Masquerade: The Baubles of Doom is an action-adventure set in the fantasy world of a place known as The Realm and is developed and published by Big Ant Studios. You will fight for magical orbs that have the power to rule the land.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect at all when starting out in this bright and vibrant game. In Masquerade you start out with a brief introduction that establishes the story to the game. I was immediately impressed with the smooth animations and decent voice acting. The game goes for a lighthearted approach with some funny lines of dialogue and fun gameplay.
You play as a quirky character known as Jaxx and you need to save your partner in crime, Comedia, from the guards. You must also collect the druid orbs and stop them from falling into the hands of the enemy. At the start of the game you awake after being knocked out and this is where the game introduces the mechanics. The game is narrated by an interesting character that gives instructions on how to play the game. This includes things like movement, jumping and fighting. The core gameplay sees you fight multiple clown enemies with your oversized hammer. You collect red noses for boost abilities and have to destroy enemy outhouses to stop the clowns from spawning.
Whilst the game looks great I instantly noticed that the controls felt a little awkward. The controls are simple in design and I played on PC with an Xbox One controller but unfortunatly the movement feels clumsy and cumbersome. Rotating the camera feels all over the place, which can range from slow turns to turns that are too fast to control. I also notice that for a game that is all about chaining together fight combos the combat feels laggy and unresponsive at times. The games combat has clearly taken inspiration from the Rocksteady Batman games, with its combo attacks, enemy placement and the final enemy you beat even falls in slow motion like the Batman games.
I will say that I was impressed with a couple of aspects of the game that in my opinion are the best features of the game. Firstly, the visuals are great with anime-style cut scenes and cinematics, with a 3D cartoon world which felt reminiscent of games like Borderlands with its cel-shaded art style. The game is also presented in a comic book style with text bubbles that gives the combat a sense of fun and humour. The game is full of funny moments, witty dialogue and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The characters themselves are funny and the narrator adds another layer to the humour with commentary that breaks the fourth wall with a sarcastic tone. Humour in gaming is something that we don’t see too often and it was nice to play a game that has some fun gameplay with moments of comedic relief.
The game mainly focuses on the combat and also has a few puzzles and platforming moments. You will also encounter boss battles that are designed to challenge you and mix up the gameplay but unfortunately these aren’t very interesting and feel uninspired. Chaining together combos is the key component of the combat and using your giant hammer is fun but it would have been nice to of had a bit of variation in weapon choice or upgrades. The combat is fun but doesn’t feel anywhere near as fluid or as satisfying as the Batman games. As I said the controls feel unresponsive and difficult to control meaning that timing counter attacks and dodging enemies can be very frustrating.
As you defeat enemies they drop red noses that you collect. Once you have collect enough red noses your special ability meter will fill up and you can then use your special attack.
While these attacks are useful for taking up multiple bad guys, they feel a bit lackluster and there could have been so much more depth to the special abilities and upgrades in the game.
The game does have items to collect during each area. From hidden treasure chests to secret golden baubles, each act has a number of collectibles that see you exploring the environments. Unfortunately, these collectables don’t offer any kind of incentive to do so and again this feels like a missed opportunity. I love playing a game that has plenty of collectables but they need to mean something or impact the game in some way to make it relevant and make me want to find them.
As I said the presentation of the game is great, with a vibrant use of colour, interesting characters and unique setting. The cartoon style, slick animations and fun cutscenes are impressive and I really enjoyed the moments of humour they offered. The voice acting is fantastic and felt like I was watching an animated cartoon. There’s quite a lot of dialogue throughout the game and not just story based talking either. A lot of thought and consideration has been put into creating characters that add depth to the world and helps to enrich the overall experience. It’s just a shame that this care and level of detail didn’t spread to other aspects of the game. Humour in gaming is rare and can be hit or miss. The humour here works well and I enjoyed how the game makes references, has fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The game isn’t very long and that’s okay as the gameplay does start to get repetitive and dull after a little while. That being said I did enjoy the game and it does have some strong aspects.
Overall I enjoyed my time playing Masquerade: Baubles of Doom and it certainly does have some strong aspects and positive elements that make it worthwhile. The comedy is spot-on with some very funny moments of dialogue and I especially enjoyed the narrators input. The combat is ok but I would have liked it to have felt a bit tighter and more responsive. I would have also have liked to of seen a bit more depth to combat, possibly with upgrades or different weapons to collect. It’s a fun game that’s good in short bursts, but the main appeal is the humour and playful design.
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