A well-crafted puzzle adventure with a solid and compelling narrative.
Played 12 November 2020
2-player team: Jamie & Mim
Completed in 48 mins
Play The Bewitched Circus
It was a tough decision on what to play on Halloween. We ultimately decided on Witchery Spell since I needed to get that posted back out after playing it.
So I was on tenterhooks waiting to get the chance to play Society of Curiosities’ newest game since then. I was pretty sure I was in for a good time, based on the quality of their previous games – Mysterious Map Heist and Madok’s Lost Treasure.
And I was not disappointed.
The Society has been tracking strange events around Lone Tree, a small town renowned for its witch history.
Dispatch your team to Lone Tree and track down the source of these strange events.
You will communicate with your team on the ground via text message to guide them, search the web for clues, and immerse yourself in a world of mystery – a light and whimsical adventure that will delight you and have you doubt what is real!
Theme / immersion
It’s difficult to properly lose yourself in a digital game when you’re sat behind a screen in your PJs.
But Society of Curiosities have dodged this issue with their ‘guy in the chair’ scenario. Interacting with the ‘man on the ground’ via the messenger bot gave it enough of a sense of realism that we could throw ourselves into the research and detective work.
The game uses a mix of photographs, illustrations, other website and its messenger bot to drive the narrative. All of the visuals are good quality and easily accessible in an inventory for future reference.
It’s believable. At no point during the game did I think “that’s contrived”. The only aspect that lessened the immersion for me was using the messenger bot rather than the text messaging I’d used for Mysterious Map Heist.
Puzzles / signposting
There’s a good mix of flavours with this game. On the one hand, you have your puzzle set and detective work that Society of Curiosities does really well. On the other, your interactions with the ‘team on the ground’ feel a bit like the classic RPG Zork, which I really enjoyed.
The puzzles themselves are a mix of searching, research, maths, decoding and lateral thinking. I forgot (again) that you’re an armchair detective and so you’re to use all the tools at your disposal (including Google). The mission tips emphasises this, but it doesn’t seem to stick in my brain.
There was a nice multi-step puzzle in the final half of the game that I really liked because it was nicely hidden within the material and blended in with the narrative.
The puzzles are well signposted within the selection of props and materials you’re shown. Barring one puzzle where we overthought things, the game flowed really well.
Hints / overall experience
I’ve covered the Society of Curiosities’ hint system before, and it worked well here. They use a graded hint sytem that first makes sure you’re at the right stage of the game so you don’t waste your time.
We wound up needing a solution for one puzzle. We’d massively overthought it and the answer was quite literally right there in front of us.
The digital games from Society of Curiosities are well-adapted to group play over the likes of zoom. The games have a web-based messenger bot that will update for all players, so you don’t have to worry about another player missing a key bit of information.
One thing I really like about these games is that you get a debrief when you’re done that tells you (in character) how you solved each stage.
The Bewitched Circus continues the great style of storytelling and puzzlecraft that Society of Curiosities is known for. You immediately feel part of the story as you direct your contact through the mysterious circus. If you enjoyed Mysterious Map Heist, I’d highly recommend playing The Bewitched Circus.
The Bewitched Circus
Designed by Michelle Rundbaken and Yacine Merzouk
Cost: $12 (convert to GBP)
Duration: 30-90 minutes
Requirements: Computer / laptop with Internet access, phone capable of sending / receiving text messages (optional).
Disclosure: We were offered a complimentary game for the purposes of writing a fair and honest review. This has not affected our opinion of the game whatsoever. Check out the disclosure policy for more info.
Image from Society of Curiosities