PostCurious – The Light in the Mist [Review]

If you enjoy The Light in the Mist, we hope you’ll check out our interview with creator Rita Orlov on The Reality Escape Pod.

Enchanting

Location:  at home

Date Played: September 2021

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2

Duration: 5-10 hours (easily spread out over as many sittings as you like)

Price: about $32 + shipping for the standard edition

REA Reaction

I think you’re going to want to back The Light in the Mist on Kickstarter.

Rita Orlov of PostCurious teamed up with masterful illustrator Jack Fallows of Cryptogram Puzzle Post to create a custom, bepuzzled tarot deck packed with gorgeous art, all wrapped in a heartfelt story. The collaboration played to the strengths of these two creators.

The Light in the Mist box and full contents, including tarot deck, booklet, and journal.
Image via PostCurious

The Light in the Mist displayed both creators at their absolute best and showed a maturity of design, while making use of the tarot deck as a medium for both puzzle design and storytelling.

Beyond the incredible aesthetics and stellar puzzles, The Light in the Mist was a remarkably unopinionated product. It can be just a puzzle game, or just a story, or just a tarot deck – which was a nifty trick of design.

7 assorted tarot cards with stunning art.
Image via PostCurious

When we complete tabletop puzzle games, even the ones we love, we usually find ourselves feeling a certain sense of relief. When we finished The Light in the Mist, we found ourselves missing it… wishing it were a little longer. Honestly, this was the perfect length. It’s better to return from a vacation wishing it were a couple of days longer than ultimately wishing that the trip had ended sooner; the same is true for puzzle games.

We loved The Light in the Mist. Although we’ve already played, we will back it on Kickstarter because we want to own a production copy. You’re going to want one too.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Art aficionados
  • Practitioners of the tarot
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The tarot deck looks gorgeous. It’s the kind of thing you’ll want to own.
  • The puzzles are stellar and varied, with an incredible hint system to make this game as easy as you want it to be. Play at your own level.
  • There’s a beautiful, intimate, and well-crafted story running throughout the experience.

Story

Our dear friend had disappeared under unusual and mystical circumstances, leaving behind a tarot deck. Could we brave the deck’s mysteries and occult power to help our missing companion?

Tarot box, deck, and 5 beautiful cards fanned out.
Image via PostCurious

Setup

Structurally, The Light in the Mist had few rules and components:

Tarot Deck

The deck, box, and 3 Major Arcana cards laying atop a tree stump.
Image via PostCurious

The custom 78-card tarot deck had two parts:

The 22 cards of the “Major Arcana” (0-21) each represented the trailhead for one puzzle. These puzzles could be solved in any order, except for cards 0 and 21, which were the first and last puzzles, respectively. The Major Arcana cards elegantly communicated which “Minor Arcana” cards were required for their puzzles and had clues embedded in their art.

The 56 Minor Arcana cards were puzzle components, with many contributing to multiple puzzles.

Booklet

Booklet cover art depicts a spooky cabin in the woods at night, under a full moon.
Image via PostCurious

The booklet served multiple purposes:

  • Instructions
  • Wisdom – a short blend of story and cluing that functioned as a starting point for each puzzle
  • Solution verification – which was elegantly presented in the form of a index; we used it to look up the word(s) that we derived from each puzzle
  • Narrative – solutions begot story, short passages giving us a glimpse into the past of the main characters

Backpack

Backpack, with items written on it.
Image via PostCurious

This folded piece of card stock had space on both sides for us to log our solutions, and also note the items that we found along our journey.

The backpack was also sealed shut, hiding something for later. Don’t open it until the time is right.

Gameplay

PostCurious’ The Light in the Mist was a card-based, tabletop puzzle game with an interwoven narrative.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, puzzling, and taking in the story through short written passages.

Analysis

➕ We’ve been waiting for this game. More specifically, we’ve been waiting for the tabletop puzzle game within a deck of cards that would use the cards to their full potential. The Light in the Mist delivered on this. The tarot cards were the game, and the game was the tarot cards.

➕ The card art was absolutely gorgeous. Truly stunning. Every detail was deliberate. It was meaningful and beautiful. Furthermore, the art and puzzles never clashed, and we never found ourselves pixel hunting. Rather, the puzzles helped us appreciate the details in the art.

An assortment of beautifully illustrated tarot cards.
Image via PostCurious

➕ The story was an integrated part of the experience. It was intimate, with only a few characters who we quickly became invested in. Yes, it required reading, but in bite-sized amounts. Although the story was not told in chronological order, it also was not fragile; it did not break with the fractured telling. If anything, this upped the intrigue, which was impressive.

➕ The mist was an unusual mechanic designed to develop the player as a character. As players we are often told our role in a game, but we’ve rarely seen a creator approach our character arc, apart from providing heroic moments.

➕/➖ The instructions made it explicitly clear that the mist was not a puzzle. Players may find this hard to believe, and we expect some will find it disappointing. We struggled to accept this, but ultimately found it refreshing.

➕ We were impressed with the puzzle variety. The puzzles spanned many different styles. We loved some of them; others weren’t to our taste. The cards provided a unique design constraint and creativity flourished. We especially enjoyed when puzzles solved to two distinct solutions, which was masterfully elegant. We recognized the two-solution design immediately and never tripped up between the two paths.

➖ The Wisdom (flavor text) felt uneven. Sometimes it was subtle. Other times it was pretty heavy-handed.

🦉 Serious puzzlers can create their own “hard mode” by first approaching a puzzle without reading the Wisdom. You likely won’t be able to solve them all this way, but it’s a fun starting place for more advanced players.

➖ In a few puzzles, the details were just too small to see. In one instance, it became physically uncomfortable to solve an otherwise stellar puzzle.

➕ While the game was entirely paper-based, it still provided that tangible interaction that we crave in tabletop puzzle content. Furthermore, this aspect of the experience was fully integrated. It emerged through key story beats, narrative gating, and our own progress tracking.

➕ Players can approach The Light in the Mist in many ways, and find enjoyment in this product:

  • If you want a unique tarot deck
  • If you want a heartfelt story
  • If you want an engaging series of puzzles

It works as any one of the above, or any combination thereof.

➕ With The Light in the Mist, you also choose how to approach the experience. We could have spent a full day allowing ourselves to get sucked into the art, story, and puzzles. Instead, we chose to approach the puzzles a few at a time, over a series of evenings, while the story slowly emerged. Either option was equally viable, as it was easy to start and stop.

➕ It was simple to get started. The set up and mechanics were clear. The Light in the Mist was a fully offline experience, except if you choose to reference hints. The hints were clear, detailed, and easy to use.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: Pen and paper are helpful. Some players may appreciate a magnifying glass.

Buy your copy of PostCurious’ The Light in the Mist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: PostCurious provided a sample for review.

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