Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is a fast-paced third person hack'n'slash game by Slovenian developer ZootFly which didn't catch a lot of attention among PC gamers at its release. Making use of pretty much all of the popular clichés, the game is filled with mindless over-the-top action, tons of explosions and hilarious puns without ever taking itself seriously at any point.
The story proves this instantly: Your girlfriend translates ancient scripts for a rich company mogul somewhere in Central America. You visit her and she explains to you how her boss is up to no good because he wants to perform a ritual that would make him a powerful god and ruler of the world. So you try to take here with you back home, which her boss obviously doesn't like, so he gets you killed with an ancient scythe, not knowing that it is imbued with power that resurrects you and summons the Mask of Death, your new companion on your path to rescue your girlfriend and stop the bad boss.
The game is based on ZootFly's own proprietary, multi-platform engine called ZEN, which doesn't really provide any PC graphics options other than resolution, fullscreen and brightness. That's a shame because the game could've definitely used some AA, which would make the colorful and detailed enviroments look even better than they already do.
While the level design as such is pretty linear, which tends to get boring after a while in a lot of games, ZootFly actually managed to add quite a lot of variety to it. Throughout the game you will encounter combat arenas, puzzles, deadly death traps, quick-reaction minigames, turret sequences and even some top-down shoot-em-up action. This sounds like a weird mix of gameplay elements but is incorporated extremely well into the game, so you never have the feeling that it is out of place.
Combat and controls are exactly like what you would expect from a game like this. Throughout the story, you get access to 4 different and upgradable weapons, each of them with a variety of combos to deliver maximum damage. Additionally, by defeating the ancient gods of fire, earth, water and wind, you unlock their devastating ground attacks, which can help you out of tricky situations or simply cause widespread carnage when facing many of the varying enemies at once.
The puzzle elements in the game mostly consist of moving blocks on trigger platforms or flipping switches to open doors and while they never are overly challenging they actually provide a welcome change to the otherwise extremely fast-paced gameplay, so you can take a short break from all the action.
Usually, with a low-budget title like this, the soundtrack and voice acting are two of the things where the developer tries to save money. Surprisingly enough, the soundtrack is actually pretty decent and, paired with the level design, builds up a really good atmosphere. While the dialogues are a bit cheesy at times, the voice acting itself is good and fits perfectly to the game characters, especially to Marlow and the Mask, who are constantly teasing each other verbally. That makes for some hilarious puns even in the weirdest situations. For example, while you are climbing a stone wall that is about to collapse and kill you, you are arguing with the Mask about who is whose sidekick in this game.
With around 8 hours of playtime for the story, the game provides an extremely decent bang for the buck and if you want to test your skills further, you can give the Challenge mode a shot where you replay the minigames from the story to achieve better scores and times to rank up in the online leaderboards.
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is cheesy. It's mindless. It's over-the-top action. But that is exactly what makes the game so enjoyable and so much fun and it's great to see some developers going bonkers with their games without trying to be serious, dramatic or mature. If something like this is right up your alley, make sure to check the game out!
Oh, did I mention that you can ride giant scorpions in the game?
Because you can!
FRIGGIN' GIANT SCORPIONS!