The stealth genre is massive. There are probably hundreds of stealth-types across multiple platforms, each with their own unique stories and hero abilities, like Metal Gear Solid, Dishonored, or Hitman. While wildly popular, most stealth-types nowadays involve guns, zombies, or a combination of both, set in a gritty real world, or post-apocalyptic nightmare. They also feature other genre types, like horror, action, or adventure, and the hero is generally able to take down his enemies in some fashion if the sneaking thing doesn’t quite work out as planned. There’s really no true “stealth” genre.
Enter Wonderstuck’s The Marvellous Miss Take. Published by Rising Star Games, The Marvellous Miss Take might be the one truly 100% stealth oriented experience that you’re likely to play this side of Christmas. Unfortunately, while graphically whimsical and full of excellent smooth jazz accompaniment, this PC exclusive suffers from a repetitive game play more at home on a mobile device or tablet – better suited for quick rides on the subway, or waiting in line to order a pizza.
The story kicks things off on a suitably light-hearted note: our heroine, Miss Sophia Take, inherits an immense and highly valued art collection from her great aunt. But before she gets her hands on the riches, the entire collection is stolen and auctioned off to the highest bidder on the black market. Instead of going to the police, Sophia decides to take matters into her own hands, and steal the collection back herself. With the narrative framing in place, you’re whisked off to play through the game’s tutorial stages and familiarize yourself with the gameplay mechanics.
You control Sophia strictly via the mouse. She’ll swankily swagger her way through hallways, hiding behind walls and ducking below tables to avoid guards and security cameras. She can whistle in place to attract a guard’s attention, who will then wander toward the source of the sound while Sophia slips away in the other direction. She can also pick up gadgets that may be placed strategically through the level, which can be thrown to distract the guard. She can also run, in a pinch – but the sound of heavy footfalls often attracts unwanted attention.
The Marvellous Miss Take deviates from the traditional stealth game in one key way. Rather than having set patrol patterns, the guards wander around the environments at random. Yep, that’s right: sitting and waiting patiently to study a guard’s predetermined pattern will do nothing to help you, and it’s pointless to try and map out a safe route. Personally, I found this to be the most interesting aspect, since it gives The Marvellous Miss Take a higher replay value compared to other stealth games out there. It’s not on anything like the same level as Alien: Isolation of course, but it still means that once you’ve completed a level you can go back and be forced to take a different approach – something often lacking in the genre, which typically favors strict routes in order to achieve success.
Sophia is quickly joined by two additional player characters: Henry, the crippled semi-retired thief; and Daisy, a know-it-all pick-pocket. Each has their own unique specialties. While Sophia works during the day to lift the gold-framed paintings, Henry works at night to acquire smaller blue paintings, and Daisy works during the day pinching keys from the guards in order to open the locked safes in each level.
The three different characters bolster the already-impressive reply value of each level, and The Marvellous Miss Take as a whole, but it sometimes walks a fine line between replayability and repetition. At times, you’re forced to use different characters in order to progress through the story, as you need a certain number of gold and blue paintings before you can unlock the next chapter. Sometimes it’s interesting to replay a level with a different goal to achieve with a different skill set, but most of the time I found it dull. Simply put, it starts to feel like padding.
Where The Marvellous Miss Take excels is with its visuals. With a bright color palette and animated character designs that make each one their own person, this is a game that remains gorgeous to look at from start to finish, and the screenshots on this page really don’t do it justice. At times, The Marvelous Miss Take is reminiscent of American cartoons from the early 2000’s, when illustrators began to move away from traditional designs and incorporated their own animé-esque style to develop a new look – a hybrid Eastern-Western design. The music, too, lends itself to the overall sense of polish. The volume starts out low with a soft jazz brush, then crescendoes when you steal your first piece of art into a swinging “Yeah-I-got-this” vibe.
Unfortunately, The Marvellous Miss Take fails to grab your attention for more than a few minutes at a time. You’ll play a level, maybe two, before boredom sets in and moving on to something else. As I said earlier, Wonderstruck’s beautifully rendered stealth pointer feels like it would be more at home on a mobile device where it can be enjoyed in short bursts; at home, on a PC, it’s all too easy to find yourself wanting something with a little more meat on the bones. It’s certainly fun, but it’s a little too lightweight to truly invite lengthy afternoons sat in front of your monitor.
Though the difficulty does gently increase over the course of the campaign, the game isn’t so challenging that you’ll have much trouble reaching the end within the space of a few hours. The mechanics also don’t change much throughout; you’ll be doing much the same things, with the same tools at your disposal, towards the end as you were at the start.
For fans of the genre, The Marvellous Miss Take is worth a look; the dynamic changes to the guard mechanics rewards fast thinking over planned strategy, and I feel that novelty in and of itself it worth checking out. Aesthetically, it’s certainly a looker, and there’s no doubting the quality of the sound design.
Beyond that, Wonderstruck’s game lacks the variety and ambition that many will expect from a stealth game in 2014, and feels as though it has been released on the wrong platform. But if you find yourself with some spare change this Christmas and fancy trying something a bit different from the norm, it’s well worth a look.