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The online Mysterium game setup from Asmodee on Steam, with the ghost offering visions to the psychics by choosing cards that hint at the suspects you are trying to lead them to.
Online version of Mysterium through Asmodee on Steam

Get out your crystal ball and your talisman, it’s time to deduce a murder!

I admit this comes as no surprise – you know you always wanted to use your psychic abilities to solve a decades-old murder mystery. Well, look no further because you can do so in Mysterium.

Play as a clairvoyant investigator gathering clues to determine who the murderer is, where the crime took place, and what weapon was used. Or become the victim through transference and play as the ghost, offering visions to your friends as you try to impart the story of your untimely demise…

Setup for the physical game from the psychic's perspective, looking at the lineup of suspects, locations and weapons arrayed before the looming barrier of the Otherworld.
Physical starting setup with the psychics surveying the lineup before getting visions from the ghost…

Go home to Warwick Manor and prophesy the past.

Each dealing of cards offers a random assortment of beautifully rendered murderers, rooms, and weapons to choose from. Stare perplexed at the exquisitely illustrated surreal visions granted by your ghost as you try to match clues based on subtle idiosyncrasies and/or glaring commonalities, depending on which psychics you ask and the ghost’s luck of the draw.

The more you play the more nuances you’ll notice. Hone your mind reading capabilities as you start to develop a mental connection with your friends, picking out those details that stand out to you again and again. Because you’ll never unsee that invisible doughnut car ever again…

The other side of the screen, showing the complexities of tracking all of the cards associated with which psychics you are playing with.
The ghost’s view from the other side of the Ether…

Or go virtual if you don’t want to go home…

An online version of Mysterium is also available through Asmodee on Steam where you can meet old & new friends and A.I. to solve the crime together. But be forewarned, don’t call a garden implement a hoe unless you want to answer to her tool – you can be totally censored for this. And the A.I. has some interesting ideas about connectivity from which it cannot be distracted, especially if as the ghost you accidentally swapped clues while offering visions in your confused and blundering incorporeal state. Because there’s just no coming back from the dead after that.

Another image of the interface for the online version showing how many turns remain to offer clues to the psychics o steer them to guess the right lineup, this time showcasing weapons.
Online interface for Mysterium through Asmodee on Steam

I give Mysterium an average of 3.75 Cthulus.

3.8 out of 5 stars (3.8 / 5)

The physical board game earns 3.5 out of 5 Cthulus. There is a lot of setup and the complexities of ghosting are much greater than just ignoring your friends – it requires your very own hideaway screen and well-honed card-tracking abilities.  And the psychics are dependent upon the ghost to determine the course of the action for all that they can chide one another about how good their guesses are.  So the game itself kind of depends on what kind of friends you invite over to Warwick Manor to play.  Well that and the luck of the draw, but as psychics we all know that goes without saying.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
The final sequence of the online version in which the ghost has chosen the actual lineup and offered clues to all of the psychics to pick the correct one.
Online interface for Mysterium through Asmodee on Steam

The online version earns 4 out of 5 Cthulus. This adaptation is wonderfully true to the original board game, with the beautifully blended art styles and all of the same inherent difficulties as well as some new ones thrown in for added flavor…  It is a lot easier to play and clean up without all that dealing and arranging cards, and the virtual platform is fun and immersive for a card game. The price point is good and the interface is easy to learn.  The music is catchy and well-suited, although it can get repetitive after a while. There is even a solo story mode that helps to teach you the game so you can learn how frustrated you will get with the A.I. interpretive strategy.

But, as I hinted at before, the A.I. makes some interesting decisions based on whatever is haunting it, and it will try to train you to alter your strategy accordingly lest you all risk failing out otherwise.  And I have been censored in the chat feature for using the word “hoe” to describe, well, an actual hoe, like the tool that you would use in a garden. Fortunately a moderator came in and revived my chat ability but it was a little late to save us that round. And note: I cannot speak to what it’s like to play with random players on the forum, I have only ever done so with my totally clairvoyant real world friends who have logged in at the same time, you know, like we do…

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Mysterium physical game box and time tracking pieces.
Mysterium box design and time-tracking pieces…

This unique cooperative deduction game hails from Libellud.

As always, if you buy anything from the links provided, we will get some $ back. And check out more game reviews on Haunted MTL here.

Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist residing in Kansas USA. Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video and writing. You can find more of her work at: https://www.jenniferweigelart.com/ https://www.jenniferweigelprojects.com/ https://jenniferweigelwords.wordpress.com/

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The Sinking City Review: Sunken Lovecraftian Lore

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The Sinking City is an open world third-person shooter developed by Ukranian developer, Frogwares, and published by Nacon. In this game, you play as a private investigator who has come to the city of Oakmont. In this half-submerged city you hope to find the cause of your maddening dreams and the mass disappearances plaguing the city.

Inspired by several H.P. Lovecraft stories, The Sinking City is a love letter to Lovecraftian lore. However, it takes the time to condone problematic themes in Lovecraft’s writings which is always appreciated. It has a massive open world that lets you explore the haunting world of a city driven partially mad. The neighborhoods are painstakingly designed and the found objects tell an enrapturing story. Riding a motor boat through flooded streets was mesmerizing. I also am fond of the novel detective mechanics. Even if they are a little basic, they are still interesting and tell a good story. 

