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Peaky Blinders: Mastermind Review (PC) :: By order of the Peaky f***ing Blinders!

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Peaky Blinders is a television phenomenon – with its 1920 period-savvy style, Brummie and cockney accents, gripping story with smart dialogues, sharp haircuts and an even sharper razor hidden inside their flat caps, the criminal Shelby family has taken the viewer’s attention by the collar, and made it impossible to take their eyes away for 5 long seasons. Peaky Blinders is the story of gang leader Thomas Shelby, who after returning with severe PTSD from the frontline trenches of the First World War, claims the seedy underground of his home Burmingham through his cunning ambition. His elder brother Arthur, younger brothers John and Finn, sister Ada and aunt Polly are his partners in crime. If you are in the mood for some period crime drama with charismatic characters, you shouldn’t miss this series. Some Netflix and chill never hurt anyone.

I’ve heard very bad, bad bad things about you Birmingham people.

But a videogame based on a television series? We gamer folks tend to be pretty suspicious of such stuff, and not without reason. Why did they need to make a game about it? Is it a cheap cash-grab just like the countless other tie-ins before it? Is it only fan-service or does Peaky Blinders: Mastermind offer something beyond it? Well, let’s check it out!


Story & Narrative

The story in Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a prequel to the first season of the television series – thus, doesn’t spoil anything for people who haven’t watched it. Also, if you are not well-versed with what has been going on in the Shelby family, this is a great place to pick up on it. Thomas, Arthur and John have returned from the war, and are happy to find out that their aunt Polly has kept Finn and Ada safe, as well as kept their family business, the Garrison Pub, afloat. But, there is a long way to go, and Thomas Shelby is a man of great expectations. In their absence, the Gilroys and the Chinese mob have carved out their own chunks in the racketeering and protection business, and the police are cracking down on all illegal activities. This needs to end, and end it will.

In all the world, violent men are the easiest to deal with.

There is also a new character that has been introduced – Scout. He had helped Polly keep things going when times were tough. Although he is a non-playable character, his story arc is important to the game. If you are already acquainted with the television series, the story in the game appears serviceable, yet enjoyable. Cutscenes punctuate the start and end of each level – the watercolor art style is commendable, but the lack of voiced dialogues from the cast seems like a big missed opportunity. The story is broken down into 10 distinct levels and each level uses multiple characters from the Shelby family. The story is short, and a few more levels, perhaps, would have really helped – it wraps up way too soon.

Gameplay & Mechanics

The game’s mechanics are where this game shines the brightest! The crux of the gameplay involves completing timer-based missions with multiple characters cooperating with each other. You play as a character and complete their objectives till you hit a wall – you have to then switch to the other character, rewind time, and help their partner to overcome the obstacle, sometimes even before it has been reached. Let’s take an example – you are in control of Thomas and Ada. Thomas might need to get some item from a place that is heavily guarded: Ada can help you nab that without anyone noticing by distracting the guards! Well, now compound that to 6 controllable characters, and things get exciting! Polly can bribe guards and lockpick doors, Arthur can kick open gates, John can burn down obstacles, Thomas can convince commoners to do his bidding and tiny Finn can crawl through small openings and pickpocket people. Arthur and John can also bash the teeth, and slash the faces of enemies that stand in their way.

The one minute. The soldier’s minute. In a battle, that’s all you get. One minute of everything at once. And anything before is nothing. Everything after, nothing. Nothing in comparison to that one minute.

The game is based on the soldier’s minute premise – you control characters, overlap their actions by rewinding time to reach your goal and voila! It is like clockwork – a smooth well-oiled criminal machinery that always gets the job done! There is no fail state – if you find yourself running out of time, just rewind and do things differently. Cut off those extra steps that you might have taken to explore a place that turned out to be unrewarding. Take a different route, or time yourself just right to escape the roving eyes of the police. Shave off those precious seconds and get those sweet gold medals at the end of a level. The puzzles don’t feel insurmountable – you can pause the game anytime and plan your action just like a mastermind would! There are minor challenges in the form of collectable pocketwatches strewn across the level, and also an added bonus if you are able to complete the level without getting detected even once. You might want to replay some of the levels if you don’t complete it within the gold medal time limit – but apart from that, there is not much to return to. There are no multiple routes, or alternatives to solving a problem and they play out in the same manner, no matter how you approach them.

I have played my fair share of time-rewind games like Braid, Outer Wilds, Shadwen and Life Is Strange, but no game has ever done this before! The closest comparison might be the showdown mode in Desperados III – you press a button and pause the action, then issue commands to all characters while freelooking, and then watch the magic unfold! The first few levels of the game might appear slow. Those levels spend considerable time teaching you these mechanics and the special actions of each character – but the last three levels ramp it up! And boy-oh-boy do they deliver! Those last few levels are a complex satisfying experience and will leave you wanting more! From a nerve-wracking heist, to a peek-a-boo at the graveyard, to a stealthy escapade near the docks – each level brings in fantastic setpieces that when manipulated effectively, end up in these chained actions which make you relive the television series! I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you – but there is a scene, where if you play it right, the entire Shelby family returns to the pub at the same time with their characteristic synchronized swagger, and that’s a vision to behold!

Visuals, Sound & Performance

Many locations from the television series make a return in the video game, and they are designed beautifully. The top-down perspective opens up a lot of opportunities to exploit in this strategic puzzler. The coal and soot-covered factories, dirty warehouses, dark alleys and decaying homes of low-income households, paint a dark and grim picture just like its source material. With all the visual elements in the game, I wish there were more interactive elements than switches and doors.

If you can’t keep a secret, I’ll crush you like a little bug.

The soundtrack has been done by the Feverists: the band which did the music for the first season of the television series. You might rue the absence of the iconic Red Right Hand, but don’t worry! Feverists have composed a bunch of original songs for this project, and it fits the tone of the game perfectly! From the fast punk of The Secret, to the lowkey claustrophobic Reveller, the band has created awesome music and lyrics that set the tone of each level!

The game ran really well on my system, but there was a small quirk which I believe might be sorted by a later update. Even though I ran the game at 1080p, there was a 30 fps framelock that I couldn’t get rid of. Neither was there any option in the settings, nor did I find any .ini file that I could crudely edit to bypass that lock. But don’t let this information ruin the game for you – I didn’t even notice it until I completed it.


Peaky Blinders: Mastermind is a smart strategic puzzler that breaks the hex of bad video game adaptations of television series. Armed with a unique take on the time-rewind mechanics, the gameplay shines bright enough to make you look away from its minor shortcomings. You don’t get to hear the actual voices of the cast, but when the game ends, it leaves you wanting for more – and that to me is the mark of an excellent game! The game’s levels are satisfying and make you feel like a criminal mastermind orchestrating the rise of the Shelby family by defeating all its enemies. By order of the Peaky Blinders, try this game out – you won’t be disappointed!

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