Dark Arcana: The Carnival is the latest game from Artifex Mundi, everyone’s favorite casual game supplier. Using the tried and true gameplay mechanics from their previous titles, Artifex Mundi has created yet another wonderfully fun mystery game that utilizes hidden object scenes and puzzles. Much like their other titles, Dark Arcana focuses mostly on the story and far less on making compelling gameplay or breathtaking visuals. Even though the story is front and center, I believe the hidden object scenes and puzzles are the reason I keep playing each game.
Opening on a scene of a mother and daughter having fun in a carnival, Dark Arcana quickly turns dark when a door shuts suddenly and separates the pair. This prompts our character, a detective, to go out and find the mother. Soon after beginning our investigation, we meet Jim Gibbons who is acting strangely and is our only clue to where we need to go or what we need to do. Following Jim, our protagonist quickly realizes there is something more sinister than just a mother being separated from her daughter. After learning that there is a deeper motive to this separation, our detective begins poking around in order to figure out how in the world she will save the mother. With this darker story lurking just beneath the surface, it isn’t surprising that the game’s art reflects this.
It doesn’t take long before players run into the twisted imagery found in Dark Aracana. Starting as ‘hallucinations’, our detective is rightfully freaked out as things such as the previously innocent merry-go-round morphs into a horrific home for several hellish horses. While the dark imagery is fairly appreciated, it also creates a wonderful atmosphere within an interesting world. The only big issue I experienced with the art or sound was how quiet the voices were compared to how booming the music could become. In the end, Dark Arcana uses the same style as all other Artifex Mundi games just with better animation quality.
Much like the art style, the gameplay in Dark Arcana is nearly identical to other games from Artifex Mundi. On the plus side, this means players of the previous titles will know exactly what to expect and what to do instead of having to learn a new game. The only downside is that it can become boring to those that have grown tired of the same old game. When I say the game is just like the others, I should mention that Hidden Object scenes are back, but an optional mode that can be used to replace these scenes is also present. This mode is called Monaco and it has players match touching tiles in order to either match enough of the special tiles (representing the hidden objects in the normal scene) or to fill one of the 3 special effect bars that can clear a column, a row, or all tiles of one type. Monaco made for a nice change of pace on my second playthrough and I enjoyed its addition. Besides Hidden Object scenes and Monaco, players can expect to run into several puzzles as they make their way through Dark Arcana. While these puzzles were fun enough, I did fee like they were a bit on the easy side, even for an Artifex Mundi game.
It should be fair to say that these games have always been geared more for the casual gamers that enjoy playing over being challenged. Dark Arcana is no different and doesn’t shy away from being a bit on the easy side in order to attract even more players. I can say this game makes an excellent addition to my games that I play with my fiancée when we want to unwind for the night and could easily help other gamers get non-gamers playing alongside them for a little while. While the game isn’t inherently difficult, it doesn’t need to be and focuses it’s energy on being fun and engaging. Even if Dark Arcana isn’t the type of game you would normally get, I can say it is worth a playthrough if you find yourself with a copy of the game and a few hours to spare.
Like the other Artifex Mundi games, Dark Arcana focuses heavily on the story instead of creating a challenging experience. On top of this, Dark Arcana has a much darker feeling compared to the other titles. While comparing to the other titles, it’s fair to say this newest release is the best looking with the best animations to date. This upgrade in looks combined with the familiar controls and gameplay elements creates a welcoming environment for old players and new comers alike. Dark Arcana definitely isn’t breaking any new ground or setting any new records but it is a fun little experience that I would suggest to any fan of puzzle games.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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