Anyone familiar with Artifex Mundi knows how their games work; their formulaic success relies on hidden object puzzles and various mini-games as you try to solve a mystery. They now have a new title coming to Xbox One. So, is Dark Arcana: The Carnival
worth your time? In a word – absolutely.
Dark Arcana: The Carnival
begins with Susan Jones and her daughter visiting a local carnival that has re-opened many years after a tragic accident closed it down. Their day of carefree fun ends abruptly when Susan disappears in the House of Mirrors. As a local detective, it’s your job to find Susan in what quickly becomes a sinister mystery. You will search for Susan between two worlds – ours and the Mirror World, a creepy twisted version of the carnival.
Throughout the game, you will solve hidden object puzzles. These are the puzzles for which Artifex Mundi is famous and which puzzle lovers of all ages can enjoy. You’re presented with a jumbled scene and a list of items to find within that scene. Once a puzzle is successfully completed, you will receive an item you need to further progress your investigation and the game.
Another option available for solving the puzzles is a simple matching game called Monaco. Similar to the Mah-jong option in Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart
, Monaco lets you earn your items another way. You will match tiles to remove them from the board. Matching a tile with radiating lines behind the figure will remove one item from the list; matching two radiating tiles will remove two items.
As you enter this world, you’ll notice right away that it’s beautiful. The animations are nicely done, the environs brightly colored, the characters interesting. The story also pulls you along; I rarely find myself caring that much about the characters in this type of game, but this one is done well enough that I really wanted everyone to be okay at the end.
One great thing about the title is how quickly it moves. If you’ve played these types of titles before, you know they can sometimes drag as you run back and forth searching ad nauseam
. That’s never a problem in Dark Arcana
. You move from puzzle to puzzle without a lot of backtracking, so the game flows at a nice even clip, never slowing into boredom.
Another new addition to the standard formula is a little assistant that works wonderfully well, and that’s Miles, a monkey you’ll find early on. You can send Miles to retrieve items for you that you can’t reach on your own. Anyone who has searched everywhere for a way to reach an item stuck in a tree (Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek
comes to mind) can appreciate how nice it is to send one’s little companion scrambling onto the roof to nab something you need. You’ll love the little guy.
The game offers 22 achievements for the achievement hunter. They can all be had in two playthroughs if one knows what to expect. One playthrough will require that one do all of hidden puzzles without using hints (you'll want to turn off the tutorial so you're not forced to use a hint); another must be done to complete all of the Monaco games. One of these must also be done on expert difficulty. With these two goals in mind, most of the other achievements will be picked up along the way though some special attention may be needed for the timed achievements, such as finishing a hidden objects puzzle in less than a minute. It’s not a hard list.
Honestly, this is the best of the hidden object games I’ve played, and I’ve played several. The only negative I experienced was tiny. Twice, an item appeared on a hidden object list that I didn’t recognize. One was a windwill; I had no idea what that was. It turned out to be fan. This is either a slight mistranslation or a word that’s used differently in the developer’s home country of Poland. Either way, this is a tiny complaint, and it’s the only one I have.
All in all, Dark Arcana: The Carnival
is a wonderful addition to Artifex Mundi’s catalog of Xbox titles, and if you’re a fan of the genre, this is one you won’t want to miss.
Score: 9 out of 10
Developer: Artifex Mundi
Release Date: March 17, 2017
Platform: Xbox One
Written by B1ueSeptember