Ever wanted to indulge that small little voice in the back of your head, telling you to rob the jewelry store down the street then live happily ever after as a millionaire? No? Just me? Well, I had high hopes when I first opened Shark Punch’s The Masterplan, since it promises a chance for me to do just that.
The game opens with a quick little story about a man named Joey Green, who, after losing his job in 1969, finds new work dealing drugs. After getting shot and left for dead by the police, Joey wakes up to find himself behind bars, a single cake in his cell from his brother Gregory. Here’s where the player takes over in the tutorial and uses a toy pistol stashed in the cake to spring themselves free. At its conclusion you’re reunited with your brother, find your hideout, and the basis of the game really begins. It’s a final job, the ultimate heist of Fort Knox, as a way to stick it to the government, whom Joey blames for losing his job (the bad economy) and his imprisonment (war on drugs).
Throughout the game you work your way up increasingly complex levels at what I found to be a fairly good pace, with the headquarters serving as a resting point in between each job. There, you can buy and test out new weapons, hire more goons to accompany them, and sort out the inventories of each member in your party. As you progress further, more complex weapons (guns with silencers, for example) become available, as do goons with better stats.
One of the best things about The Masterplan is that there are multiple ways to finish each job, giving the game a surprising amount of replayability. Despite each level being pre-made, which is a minor drawback, choosing to rush in guns blazing vs. sneaking in the shadows really can make a single job seem incredibly different. This is good, because odds are at some point you’ll have to replay a few levels to farm up some cash for equipment.
There’s also several cool mechanics the game uses that are pretty unique for a tactical game like this. First, you can threaten civilians and security guards simply by pointing a gun (like a toy pistol, for example) at them. As long as a gun is pointed at them, they become like any of your controllable goons. Security guards will get ballsy though if you only keep one gun on them at a time, which is a cool addition that actually makes sense. And, the game has a slow-mo mode which is activated by hitting the spacebar. I cannot stress enough how invaluable of a tool this is, it gave me time to formulate a plan to save my butt on more than one occasion.
The Masterplan also does a good job of making the environment seem real, and Shark Punch did a great job making every level feel unique. While it is a 2d game, the art and music are solid and detailed enough to effectively set the tone for wherever the current job is. In the police station, I found an opened box of donuts at the police station particularly funny.
The game isn’t without issues, though: if a goon gets knocked out, they’re gone for good. While not a bug, this can be extremely annoying because I’d feel bad and have to restart the level from scratch- meanwhile, knocking out a security guard is temporary, and they’ll wake up after some time. Logically I expected to be able to handle incapacitated goons the same way as the guards, letting me move their body back to the van to take them home. Secondly, during my playthrough there were a couple times when my goon had trouble locking a door which led to me failing the level as the guards I was trying to lock inside came rushing through.
The Masterplan is available now on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux users for $20. My suggestion is that if you find this genre of game interesting or if you catch it on sale, definitely consider spending an evening with it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Worth the time for any strategy fan
Gameplay - 7/10
Plot - 6.5/10
Design - 8.5/10
+ Good learning curve
+ Multiple strategies per level creates high replay value
+ Engaging environment/atmosphere
– Questionable mechanics
– Simple plot