The Marvellous Miss Take is an isometric stealth game starring a wide hipped heroine who infiltrates private art galleries owned by a selfish millionaire. With a Robin Hood-like work ethic, Miss Take enters into the life of thievery based to fulfill her rich aunt’s philosophy that all art should be free. As a rich snob gobbles up London’s art collection for himself, it’s up to Sofia Take to rob from the rich and give to the world.
Sneaking around art museums brings to mind memories of Metal Gear Solid, as Sofia must avoid the lines of sight of guards, security cameras, and scent tracking bloodhounds as she pilfers all kinds of artistic treasures. The player has limited control over Sofia’s movements. Instead of free form movements, Sofia gets around by having the player click the area they want her to travel. Her path can be diverted at any time in any direction, but it takes time for her to reach the mark. This lends itself to a great feeling of tension as you sneak past guards, praying that they don’t turn their heads. Running is always an option although the noise it creates will attract guards and dogs that fall within a noise radius. Stealing artwork is quick work and all Sofia needs to do is walk past glowing pieces of art to get them to magically fall into her designer Mary Poppins-style purse. In addition to paintings and other trinkets, each gallery houses a “masterpiece” encased in glass. Breaking open these cases will cause nearby bystanders to flip out and alert security, giving you a brief window to escape the area before being caught. Escaping guards and dogs that have spotted you isn’t impossible, but it is difficult and I recommend keeping your thievery on the down low as much as possible.
The game is broken up into multiple chapters that are accessed from Miss Take’s personal gallery/hub world. All chapters begin locked and require the player to collect a specific number of art pieces. For Sofia, this number is the total amount of levels completed in a gallery. Secondary art pieces are collected by her two partners in crime and their requirement isn’t as strict as Sofia’s. The secondary cast, like the aging master thief called The Fox, mixes up the design of heists. The Fox, for example, works through the same galleries as Sofia, only his crime sprees occur at night. Apart from the pre-requisite guards and cameras, security gates block once accessible rooms and corridors. The Fox has a broken leg and can’t run like Sofia. Keeping him away from the guard’s attention will take a lot of cunning and some deft mouse clicking.
Stealing art hasn’t been this exciting since The Thomas Crown Affair. The ease and deliberate nature of the controls makes each heist a thrill. As you unlock more galleries to steal from, the odds get stacked against you more and more. For every obstacle, however, there is always a means of escape. For example, breaking a guard’s line of sight won’t automatically trigger a pursuit. Standing in their sight cone will cause a yellow circle to fill up and a small red circle highlighted under Sofia to indicate her last known position. It is beneficial to fill up the yellow circle as much as possible (without it filling completely and taking him into alert mode) because it grants more time to pull the target away and sneak past. Getting caught ends the game, putting Sofia back to the beginning of the current area. The game reloads quickly, which is a blessing if you find yourself forced to repeat the same area over again.
Sofia eventually acquires a set of tools that makes her job a little easier. Gadgets can be found in most gallery stages that makes distraction and escape an easier prospect. There’s a noise maker to lure guards away from their posts and, my favorite, a teleporter that will instantly send Sofia to wherever the object lands. These tools become a necessity as the game throws more and more obstacles your way. Challenging as the experience is, it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed when the game stacks so many variables against you.
There is a lot to like about The Marvellous Miss Take. As much as I appreciate the growing complexity of the later parts of the game, it quickly became a source of near inconsolable frustration. I experienced this feeling towards the end of the second chapter as a result of how the game treats patrol routes. There are no static patrol routesleaving guards and those @#$%-ing dogs move in randomized, near unpredictable routes that have a bad habit of messing up a whole level’s worth of progress. Too often was I forced into an unavoidable corner by dogs, suspicious guards and security cameras. Sneaking past a guard only to see them turn 180 degrees without so much as a warning blew a near perfect run. The design of the levels is also to blame because of the tight corners and rooms with only one exit. “How the hell am I supposed to get through that?” was a frequent exclamation (though I cleaned it up for this review). The difficulty does lend itself to warm, fuzzy feelings of accomplishment but the impact of finishing a tough stage isn’t so thrilling after doing it ten or twelve times.
The Marvellous Miss Take is a fun and near flawless heist adventure. The visuals, soundtrack and simple controls are the healthiest elements of the game. The only thing holding it back is the game’s often crippling difficulty and the feeling of being put up against impossible odds. You’ll bang your head against the wall a few times but the real key to success is to not play angry. A measured approach and a careful step are needed to guide Sofia Take towards artwork yearning to be free.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.