The Masterplan is a top down strategy game set in 1969 that puts you in the shoes of a small time crook named Joey Green looking to score big. In the beginning, Joey and his brother Gregory rob kiosks, convenience stores, and diners. By the end of the game they and their sizeable crew are ready for the big time: Fort Knox.
Controlling Joey and his gang is a matter of left clicking to activate the character you want to control, then clicking on their destination. Characters can pick up cash, gear, and memos that unlock new missions. Right clicking on a character will open up their inventory, allowing you to select tools, firearms, or money that can either be equipped or dropped for another character to pick up. Swapping out gear is best done at the gang’s hideout in between missions, where you can also recruit new members and buy new gear and ammo.
Small time jobs like the kiosk can be taken on with a minimal crew, which is fine because that’s all you start with anyway. Later missions will require you to pay the hefty hiring fees to recruit more people. For example, during the arcade heist it is impossible to get away with all the money with only two characters, since they can each only carry one of the three bags of coins.
The way you can carry out each mission is open ended, allowing you to take your time and case the area before committing to a hold up. You can approach it like a stealth game, watching the cones of vision of patrolling guards and cameras and sneaking past them, then flipping the right switch to cut the power. Once the guards come to investigate, you can hold them up and knock them unconscious. You can also go in guns blazing, shooting everyone in sight so you can take the money and run, though this option is harder to pull off since ammo is scarce and expensive.
Once you draw a gun on another character, they won’t keep their hands in the air forever, and will eventually fight back or attempt to escape and call the police; this is where using the “slo-mo” option to issue orders comes in handy. By pressing spacebar, time will slow down, allowing you the time to tell one of your people to knock out the clerk being held up, or chase down and shoot the guy running to the phone. While you have a hostage at gunpoint you can also issue them orders to open doors or bring you items.
Despite the open-endedness of the missions, replay is limited since once you figure out the puzzle there is little incentive to replay. Fortunately, there are about twenty missions to unlock and it takes a long time to complete all of them, not to mention the various guns and goons you can collect on your journey to strike it rich.
The graphics have the look and feel of a comic book from the era, with the colors looking like slightly washed out newsprint. This definitely works for the feel the game is going for, reminding me of Sinatra’s Danny Ocean. The character models and environment are large and full of detail, making important items like memos and cash registers easy to spot. On the other hand, since the view is directly above the action, it can be a bit difficult to tell the characters apart, which can be a problem when you have to act fast and can’t remember which one of them has the tool you need.
In The Masterplan, developer Shark Punch has provided an engaging heist simulator that while at times can feel clunky, succeeds through clever level and game design. If you are a fan of squad based strategy games or old heist movies, then you should definitely check out The Masterplan.