By – Jarrett Riddle

The Masterplan Review 2

Ever think about donning a police uniform, breaking into the local bank vault, and hauling duffel bags full of cash back to your van? Me neither, but The Masterplan from Shark Punch certainly lets you live out that particular fantasy. In this 1970s tale of heists and gang rivalry, you control up to 6 henchmen out to out to pillage and pilfer anything that moves. Everything from convenience stores to the legendary Fort Knox is just waiting for the taking. Does your band of merry men have what it takes to rob the most secure place on Earth, or is the whole thing going to end like Goldfinger with everybody asleep and a big grunting guy throwing a hat?

The game opens with some Polaroids detailing what’s happening in the ever-changing world of crime: Basically, Tricky Dick is president and the first playable character, Joey Green, has awoken in the slammer after a completely honest and respectable run of drug dealing went awry. After a nice, basic tutorial of how the game works and a bit of comically locking prison guards in the very cell they put you in, the journey begins. Before the looting can begin however, Joey’s brother Gregory must be found and a getaway vehicle needs to be stolen. Once this escapade is finished, it’s time to put some dinero in the ol’ coin purse.

Upon arriving at the not-at-all shady home base, Joey and Gregory will find that they can use the phones to order weapons and hire partners in crime. Various guns and tools of the trade will become available once the necessary fliers are taken from spots around the city. Crew members begin with weak 0 or 1 out of 3 star stats in speed, health, and accuracy at the beginning, but can eventually become quite good (and expensive) as progress is made. Not that it matters at this point, because when it comes to money, our dastardly duo currently has zilch. Before leaving, the pair may also use the toilet in the corner of the hideout. The animation for this includes getting out a newspaper with a full timer for how long it takes to relieve oneself. Unfortunately, the ability to smuggle weapons or drugs in your anus that would give this action a purpose is absent.

The Masterplan Review 1

Let’s hit the road, man! Where to first? All we have is a toy gun and the shirts on our backs so aiming low on the totem pole would probably be wise. The small shop on the corner of 33rd and 3rd looks like a good mark. Unfortunately there’s some pesky civilians that are potential witnesses to the robbery lest we use superior strategy.  Sure, pointing the plastic weapon at everyone with one thief and beating them unconscious with the other may work, but that’s a tad brutish and could spell disaster if someone wakes up and calls the police while we’re still in the area.

Waiting until the customers leave and holding up the store owner should do the trick. The gun in our possession may be a fake, but what the proprietor doesn’t know won’t hurt us. Keeping him at bay in this manner will give us access not only to the register , but also to his pockets. Luck is with us in this particular case, as the key to the backroom is tucked away in the pocket. Once the money has been thoroughly looted from the Quickie Mart, the bandit brothers scamper back to the van and haul butt back to base.

The first theft is always special, but there are many more heists of increasing difficulty to pull in The Masterplan. The basic convenience store job is just a taste of what’s to come. But with bigger hauls comes more complex scenarios, as you’ll be hitting a jewelry store, the bank, and even the White House in later missions. As layout size increases, so too will the number of ways to penetrate the location’s security and make off with the precious wampum. Eventually, you’ll be able to lockpick doors, blast through walls, and even don guard uniforms to get in and out of each area.

The Masterplan Review 2

You won’t always be able to depend on these means, however, and will need to deal with the challenges directly. Planning a route through the building, avoiding or minimizing the interaction with sight cones of guards can be a tricky and time-consuming business. Fortunately, the game features a slow-motion mode and an action queue mechanic that allow you to carefully plot out sneaky maneuvers in advance. Having multiple henchmen in your group can be advantageous, too, as you can designate certain members to be in charge of disabling lights and cameras while others delve deeper into the complex.

Controlling a large team can be frustrating, however, when one of your characters is off-screen and being beaten to death without you knowing. It is possible to navigate between people somewhat quickly by clicking on floating arrow bubbles, but these indicators don’t obviously display when that particular thief is in trouble. While some sort of lingering portrait system would take up viewing space, I believe it would’ve been better had the game used something to that effect.

You’ll definitely need to keep an eye on all the henchmen, and quite frequently. Patrolling guards aren’t too keen whenever anyone steps over the staff only or restricted access lines. As long as someone in your control is in these areas, cops and pedestrians alike will raise suspicion if they see you. This is definitely an area where key acquisition comes in handy, since those curious will come your way to get a better look at what they deem questionable. Locking doors behind you halts many pursing eyes, though sometimes the followers have keys of their own. The lock-and-run(tm) method won’t always work though, as things like broken windows and crumpled walls can set people off as well. To carry out the more complicated jobs, you’ll definitely need to plan, execute, and cover up your hijinks with extreme precision.

Graphics in The Masterplan are delightfully varied and colorful, offering a pleasing aesthetic to anyone who likes 16 bit-style art. Many small details such as the animation for characters breathing and angled sunlight shining across certain locations makes this experience one of the best looking top-down games I’ve played. Music comprises of some funky 70s tunes that succeed in really nailing down the setting and never grating on the ears.

The Masterplan Review 2

Sound effects do their job as well, with an exception. One sound, in particular, will make most anyone reach for the mute button just a few minutes in. I’m talking about the “huuuuuh?” sound byte that plays every single time someone gets suspicious. After careful analysis, I’ve deduced that during any normal heist, a player will hear this same clip approximately a bazillion times, give or take a few. It doesn’t help either that hearing this usually goes hand-in-hand with your demise, but the sound alone is very annoying.

The use of mouse and keyboard controls had me confused during my first hour or so of The Masterplan, as I theorized that a gamepad layout would suit the nature of the game better. I saw the error of my ways after the completion of a few robberies, though. The use of the mouse to highlight and navigate your felons, in addition to the slow-mo mode, ultimately allow for a real-time with pause gameplay system, which works stupendously when controlling a whole group of people that need to do multiple tasks at once.

Now for a slightly less sunny topic, and that is the issue of frequent crashing. Hopefully this is something that will be patched after the 1.0.1 version I played, but during my playthrough, I was hurled back to my desktop after every 3-5 area transitions. Thankfully, the game has autosave so my progress was never lost when this happened, but it still kind of stunk. Other than that, I found no noticeable bugs in gameplay, and while the game was still running things ran perfectly smoothly.

The Masterplan Review 2

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

In a sea of clones and been-there-done-thats, this game is an original title that offers many hours of critical thinking, eye-pleasing visuals, and most importantly, fun. With decent length, non-linear structure, and great replay value, The Masterplan is well worth $19.99. Hey, you can always just lift some coke off your rival gang leader to offset the price. Just make sure you stay out of their cones.

The Masterplan Technical Summary:

The Masterplan Review Sum

  • Time Played – 12 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – Frequent CTD
  • DRM – None on GOG, Steam
  • System Specs – 3.7 GHz AMD A10-6700, 768MB Radeon 8670D, 8GB RAM
  • Control Scheme – M/KB
  • Saved Game Location – SteamApps\common\The Masterplan
  • Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – GOG, Steam
  • Demo – No
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