When I saw that there was a new stealth adventure game coming out, I immediately thought of the exploits of Klei Entertainments’ Mark of the Ninja and Pocketwatch’s Monaco: Whats Yours is Mine. Avoiding guard gaze, using gadgets, using dynamic lighting but then sometimes relying on combat, The Marvellous Miss Take sits somewhere in the middle of the previously mentioned games. It takes the idea of action and strips it away, leaving a mostly enjoyable stealth experience with tons of re-playability, even if that experience is a little shallow and monotonous in places.
You start as Sophia Take, standing in your Aunt’s empty art gallery and wondering where it all went wrong. The art which once resonated within this gallery has now been strewn across the city, in art galleries owned by wealthy businessman Ralph Blackstock. The origin of his new collection of art is hinted and teased, but not really fleshed out. This information is all the story is good for, as it’s rather bland and empty. There’s the occasional dialogue and classic spinning newspaper gag, but that’s it. The lack of any real story is bonus for the most part, as this is an experience where you’ll be dropping in and out of. Similar in gameplay concept as Hotline Miami, you’re constantly looking at the time and hoping you’ve bested the average. Having an obtrusive story wouldn’t suit the tone and style of the game, however, the severe lack of connection to Sophia makes it difficult to connect fully with the experience.
Performance and graphics are great here, with the visual style of Vivendi’s Evil Genius and the performance of a tablet game make for a fast and aesthetically-pleasing experience. Using Sophia’s gallery as the hub world works really well, despite it being nothing more than an interactive menu screen. The transition from pressing start and going to the hub world is fast, allowing you to get straight into a level you want. The subsequent transition is also quick, allowing to see the gallery and the par time before you jump into the level. The overall polish and optimisation on display is of a high standard, the game runs consistently well and doesn’t ever feel like a chore to get into a mission, which is always a bonus.
The stealth in Miss Take plays out fairly predictably for the most part. The lack of any combat means you’re constantly using cover, the use of sound and avoiding gaze to steal all of your precious art. This lack of combat makes you feel mostly useless in the levels, as being caught by a guard means about a 90% chance of the level ending. This causes similar issues as seen in Hotline Miami and similar games. Restarting the level every two or so minutes can make for a very repetitive and frustrating experience. The good thing is that the AI doesn’t seem to repeat itself too much. It reacts organically to your presence in the level, especially if you provoke a reaction by making noise. Gaze indicators show how close they are to seeing you. The occasional glance at you isn’t an instant fail, as it can be incorporated into your strategy. If you quickly breeze past their gaze, they won’t become too suspect, gain their attention and they will visit your previous location.
Being a stealth game, this means there is a certain amount of tactic and strategy involved when trying to reach the exit. As Sophia you can create intentional noise with a whistle, or use a range of gadgets to gain their attention or to even force them into moving to a certain location or block their gaze. Gadgets which range from teleporters to smoke bombs are found on each level, but with only one gadget on each. There’s no inventory or loadout system so whatever you find is what you get and have to use. These gadgets (which have a maximum of two charges at one time) recharge when you collect more paintings and sculptures. This adds another degree of strategy to the way you play, with the need to time the usage of your gadgets to get the best time and completing the bonus objectives.
Not only do you play as Sophia, but you get a chance to play every single level another two times, with distinct differences between the levels. Harry, another thief you encounter, can’t run like Sophia can so has to rely on a ball he can throw across the levels to make noise. The differences between Sophia’s and Harry’s levels don’t stop there; doors and gates now block certain pathways, forcing you to dip and dodge your way around the level in a slightly different way than you would with Sophia. The third character Daisy is hired by Sophia to steal even more of the dastardly Blackstock’s treasure. Daisy isn’t stealing paintings off of walls though, she plays a much more dangerous game, sneaking up to guards and stealing their keys. Once in possession of the keys you can now steal from the safe’s within the level. The added risk here is that when you unlock a safe, an alarm pulls nearby guards to your position meaning you have to plan your escape before you commit the crime. Each character’s level feels different from each others with all feeling satisfying for the most part.
The issues arise when you play too much of Miss Take; the game offers these uniquely strong stealth experiences in short bursts. It allows you to jump in to a level quickly and shows you what you need to progress through the game’s five chapters. Beyond that, Miss Take’s a shallow experience – it didn’t encourage me to keep playing for like than twenty minutes a piece; and that’s not exactly a huge issue in the grand scheme of things. I’m happy to revisit the game time and again, to better my times and complete bonus objectives like collecting masterpieces or completing extra levels as the other two playable characters.