A screenshot of gameplay from The Sinking City, showcasing a great character model.

I cannot stress enough that I wanted to love The Sinking City. The premise and the atmosphere were everything I wanted from a Lovecraftian horror game. But, the game just fell flat. Frustratingly enough, most of the issues with the game are simple quality of life improvements. I had consistent bugs, performance issues, and visual hiccups that prevented the game from coming into its own. The enthralling environments were tarnished by enemies appearing and disappearing and character animations not functioning properly. While the character models were exquisite, the dialogue was comically tacky, once again ruining the mood. I also wasn’t a fan of the combat, which felt undercooked in its difficulty and stealth mechanics. The Sinking City feels like the alpha release of what could be an amazing game. But in its current state I found it to be semi-unplayable.

That being said, the game has an amazing mod community on Steam. They have created community content to fix a lot of the issues I have with the base game, so I recommend checking that out if you already own the game. I have also heard that the game has better performance on consoles instead of on PC, where I played it. So that may be another avenue for enjoying The Sinking City.

Another unfortunate reason I can’t recommend the game at the moment, is current legal battles against Nacon the publisher. Nacon has been accused by several of its developers, including Frogwares, of pirating their game and uploading it illegally to Steam. The legal battles have yet to be resolved, however, it is unfortunate that these accusations have happened twice now by two independent developers.

Maybe one day we’ll have a good Lovecraftian horror game. But, it is not yet that day. 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

However, in honor of Frogwares please consider donating to a Ukrainian Relief Fund as they actively fight on the front lines to keep their country safe. Additionally, consider supporting their new game Sherlock Holmes: the Awakened.

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Röki Review: Family & Scandinavian Folklore

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Röki is an adventure puzzle game developed by Polygon Treehouse and published by United Label and CI Games. In the game, you play as Tove, a young girl on a hunt to save her kidnapped brother. She must engage with creatures from Scandinavian folklore as well as her own guilt surrounding the death of her mother in order to save her brother from a grim fate.

This is a game with an immense amount of heart. From the art to the story to the sound design, you can feel the soul and care that went into Röki. And for the most part, it pays off. I invested emotionally into all of the characters as I played. I was also enraptured by the depth of the story and character interactions as the game progressed. The gameplay is similar to that of a point-and-click adventure game, where you collect items and drag them onto environmental objects to solve puzzles. The items and environments were intricate and satisfying to engage with the majority of the time. Especially in the first third of the game, I delighted at uncovering little secrets and talking with the inhabitants of the forest. When the game was rewarding, it really felt rewarding.

A screenshot of gameplay from Röki.

Despite its enchanting nature, the middle third of the game was a definite low point. As a game that took me about 10 hours to play through, about 3 of those hours were exhausting. The puzzles were especially tedious, requiring a significant amount of backtracking and/or convoluted solutions. Instead of feeling rewarded for solving the puzzles, I just felt thankful I could move on. The biggest issue wasn’t the solutions or placement of items, it was the annoyance that I knew exactly what I needed to do but had to spend at least fifteen minutes stuck in unskippable animations to complete it.

Röki is a gorgeous adventure game that immerses you in Scandinavian folklore through a combination of story and puzzles. However, if you don’t have patience for unskippable dialogue or frustrating puzzles you may want to try a different game. Additionally, I find the price of $20 a little high for how frustrating a third of the game is. But I would consider it a must-get for puzzle fans during a sale! Find Röki on Steam here.

3.9 out of 5 stars (3.9 / 5)

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Ring of Pain Review: An Addictive Dungeon Crawler

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Ring of Pain is a rogue-like dungeon crawler developed by Simon Boxer and Twice Different. In the game, you travel through layers of a dungeon collecting loot and killing monsters. Each layer holds a series of cards containing enemies, curses, boons, and exits. As a character, you gain equipment, spells, items, and stat increases that help you defeat your enemies (or just run away better). 

Ring of Pain is a fantastic game. I received it in a charity game bundle, but it had sat untouched in my Steam library for a year. On a whim, I decided to try it out, telling myself I would play an hour or two and then review it. I ended up playing for four hours, only stopping because I had prior engagements. Every time I sat down to write this review, I instead played another couple of hours in Ring of Pain. The point of this story is not my weak will, but instead the highly addictive nature of Ring of Pain.

A screenshot of gameplay from Ring of Pain.

The gameplay had a good mix of strategy and luck, making it rewarding to succeed. There are also many viable strategies to pursue, which means there are many ‘correct’ ways to play the game and still see success. As someone who can get frustrated with rogue-likes, I liked how each run was relatively short but rewarding. This meant that I didn’t feel like I was sinking hours into gameplay that led nowhere. Also worth a mention is the absolutely stunning artwork that masters being atmospheric, creepy, and comical. 

My biggest gripe is that I wish there was more diversity of items. I sometimes felt as if I was just getting the same boring equipment over and over again. That being said, the developers have been consistently adding new content to the game since it released. Therefore, my largest issue is being addressed. 

Ring of Pain is a great game, and I highly recommend it for those who enjoy quick rogue-likes with dungeon-crawling elements. However, try another game if you get frustrated by random generation that could be impossible to surmount. 

Available on Steam for $20, I would say the price point is a little steep for the diversity of content. However, it’s a must-get during a sale!

4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

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