PostCurious – Emerald Flame [Review]

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Location:  at home

Date Played: Spring 2020

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 2-3 hours per chapter with 3 chapters

Price: back on Kickstarter at $69 or more to receive a copy of the game

REA Reaction

Emerald Flame is in a class of its own, from its art direction to its gameplay. Its three chapters had tight, creative puzzles. They varied in complexity, while feeling fair and innovative.

Emerald Flame felt like a successor to Post Curious’ first product Tale of Ord… but tighter and more refined in virtually every way.

An assortment of puzzle content and components with beautiful art.

Emerald Flame’s story was less ambitious than its predecessor’s but was still well structured and conveyed quite a bit of nuance. There was less content, and there were fewer tangible props than in Tale of Ord, but the overall level of quality was much higher… and at a far lower price point.

In short: Emerald Flame smoked Tale of Ord. It wasn’t even close.

The gorgeous gold and green stained glass box art of The Emerald Flame.

The art was beautiful, like, “I feel kind of bad writing on this” beautiful… and “I want a poster-sized version of the box art to frame on my wall,” beautiful.

Emerald Flame just went up on Kickstarter, so if you want to play this, head over there and back it. We played a nearly final prototype. There will be differences in the production version, so I cannot speak to the exact quality of what will be shipped. That said, I can assure you that the game exists, it’s incredibly refined, and it’s comfortably Lisa and my favorite tabletop puzzle game to date. For what I look for in a play-at-home puzzle game, it has no peers.

Who is this for?

  • Art lovers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Approachable yet deep and beautifully designed puzzles
  • The best hint system in the business
  • The art, the art, the art

Story

Our assistance had been enlisted in the study of alchemy. We needed to retrace the work of a medieval alchemist from Prague in order to solve the mysteries of his work and how they related to an unusual celestial event.

All Emerald Flame packages laid out. They seem to have been mailed from Prague.

Setup

Emerald Flame was a game played in 3 chapters. Each of the chapters was presented as an individual mailed package. However, the entire game shipped in a single box. We didn’t need to wait between playing the different installments.

Closeup of a watercolor map.
Image via PostCurious

Each chapter took us approximately 2 hours as a group of 4 playing at a comfortable pace. I can easily see that scaling up or down depending upon player intensity, team size, and skill.

The individual chapters contained both standalone puzzles and puzzles that interacted with one another, culminating in a meta challenge for the chapter.

Emerald Flame included a refill kit to enable resetting for others.

The Emerald Flame Refill Kit.

I’ve long stated that PostCurious handles hints better than anyone else in the play-at-home puzzle game business; I continue to stand behind that statement with Emerald Flame. The hint website had sections for each individual puzzle with tight, incremental nudges that spanned the entire solving process. If you need a hint in Emerald Flame, you will always find exactly the hint that you need, and no more.

When you have a solution, the hint page can also elegantly verify or reject it for you without spoilers.

Gameplay

PostCurious’ Emerald Flame was a play-at-home puzzle game, in the style of escape games, but with a higher level of difficulty. It was not as challenging as a puzzle hunt, but the puzzles were meatier than we find in typical 60- to 90-minute tabletop escape games.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, puzzling, and admiring the gorgeous art.

The Emerald Flame instructions beside the first package.

Analysis

βž• The art was amazing. From the box art through to each and every component in Emerald Flame, this game was beautiful to behold. If we hadn’t written all over the puzzle components, we’d hang them up on the wall. Seriously. Every printed sheet was a work of art.

βž• The instructions were lean yet complete. It was easy to get started.

βž• The puzzle quality was consistently phenomenal; we were invested in every single puzzle. They were varied, but felt like part of the same family. We loved PostCurious’ twists on ciphers. We enjoyed how the layered puzzles pulled so much together into an impressive whole, adding depth without creating long process puzzles.

βž• PostCurious regularly added a little something extra. We thought that we understood completely, and then came the twists.

A spinning star chart device.
Image via PostCurious

βž• PostCurious does precision in design and execution better than anyone in the business. Every installment of Emerald Flame wowed us with its precision, each one more than the last.

βž• As explained in the setup section above, Post Curious is the best in the business when it comes to hint quality.

βž• PostCurious took a concept we’ve viewed many times before, but presented it through a new lens. It was as unexpected as it was impressive.

βž– In the first installment, we found one puzzle to be frustrating, as much as we loved the concept. However, in production the materials of this puzzle will be different and likely fix most of our issues with it.

βž•/βž– A meta puzzle that linked the three chapters together delivered narratively, but under-delivered as a challenge.

❓The puzzles in Emerald Flame were best solved by writing all over them. That said, the game is so beautiful that we really didn’t want to deface the components with our scrawls. Perhaps acetate could help?

βž• Each segment concluded with an amusing chatbot interaction. This worked well on desktop and mobile.

βž• At its conclusion, Emerald Flame asked us to make a choice. We appreciated the option, and the moral grayness of the dilemma.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: internet-connected device, paper and pencil, scissors
  • Emerald Flame was beautifully colorful, and color played a part in much of the solving. That said, in most instances where color was involved, accessibility was considered as well.

Buy your copy of PostCurious’ Emerald Flame, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: PostCurious provided a sample for review.

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