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The Marvellous Miss Take

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Developer: Wonderstruck
Release Date: Nov. 20, 2014

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'The Marvellous Miss Take'

by Brian Dumlao on Dec. 19, 2014 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

The Marvellous Miss Take is a fast-paced heist adventure packed with cunning, guile and lateral thinking.

When players think of a stealth game, they think of something serious. Visions of Solid Snake and Sam Fisher immediately come to mind. A level of perfection is almost required, or else things get difficult really quickly. The genre tends to favor dark places and colors, so even daylight missions don't seem very bright or cheerful. The Marvellous Miss Take is billed as a more casual stealth game, and it's full of bright colors that seem to go against the perpetual darkness and shadows that rule the genre.

You play as Sophia Take, a woman from London whose aunt owns some amazing art pieces from around the world. Her aunt wants to display it for all to see, but her rivals believe otherwise. After her death, the art is pilfered under a fake will and sold to private collections instead of given to Sophia. She takes action instead of grieving, vowing to get into those museums and steal back what's rightfully hers. Along the way, she meets Henry, a master thief, and a pickpocket Daisy, who agree to help her and get some loot of their own.

If you're expecting loads of movie-like quality cut scenes, forget it. Outside of the tutorial levels and the stages where you meet and unlock characters, cinematics are rather sparse. What you see is short and wastes little time in delivering what is necessary, usually with a little quip or two. You get the idea that the developers want you to spend less time with the story and more time playing around in each museum.

On paper, The Marvellous Miss Take seems to obey the basic tenets of a stealth game. Sophia can walk around or run, creating noise along the way. She can also make noise to lure guards her way or use gadgets to help her out. The vision cone for enemies is always visible, and she can use the environment to disrupt those vision cones and stay hidden. Getting caught once means that you fail the mission, and you're coaxed into trying the heist again.

There are some restrictions that may throw stealth fans for a loop. For example, you can't hug the environment like you would in other stealth games. You could get your character to crouch under low pedestals, but you can't hug walls or go on the offensive. Disabling cameras is impossible, and stunning or knocking out guards is out of the question. There's no minimap available, so you don't get any help in locating objects and enemies. If you set off any alarms, you lose your hat and are stopped from swiping other art pieces until the alarm dies down. You can return to snatching those pieces again, but you need to get your hat back before you leave the current floor. Finally, while your gadget use is infinite, the cooldown is shortened when you nab more pieces or if you wait around long enough.

The most exciting change is in the enemy AI. Unlike other stealth games, the guards have no predetermined patterns. They aren't restricted to a set area, and they stop after every few steps and then head off in a random direction. You can watch them all day if you wish, but you don't gain much information from doing so. Also, they're much faster than you at all times, so it's futile to expect to outrun them.

All of these elements combined create a challenging stealth game. Without the normal tricks and moves in other stealth titles, you're completely dependent on distraction to get your job done. Smaller areas mean fewer places to hide, but the level design, isometric angles and camera zoom level combine to provide a number of safe zones, so it's difficult to get caught. Each stage is maze-like in its layout, so there are dead ends, and the environments aren't as open as you'd hope. Also, there's a secondary objective — an art piece in a glass case — that provides a nice challenge since taking it means it causes a bystander to flee and grab a guard to catch you.

One element in particular makes this an unusual stealth game: the timer. The idea of a clock to gauge how fast you can complete a stage is nothing new, but this is one of the few times when it's on-screen at all times. With the existence of a par time on each level as a tertiary objective, there is an innate desire to try to finish each stage as quickly as possible. It creates a situation where you're almost pressured into going fast, and that's when you realize the benefits of a very simplified stealth system. The challenge is amplified by the fact that you need to unlearn a few things from other stealth games and apply a different tactic. In a genre where games can feel too similar, this feels fresh.

The developers decided to mix up things by letting you play as either Henry or Daisy through previously completed levels. Both characters share the same traits as Sophia, particularly when it comes to the lack of combat skills and desire to not get caught, but both play differently enough that they can't be considered as new skins. Henry can't run, so he can't dart from place to place, but his movements don't cause unnecessary sounds. He also has a noisemaker at all times, so he doesn't have to procure it in each level. Much like Sophia's hat, he can't level a floor without getting the device back. Daisy, on the other hand, moves faster than either Sophia or Henry. Her objective is the safes in each level. All of the safes require keys, and since the guards are the only ones with keys, she must sneak up on them and pick their pockets; this makes the game much tougher since the risk of getting spotted is much higher. The levels dramatically change in layout, so each character's journey feels like a new set of levels instead of a rehash of previous ones.

With everything The Marvellous Miss Take does right, it's a shame that the controls doom the title almost immediately. The game can be completely controlled by the mouse, similar to games like Diablo, where clicking on a location moves you if you hold down the left mouse button and initiate a run. You can use the same method to walk around instead, but that requires multiple clicking instead of simply holding down the button. Clicking on yourself initiates a whistle, while using the right mouse button throws your object. The method works but takes time to get used to, but the pathfinding is what really does you in. More than half of the time, it works out fine, but there are situations where your character refuses to go in a straight line or wanders for bit since the mouse cursor isn't where you expect it to be. The frustration is alleviated since the game starts you back at the beginning of the current floor. The game offers an alternate control method for movement in the form of the keyboard, and it works fine, but it doesn't feel as natural as a mouse, especially without the optional control pad functionality.

The graphics show that minimalism can still be used artistically to create a visually appealing game. Upon closer inspection, you'll see that everything, from the environments to the character models, is rather angular, with defined lines and sharp corners. It is a low-fidelity look, but it works from any angle thanks to the colors and shading. Even during the nighttime scenes, the game goes for bold colors with a wide spectrum that make it pop, though without the comic or cartoon shading that most would expect. It works without aid from any modern graphical tricks, save for some blur at the edges of the screen. What doesn't seem to hold up in this department is the frame rate, which fluctuates between 30fps to 60fps. For a look that doesn't seem to push anything taxing on an upper mid-class machine, seeing this happen makes one feel that the engine needs more optimization.

Just like how the gameplay and graphics go against expectations, the sound follows that same mentality. Effects are fine, though some things aren't very crisp, and voices sound fine, even if they're reduced to mumbling and dogs barking. What stands out is the music, which never goes frantic or tries to evoke somber feelings. Instead, the game is awash in upbeat jazz mixed with a hint of funk that promotes a lighthearted tone. The developers did a nice trick, where the music is brought down in quality until you nab your first item, something that really sets the mood to keep the caper going at full speed. It's great that the game has more of an "Oceans 11" vibe than an "Entrapment" one.

In the end, The Marvellous Miss Take is a stealth game for genre fans who want to experience something outside of their normal expectations. The distilling of stealth is novel, and turning a chunk of the missions into speed runs adds some excitement to the genre. The non-predictable AI pathing for the guards keeps you on your toes, and the optional goals and the secondary cast make the game deeper than expected. Some work could've been done to make the controls tighter, but those who aren't easily frustrated by such things will find The Marvellous Miss Take to be a nice change of pace for the genre.

Score: 7.5/10

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