Inscryption, the latest game from Daniel Mullins (Pony Island, The Hex) is a mysterious card-based roguelike. However, there is so much more to this game under the surface that it had its hooks in me from the jump.
Inscryption Review | Unboxing The Madness
Set in a tiny wood cabin, you’re made to play a game of cards with a mysterious figure who sits across from you; all you can see is the creature’s eyes piercing through the pitch-black darkness.
The card game itself is pretty simple; it consists of four lanes, each card attacks directly in front of it (except if there’s an ability to says otherwise). Cards range from the lowly squirrel, used only to be sacrificed to play better cards, to the powerful Mantis God card that can attack three spaces at once.
Work your way through a map, picking your routes through four different areas on the game board. Some routes will bring you to powerful buffs for your cards, while others might be brutal battles.
However, Inscryption stands out from other games in the genre because its sole focus isn’t on the card game. You can get up from the table, walk around the cabin, and solve puzzles like a point-and-click adventure game at any point in a run.
Remember, you’re trapped here and being forced to play this card game, so naturally, you’ll want to find things around the cabin that can help out. By solving a series of puzzles around the cabin that range from snuffing out candles to messing around with that damn cuckoo clock, you’ll find persistent buffs you can use in the card game. Items and cards are scattered around the cabin so taking time to solve these puzzles is not only beneficial but will provide you with an interesting story and narrative hooks that will keep you engaged.
Inscryption is difficult to talk about because so many of its incredible moments come from how it subverts your expectations around every corner. Just when you begin to get comfortable, it changes the rules on you.
A constant feeling of unease sets in and never leaves, even after the credits roll. It’s so much more than a card-based roguelike, but the talk in-depth about what this game does would rob players of their own sense of discovery and a-ha moments.
This feeling is furthered by the excellent low-res graphical style that reminds me of old PlayStation One games. Nothing looks pristine or clean. To keep the player feeling deep unrest, everything is dirty, tattered, and rough around the edges.
The game is never outright a horror game, but it certainly brings the vibes.
You’re guided through the game by both the creature dealing the cards and by a handful of special cards in your deck that talk to you. These characters will give you hints, story information, and even information on how to escape this never-ending card game you’ve found yourself stuck in.
If you’ve played Mullin’s previous games, you know he’s no stranger to doing some irregular shifts and story twists, these are present in Inscryption, and if you’re a fan of that, there is plenty here for you.
The boss fights in Inscryption’s early hours are fun takes on how to bend the rules of a card game, introducing new mechanics and hurdles to overcome; it became about building my deck around certain fights to try and alleviate some of the more formidable challenges.
If you’re worried about your skills in roguelikes, don’t worry. Every time you lose a run, the creature will let you create a new card that merges different elements from your deck. The more runs you lose, the more potential you’ll have to develop compelling low-cost cards that will carry you to victory.
Oh, I guess I should mention that the cards you’re creating are the souls of each player who has failed the run, so your player character becomes a potential card in your deck. The creature uses a special camera to trap all of your souls in the cards, but I can’t tell you more than that.
Seriously, I can’t talk about more of the story stuff, but just know that this game has so much more going on to discover and will pull you along through its roughly 15-hour runtime.
Most of the game will be spent having conversations with the creature across the table from you, who will guide you through each adventure on the board. It will wear different masks to tell its story. Changing from the game master to the creepy Trapper who trades pelts for gold teeth. It’s an exciting way to make each conversation feel like a different character.
Everything Inscryption does culminate into a gruesome and harrowing tale told through a simple but rewarding card game. Creator Daniel Mullins had a clear and concise concept for this game executed on the highest level.
The writing, soundtrack, art style, and moment-to-moment mystery of Inscryption are something I can’t recommend enough. If any of this even sounds slightly appealing to you definitely make sure you check out this game before the end of the year! It’s worth your time and money.
- Excellent story
- Fun Moment to Moment Gameplay
- Interesting Twists and Turns
- Some puzzles can feel a bit obtuse, especially ones that are needed to progress the story