knife, but this is only used effectively against the floating wasps. Marlow can block attacks too, although some attacks ignore the block and pummel Marlow into the ground. The block is used almost exclusively to deflect RPG missiles fired by soldiers. Larger enemies, like scorpions, can be commandeered after they take enough damage and Marlow becomes invulnerable until his rodeo ride is killed. Some enemies can be turned to fight on your side and this is a godsend during combat against multiple enemy types. Although there are several combat mechanics, more balancing was needed to promote their usefulness outside specific scenarios.
Riding enemies provides fleeting satisfaction
Combat is not the only device that Chuchu, or rather Marlow, will be subjected to. In a similar vein to Darksiders, there are platforming and puzzle segments. Most puzzles involve a movable box or pressure switches. Puzzles are very basic although they may not initially seem that way. Platforming is the main device used to break players from the action. The platforming can see Marlow climbing vines, swinging across chasms or dodging balls of fire. Platforming is either easy or painfully designed. The most pain is felt when you acquire the nifty gliding power and need to latch onto grapple points. It seems straightforward, but you cannot grab points while gliding, so you must stop gliding and hope that Marlow latches on before falling to his death.