Bewitched Circus is a light puzzle hunt created by Society of Curiosities.
Style of Play: narrative-driven, light puzzle hunt with some ARG-style elements
Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, mobile device
You need to text answers to an in-game character. You can choose to do so by regular text messages on your phone, or (for international players) you can use their online chat tool.
Recommended Team Size: 1-2
Play Time: no timer, but it took about an hour
Booking: purchase online and play at your leisure
There is a weird circus in town with some magical and suspect behavior happening. You are the one chosen to figure out what’s going on there before the show starts. The gameplay consists of reading, inspecting photos, and sending text messages. The messaging interface leads you through a story.
Hivemind Review Scale
Matthew Stein’s Reaction
Society of Curiosities has developed a distinctive style of narrative-driven puzzling: a cross between ARGs and text-based adventure games, presented through well produced, lovingly homemade artifacts, websites, and texting with characters. The fully digital The Bewitched Circus game falls on the easier end of the spectrum compared to Society of Curiosities’ monthly physical mailings, though it’s no less fun and is very well priced. The game features some stellar world building, plenty of internet sleuthing, and light puzzle interactions that are well integrated into the Halloween season-appropriate story. Society of Curiosities’ tech is seamless, with natural language text responses providing in-world puzzle/ story gating as well as some light hinting, plus a helpful out-of-world granular hint system. I particularly appreciate the care taken to support an international audience: in addition to US and Canada phone numbers, the game also provides the option of web-based messaging.
Joel Smileypeacefun Reaction
I already reviewed Society of Curiosities’ Mysterious Map Heist game and was pretty disappointed by the story and puzzles, but now it was time to give them a second chance.
At its best, you can choose to interact with the character through text messages or an online chatbot (a major plus for international players). The conversation felt real to the point where I was questioning if I was texting an actual human being. The coherent story and soundtrack made for a good time. The puzzles were challenging, but doable and no googling was needed.
At its worst, something went wrong where I did not get any emails from them (receipt/ instructions). I still think there is a bit much to read through and it’s not always 100% clear what to look for. I’d liked to have a couple more puzzles in there, but the price point is quite fair.
They improved a lot. This time I played alone and maybe this was the problem last time, when I was confused by what my teammates were doing.
Michelle Calabro’s Reaction
If I were to recommend The Bewitched Circus, it would be on the condition that you play alone so you can grasp the storyline and get to know its endearingly eccentric characters. The types of mechanics that the game uses — a lot of reading, inspecting beautiful photographs and other props, sending text messages and listening to voice recordings — are better suited to solo play, and since there’s no time limit you can take as long as you need to solve them.
The game’s website says it can be played by 1-4 people so I invited 3 friends and family members to play with me. We got on a Zoom call, registered our phone numbers on the site and began the game. Unfortunately, based on the technical challenges that my team encountered, I don’t believe that the game is designed to be played by more than one person. The game system did not recognize one consistent game state for all players. One player would progress through the game and tell everyone else what happened, but because all other players had not done the same actions, we were stuck in different parts of the game, which caused a lot of confusion and wasted time.
The Lone Puzzler’s Reaction
An online game with a mix of text messaging, light Google searching, and reviewing materials discovered in the story. Perhaps a bit light but overall enjoyable. One purchase can be used by three different people (or, I think three can play at the same time). I played this solo and it flowed well with some easy-to-medium puzzles to solve. The online interfaces were easy to use and unlike some games with a text interface, did not struggle with wording of answers/ communications. It is very linear so not meant for large groups, but quite enjoyable as a quick puzzle adventure. Not scary but with a witch-themed story – certainly good for Halloween, but fun anytime. A pretty fun deal for a $12 game (or $4 per for a group of three.)
Updated December 10, 2020 to include:
Theresa W’s Reaction
Society of Curiosities really takes leaps out into the unknown with their unique game design, focusing on story and overall immersion with good puzzles scattered throughout. I really love the direction that they have taken in their game design choices, and The Bewitched Circus is no exception to their wonderful experiences. They have been able to achieve an intriguing blend of ARG-style gameplay and narrative puzzle experiences that encompass so many varied information delivery methods. While the game doesn’t have the most sophisticated or difficult puzzles, they were still quite fun and engaging for our entire team. Since the game revolves around messaging a character, I definitely recommend using only one device and screen sharing, which worked smoothly for us across three locations.