(Reviewed on Xbox One by Games of DAYNE)
A mystical world full of puzzles and ancient ruins, secrets lay hidden behind a Mask of Mists.
A first person puzzle adventure set in a mystical world, Mask of Mists has the player seeking a missing mage. Classic elements such as platforming, basic combat and extensive puzzle solving in an enchanted land full of ancient ruins set the tone of this short adventure. The narrative is essentially confined to the premise, finding a missing mage, and is only featured again at the end of the adventure for our faceless and voiceless protagonist through illustrations. The gameplay requires the player to explore a fairly open environment finding items required to progress. Backtracking is pivotal as certain items such as keys need to be found elsewhere before new areas can be accessed to find things for other puzzles elsewhere. The player is able to run, dash and jump through the environment as well as cut down enemies with a sword and eventually shoot them as well.
The gameplay itself is simple but it’s the puzzles that can frustrate if care and awareness isn’t given to the environment and the dozen or so clues found in the form of scrolls. These scrolls provide information essential for solving puzzles and can be accessed at any time once found. Majority of the puzzles share the same core concepts of find keys/statuettes to open doors, manipulate levers and platforms or use item X on item Y. Some of the other puzzle types can only be solved by finding clues in non-related areas so attention to the environment, and the path as it pertains to backtracking, is critical.
While the overall explorable area is not particularly large, it is open enough to disorientate when backtracking. The path forwards is pretty linear and it is possible to explore, solve some puzzles or progress to a certain extent in a non-linear order. For instance, the core mission revolves around the player entering and reaching the end of 6 dungeons, all riddled with environmental puzzles to solve, and activating a light crystal. Depending on which items the player had in their inventory and which parts of the world they have unlocked they may be able to choose which one to do first instead of being forced to do them in a certain order.
There are only a select few enemy types that each have unique attacks to consider and take only a few hits or shots to dispose of. Both the sword and pistol have alternate variants to find that are more powerful, making even lighter work of the combat encounters. The combat feels a little tacked on as if it were only included to break the monotony of searching for items. As such it’s simplistic approach is competent and encounters are few and far between.
The environment ranges from the interior and exterior of ancient ruins, deadly caverns and a surprisingly supernatural landscape in the final act. Each of these areas look great, full of various hazards yet a sense of emptiness is ever present that feels both fitting and a little disappointing at the same time. With such few enemies or other meaningful points of interest the landscape comes across as little more than a thoroughfare.
The music feels magical and light throughout, pleasant and relaxing. The sound design is just as soothing and helps instil calm when frustration with puzzles or getting lost likely kick in. The visuals are simplistic and fun, reminiscent of similar titles in the genre. The final act of the game in particular stands out with its contrasting aesthetic when compared to those that preceded it.
Mask of Mists is a relatively straightforward experience full of puzzles to solve that may or may not be considered difficult, almost entirely dependent on exploration and consultation with collected scrolls for clues. My first playthrough took nearly 4 hours, getting lost and failing to look at collected clues being the largest culprit for the length while my second playthrough took just less than an hour and a half. It’s a brief experience regardless and is likely to satisfy those that enjoy puzzle solving while casual players of the genre may get frustrated or simply lack interest. As a fan of the genre, Mask of Mists mostly succeeds but its lack of purpose and narrative restrict it from feeling more than busy work.
+ Surprising size of explorable environment
+ Cool final act
+ Puzzles that actually challenge
– Story is thrown out after intro
– Backtracking is painful
– Easy to get lost
* A review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review *
Developed by: 9 Eyes Game Studio
Published by: Sometimes You
Release Date: September 2 2020
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC