Game Website | Company Website | Based In: United States
💪 Difficulty: Recommended for age 12+.
⏲️ Time duration: 30 to 90 minutes.
🔢 Capacity: 1 to 4 players.
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MATTSTER'S rec 😃
💪 Difficulty (as perceived by Mattster): 3/10 (team of 1). Minor struggles occasionally here and there.
🔢 Ideal team size: 1 to 2. Ideally, you and your partner should both have your own devices to load the game and its clues.
The Society has been tracking strange events around Lone Tree, a small town renowned for its witch history. Dispatch your team to Lone Tree and track down the source of these strange events. You will communicate with your team on the ground via text message to guide them, search the web for clues, and immerse yourself in a world of mystery - a light and whimsical adventure that will delight you and have you doubt what is real!
IN A NUTSHELL
An investigation about magical happenings (or rather, the recent disappearance of) leads you to the titular circus, where you would stealthily hop from one caravan to another to investigate just who, among the a handful of memorizing performers, is the ultimate culprit for clowning around... Come one, come all! It's a bewitching whodunit, y'all!
So, Society of Curiosities. I've been quite vocal about my love for this critically acclaimed brand of at-home entertainment, especially when it had barely arisen to existence (not to mention, popularity) just less than a year ago. Their previously two games, "Mysterious Map Heist" and "Madok's Lost Treasure" championed in innovative solution input modality and impressive immersion achieved by reality-augmenting, complementary online elements. Suffice to say, there's positive bias, or perhaps just faithful expectation, on my part for their latest product. Well, will it live up to the Society's honor?
"The Bewitched Circus" is the Society's first adventure led by their Magical Mysteries Division. (I know! I know what you're thinking! This sub-branch just kinda sprang out of nowhere like magic... OHHHH.) "Circus" is noticeably a more lighthearted entry, with no shortage of fantastical and whimsical elements. While the previous games were no strangers to supernatural occurrences, dealing with various ancient curses and all, "Circus" is the first, in my opinion, to invite young investigators (age 12+) along for the ride with a story, a theme, and puzzles of appropriate difficulty for their age group.
So, yes, my inner child is ready to head out for the small town of Lone Tree!
Game play starts by an assignment from Grandmaster Pennywise...wig, Pennywig, partnering us with ground team member Oliver, who we can communicate with via mobile phone texting or a web-based chat system. This familiar messaging system continues to be an integral part of what makes Society of Curiosities such an immersive experience, though now that I am quite accustomed with it, it feels as though it's a bit less novel, and a bit more ordinary.
However, there are plenty more other extraordinary things to discover on our journey with Oliver. The beginning starts out strong with a fun introduction and puzzle about Lone Tree, a small town where a modern coven of witches reside allegedly. Though this early section has not yet featured the very circus we're expected to encounter, it did contain everything I love about this brand: All the props and clues are purely web based, but even through a browser window, they still look so carefully curated to give the visuals of authentic everyday objects (a newspaper, for instance).
Furthermore, a faux-website makes an appearance! These websites are often what I look forward to the most about these games because, first of all, they look great, as always. Second, if done right by the designers, there's always a bit of something special to do to advance. Well, they did not disappoint. Through a series of on-site directions, I made a special arrangement that eventually landed me to "The Bewitched Circus", where our team are tasked to recover something of importance, and to return it back to Lone Tree to restore the magical balance currently gone awry.
The bulk of the game soon departs from the previous witchy theme and dive head first into a safety net like a flying trapeze in a terrible mid-act accident because we're in the circus now, baby! The plot continues to be fairly linear, essentially prompting the player to go from one part of the circus ground to another, punctuated with a puzzle of easy to medium difficulty between each step. While most riddles will probably not take much time to decipher, I very much enjoy the sleuthing journey, which essentially becomes a mini VIP tour to all the performers of the show.
One thing that's struck me as a bit off-putting is just how eager Oliver is in helping me succeed in my objectives. Yes, on paper, that does sound helpful, but every time I provide him with a wrong response, or even just simply walk away for a quick break, I would find him volunteering hints and nudges that I haven't requested. Part of what I cherish about solving puzzles is the temporary struggle prior to a pivotal realization, and Oliver, buddy, you're kinda stealing the thunder here.
The final circus act will ask the audience to eliminate unlikely suspects, hone in on the villain, and retrieve a stolen artifact to complete the mission. Though simple in premise, it is done well and reminiscent of a whodunit in a detective novel, except with less blood-spilling, and more blood-red clown noses! Because it's clean in logic and easy to follow, this would indeed become one of my recommended online experience well suited for the whole family, teens included!
So, to reply, does "The Bewitched Circus" live up to the Society's honor? I've inquired with the circus's resident fortune teller Madame Melba and she has enlightened me, "The crystal ball has spoken and it's telling me the answer is an astounding yes! Also, I accept tips via Paypal and Venmo now. Thank you, thank you."
Below are some more key points you may wanna know...
➤ Unlike other installments from the Society, "The Bewitched Circus" has a much more straightforward narrative: Something's wrong with a town, you know exactly how to fix it, and you go do that. Character names and settings are kept much more intuitive, probably for the intended younger audience's sake, though old me also greatly benefits.
➤ Merging two popular game themes--witchcraft and circus--is an uncommon pairing, and I honestly don't know if the two parts truly coalesce together into one super coherent storyline, but it's certainly interesting enough to bewitch me.
➤ One area that I can count on from these guys is production value. Photos of all the clue materials show incredible art. And as mentioned, I always enjoy the faux-websites that help move the exploration along. I do look forward to more interactive components in the future, if possible, since those certainly make for the most memorable moments.
➤ Clue items now accumulate on one single web-based media display interface, with the most recently collected resources appearing on top of previous objects. No longer do I have to have 12 tabs open at the same time (#truth), I greatly appreciate just scrolling up and down to access what I need all in one convenient location. A huge improvement.
➤ Between the mobile phone texting system, and the couple of faux-websites specifically built for this adventure, the Society of Curiosities feels as authentic as it has ever been. Of note, due to the obviously more bizarre and fantastical nature of witches and, to a degree, the circus as well, it'll only feel as real as you believe in these matters.
➤ I also believe it'd make more sense if each ground team member exhibits more peculiar personality traits and quirks to distinguish them from each other. Though I was working with Oliver, it sounded not all that different from Pip.
➤ The puzzles are simple, in-theme, and teens and novice friendly. The arrangement is linear, easy to follow, and allows for clear focus--again, very suitable for players with little to no puzzle-solving background. They feel a lot like escape room challenges; some may even be regarded as common tropes. They're a lot of fun, though not what I'd call the most creative.
➤ My favorite puzzle involves using my mobile phone for more than just texting Oliver. This occurs early on in the game, though I've mistakenly repeated this tactic later on. So to the random man that I've contacted, I am sorry for not saying a word, knowing I made a blunder, and quickly exiting the situation. It's probably for the best. For me.
BEST FIT FOR...
★ Beginners and up. Puzzles are designed with younger audience in mind, therefore friendly to all.
★ A sweet game night! Puzzles are light and fun, perhaps even solvable while being slightly buzzed. (Legal drinkers only!)
★ To be, or not to be, that is the question. Also the correct spelling. Anyone who does otherwise, is giving you a clue.
READY FOR FUN?
"The Bewitched Circus" is available for purchase HERE.
If you PURCHASE due to this blog, please give EscapeMattster.com a shout-out! ;)
⤻ Full disclosure: Complimentary game access was generously provided for review purposes.
⤻ All media credited to and provided by contents owners. No copyright infringement intended. ⤻ Speed code for on-site search: SOCCircus