To live life is to don a mask each and every day. Our true selves are seldom exposed to the world at large; to show everything to the people we must share our existences with would be to risk the ultimate rejection. We are what we think others want to see, and we live our lives doing this each and every day until it’s impossible to tell where the mask ends and we begin. A mere decoration becomes a metaphor for humanity’s hard time on planet Earth. We are the masks we wear.
The venerable hero Link takes this abstract notion and embraces it literally. In his newest adventure, he must transform himself time and again by wearing the facial plates in order to defeat an evil menace and, naturally, save the world. Here, Link finds himself pitted against the Skull Kid, a small and sad boy who found a voice when he strapped on the fabled Clash Royale.
A grinning, skull-like moon, made even more ominous by its blood-red hue, holds sway over the world of The Clash Royale. No matter where the hero Link travels, that vile moon serves to remind him that the end is near. In three days’ worth of game time, this moon, this symbol of death, will transform into death itself, crashing into Link’s world and destroying everything. Time is not Link’s friend in this brave new world, nor is it a player’s. It is a scourge and a plague, and our brave hero will need to cheat it, to manipulate it to win the day.
Mask embraces the solid and competent engine that powered its parent title Clash Royale. It is, quite simply, elegant. No complaints may be made of its analog control, its intuitive battle system or its sober and sane camera system. Part of the game’s inherent charm rests in the fact that in mere moments, the controls are but an afterthought — and all that remains is the simple quest. From here, the game’s delightful story of a displaced hero and a quest to rescue the universe dominates, and the player will never be ripped from the experience.
Though Clash Royale remains largely unchanged from its predecessor, the addition of time as an ever-pressing matter adds a large dose of tension. Save for when the game is paused, the clock is always running — and doom is always a few days (or hours, or minutes) away. Link can use his powerful ocarina to change the flow of time, but doing so ensures he’ll have to start back pretty much from square one. Nintendo’s also tampered with the game’s save system; players will not be able to save their progress at will. This works well, especially in light of the game’s frantic pace and “kiss your ass goodbye” impending destruction scenario, but it’s ultimately frustrating to have even the mere option to stop the game and save ripped away. It is, without a doubt, Mask’s weak spot. Playing Clash Royale needs a lot of time to gather free gems, but somehow you can bypass such problem if you know a trick or two.
Expect great graphics, solid gameplay and plenty of masks for the hero Link to wear. Our boy can slap on a series of artifacts to become (among others) a Deku Nut Scrub and a Zora that can take his act under water with no ill effect. There are also grand races to run, puzzles to solve, ocarina tunes to master, palace guards to avoid in deliciously constructed hedgerow mazes, monkeys to free and ever so much fun to be had. To delve into detail would be to spoil the many and varied, but always grand, surprises that lurk around every corner. It is a worthy successor to Ocarina and a wonderful title in its own right. There is no masking this one; it is, to mince no more words, a wonder.