By Simon Moore on October 10, 2014 at 4:00pm
One of the greatest benefits of attending a gaming convention, a reason I recommend it, is that you will often stumble across some a title that you didn’t really know about but one which you’ll play and enjoy. As with the Eye on Indie articles, it’s all about discovery, about broadening your horizons particularly in the land of indie developers. “The Marvellous Miss Take” is one of these games.
“The Marvelous Miss Take” is heist game by Wonderstruck, a small team composed partly of ex-Lionhead Studios developers and other industry veterans. The game revolves around the adventures of Sophia Take, a young thief, who must recover her families lost art collection, one beautiful piece at a time. This is a unique stealth game, a heist adventure set amongst art galleries and museums where taking out your adversaries are not the objective. It’s about how good you can be at avoiding the guards and how well you can think yourself through each test. Brute force and violence isn’t Sophia’s style; she uses cunning, stealth, and lateral thinking to out-criminal the criminals who took what rightfully belonged to her.
I got a chance to speak with Adam Langridge lead developer on “The Marvellous Miss Take” after getting a hand on with a few levels of the game.
Player Theory: What was the Inspiration for making a stealth game?
Adam Langridge: We really wanted to make a stealth game but there was an interesting conversation that took place between myself, a fan of stealth games and a friend who wasn’t. He described stealth games as just a kind of boring puzzle where you learn a guard’s pattern, memorize the movements and just sneak past. So we thought maybe there was a different way that we can do stealth. Working on the concept that we want to do stealth differently we then got to thinking maybe we can do other things differently to.
Sitting down in front of “The Marvellous Miss Take” it became clear I was in for a very different stealth experience. The opening guides you through your problem, and it’s enough to know that something that belonged to you was taken. Now it's your job to retrieve it. To do so you’ll use your whistles, a simple ability that most people have which is often overlooked in games, you looks and your speed to complete your goals. It was this simple idea that made the game more intriguing, a simple whistle across the room from the guard draws him close; taking your opportunity you quickly make your move, grab the art and head for the door. There was no corner to lean against and no boxes to sneak under, my timing and movements were the focus. You have to plan ahead. You can afford to make a few mistakes, but once a guard has locked onto you they are at times quite difficult to shake off. Your operating in a small area, so there is no option to run off into the distance, nor is there the option to dispatch the guards.
AL: We created a prototype which was about random guards and it was a lot of fun and quite funny. As soon as it became funny, because we removed violence. You can’t hurt anyone; all you can do is run away, and it turns into "Benny Hill" a little bit. As soon as that happened we started looking at the theme of it and the usual gritty stealth genre didn’t make sense anymore.
True to Adams' comment, this game is far from gritty. It feels like a light-hearted adventure where comedy and entertainment is the focus and not violence and high explosive action scenes. There’s nothing wrong with that style, far from it in fact, as I myself am a huge “Metal Gear Solid.” This title eases players into its world. You’re not trying to save it, you’re not its only hope, and you’re just trying to save your family's fortune. And you’re going to have fun while doing it. The game is bright, the game is colorful, and it treats its mechanics in a humorous way this is all the more complimented by the musical score that plays throughout which is very light-hearted and clearly isn’t designed to make you feel rushed or under threat. Trust me this will happen on its own. For this style of stealth to work, the team put great effort into getting the right components in the right place and combining them in such a way that it keeps the theme throughout. There is a consistency throughout that means you won’t lose your immersion in Sophia Take’s world or her innocence in not wanting to hurt others in her quest. This is not a title for the gamer looking for a stealth game that when everything goes wrong you can start blasting your way out of trouble, you’ll need to think on your feet and you’ll have a collection of cartoonish Acme-themed gadgets to help you.
AL: We looked around for reference material from other films and books about stealing stuff and discovered there are two ideas. The military assassin style and the "Oceans 11," the "Thomas Crown Affair," and the "Italian Job," and we thought we’ve never seen a game about this kind of stealth were the hero is charming, nice, and clever. They get away with it even though they are completely outgunned.
PT: The gameplay mechanics you have in place, the drawing guards anyway with noise and the briefest of glimpses of your character as you move around, that’s very different to traditional stealth games. Why did you go in this direction?
AL: We tested this and wondered about how vulnerable you felt, and realized that you did feel very vulnerable. And we thought that’s a good thing, because it gets exciting very quickly. We had pains about the gadgets that you get. There are not gadgets that incapacitate a guard, there's no stun dart, there’s no violence, and you can’t clear a room, and that means the tension is always up through the whole level. We wanted to be careful as well that the guards weren’t too scary either. There a sort of cross between a T-Rex and a chicken when they start running for you. We’ve also included guard dogs that’ll sniff you out. They are just happy to see you and want to play, but their barking will draw the guards.
That’s not to say there won’t be moments where panic does set in. If you’re unlucky enough to make the wrong move, the guards will see you and they will investigate. Stay in their sight long enough, and the real fun begins. The guard will become a charging giant as he runs towards you, and your only options are to duck and turn round corners hoping that you are just fast enough. The art direction reminded me of an old favorite, “Evil Genius”. It’s a game about villain management and evil lair building, but it’s tackled with comedy being a key element, and “The Marvelous Miss Take” is no different. It’s presented in a cartoon style that only really works in certain games, and prior to discovering this title at EGX London, I didn’t think was possible in a stealth game. As I mentioned above, everything fits. It looks and feels like stealth game but retains a charm and quirkiness due to the art direction that means you can’t help but enjoy the experience. Even during the chases, the artwork and style keep everything in a light-hearted tone, which is such a clever thing to have done with the title. And they've done so successfully.
PT: Was there a reason you went this direction with the art?
AL: When we made the prototype I was just boxes, and we found it made the game really easy to play, everything was different colors, and that was something we didn’t want to lose when the game got more detailed. That became a bit of a direction, we needed clean lines and block shading so that you can really tell what’s going on. That allows you to make more interesting and complicated things happen in the game, but it not get overwhelming. So that was a constraint we had. Because we were looking at this from a retro perspective, the art director jumped on the concept and simply said "Pink Panther," and that was a big influence on the palette.
“The Marvellous Miss Take” was a quirky and charming dive into an alternative world of stealth games. It will appeal to a wide audience with the art style and simple mechanics. Its evidence that you don’t need overcomplicated gameplay, nor do you need a convoluted plot. Its proof that the indie developers should not go overlooked, because you never quite know what you’ll find.
There is currently no release schedule for "The Marvelous Miss Take," but the studio is hoping to realize that information along with the platforms very soon.