Although the stealth-based games can offer remarkably intense, controlling-clenching experiences, too often the genre can become mired in the militaristic or macho. Sure, there’s no denying that the Metal Gear, Splinter Cell, Hitman, and Tenchu franchises aren’t absurdly fun, but each respective series is grounded in either imperative geopolitical intrigue or sadistic savagery. Skulking around without concern about the fate of the free world or how a single slip-up can leave you as a hemorrhaging pulp has become an uncommon occurrence in gaming.
Conversely, Wonderstruck’s The Marvellous Miss Take draws inspiration from the light-hearted cat-burglary depicted in Steven Soderbergh’s Oceans films or even Chow Yun-Fat’s outing in Once a Thief. A brief prologue establishes the game’s frothy premise though a series of newspaper headlines, as a renowned art aficionada passes away, with the bulk of her collection expectedly being bequeathed to her niece, Sophia Take. But when a faction of corrupt collectors presumably present a fake will, seizing possession of the entire assemblage of art, Miss Take decides to regain control. This entails the protagonist prowling through a succession of labyrinthine galleries, rightfully purloining each illicitly acquired painting and statue. In execution, Miss Take’s expositional elements are cleverly brief, with bit of conversation preceding each level, putting the focus on the simplified skulking and stealing.
Stages evoke the condensed input methods of a mobile game, endowing Sophia with a succinct set of moves. Navigation can be accomplished by left clicking on the environment, sending the protagonist slinking over to the waypoint, RTS-style. Alternatively, player can use the WASD-keys, or use a controller to move Miss Take. Since each guard’s patrol route is guided by artificial intelligence rather that pre-set patterns, players are able to use a few techniques to grab the attention of security.
Whistling is accomplishing by an extended click on Sophia, with the game displaying the perimeter of the aural attention-grabber. Since the guards’ line-of sight and level of awareness is constantly displayed, players can also tip-toe Miss Take into the extremity of their vision cone, luring the sentries toward the heroine as she creeps away in the opposite direction. Later, players will have access to devices that can be accurately thrown with the click of the right mouse button, acting as bait for the guards. Sofia automatically takes cover behind waist-high barriers to avoid the scrutiny of oscillating security cameras and roving sentries, but tends to saunter at an elegant, if not leisurely, pace. Holding down the left mouse button as she moves increases her speed, but shuns the silent tip-toeing that avoids attention.
While the control scheme largely works, there are a few stains that impede Miss Take from committing the immaculate crime. Pathfinding via mouse control can be an issue, with the protagonist sporadically heading right toward danger when she approaches a junction. When Sophia is recognized by a guard, she drops her hat, before watchman pursue her in frenzied fashion. Although it’s supposed to give the protagonist a second opportunity after being spotted, the speed of the guards coupled by the mottled way-pointing almost certainly leads Sophia to seizure. Fortunately, the penalty is liberal, with only a level restart assessed at players.
Although The Marvellous Miss Take should be commended for offering an elegant protagonist who evades trope and eschewing violence, this design decision is a bit of double-edged dagger. Although tedium is partially offset through elements like different devices, enemy dogs (with their own scent cones), and two additional playable characters who confront stages with their own distinct abilities and weaknesses, repetition tends to rear its head before long. Some of the problem stems from not being able to counterattack the guards, making Miss Take’s levels feel a bit homogenous. Ideally, players could lure the game’s bumbling guards into pre-existing, non-lethal traps, delivering a sense of satisfaction as the tables are turned. It’s certainly what Danny Ocean would have done.
Aesthetically, Miss Take is unquestionably inspired. Each stages offers an isometric view of a different art gallery, tiling and panning to reveal the area around Sofia. Adeptly, the developers straddled the divide between visual splendor and performance, offering medium-poly stages that are elevated by a minimalistic and refreshingly clean art style. Sonically, the game’s score is to be commended, giving the title an upbeat, buoyant atmosphere thanks to an interactive, jazz-driven soundtrack.
Beyond a bit of repetition, The Marvellous Miss Take is a thoroughly enjoyable, distinctive take on the stealth genre, offering an amusing and attractive looking game that’s playable on low- to mid-level rigs. After years of silently snapping necks and garroting goons in M-rated titles, it’s pleasing to see the staples of surreptitiousness applied to a setting that’s spirited and playful.
The Marvellous Miss Take was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Release date: November 20th, 2014
Price: $9.99 (Holiday Sale), $19.99 after January 2nd, 2015