Bewitching, family-friendly fun
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.
Society of Curiosities is actually a subscription-based series of boxed games, brought to us by the same team behind Kauai Escape Room in Hawaii. Although the subscription games now ship to the UK (yay!), our first introduction to the Society was their stand-alone online adventure: Mysterious Map Heist.
Mysterious Map Heist was incredibly well crafted, clever, and thoroughly enjoyable, so of course, we were absolutely buzzing when we learned that a second completely digital game was imminent, and just in time for Halloween – perfect timing, considering the witchy theme of The Bewitched Circus.
Our mission began with a message from Aldora Pennywig, Grandmaster of Society of Curiosities. And thus, fully briefed on the mission at hand, we texted the codeword to our colleague from the Magical Mysteries Division to begin our adventure, and discover the source of the strange events surrounding the town of Lone Tree…
Like Mysterious Map Heist, The Bewitched Circus is an alternate reality game, using text messages and internet sleuthing to drive the narrative forward. This format gives the game an immersive feel that can be hard to come by in a play-at-home experience, and we quickly got sucked into the game, as we set about searching the internet and pouring over the photos Oliver sent as he discovered things on location that might be of interest. The game even went so far as to provide a soundtrack of ambient music, which changed depending on Oliver’s location.
The nature of The Bewitched Circus, and the driving narrative behind it, means that the game is naturally quite linear. But, like a more traditional escape game, that doesn’t necessarily mean that something you find early on in the game that makes little sense and is seemingly there just for “set dressing” won’t reveal its purpose later, bringing you full circle, providing some incredibly satisfying “Ah-Ha!” moments when the connection is finally made.
When we played Mysterious Map Heist, we used a mobile phone to contact our Society colleague. Society of Curiosities has obviously realised that there are a number of international players that want to get in on the action, and with their previous game, that may have been difficult without racking up a rather hefty international text messaging bill, depending on the country. This is no longer a problem, as the Society Member Portal now has a messaging tab, to allow you to text or phone your contacts to your heart’s content without the risk of paying a fortune to your mobile provider. (Of course, in the US or Canada, you can continue to use your actual mobile for added immersion into the world created by Society of Curiosities.)
The beauty of the Society of Curiosities games is the subtlety of the puzzles, and The Bewitched Circus is no different. There are no maths puzzles here or numerical codes hidden in a series of photos. Instead, the game forces players to behave more like actual detectives, with the majority of the puzzles requiring research, deductive reasoning, and a bit of connecting the metaphorical dots. Yes, there are a few instances of some of the more “traditional” escape room style puzzles that require a keen observational eye, but even those didn’t feel contrived or placed there simply as busywork, and many of the puzzles were multi-faceted and not quite as simple as they first appeared.
Perhaps the biggest challenge was sifting through the information present, and determining what was useful now, and how to use it, while also mentally cataloguing the other details in the off chance something becomes useful later. (There’s a reason one of the tabs in your society portal is labelled “Tips.” We didn’t get stuck often, but our first stumbling block came about because we forgot about Tip #2.)
Of course, Oliver is entirely powered by AI, but the more you treat him like a real person, and have a real conversation, the better he will respond to you. Oliver did his best to keep us on track, despite some of our more stupid moments, with responses to our inane suggestions that made it clear we were way off base. But for those instances where we just couldn’t figure out what we were missing, The Society of Curiosities provides an additional “Hint” tab in your online portal. It’s a shame you can’t just ask Oliver for his help, or opinion, to try to keep some of the immersion, but that’s just me being very picky.
These hints are clearly broken down by puzzle and then broken down further in a granular manner so that you only have to reveal exactly as much help as you need, without any risk of spoilers. It’s also worth noting that if you come across any audio, a transcript is provided in the same section, as the first hint. We did need a few nudges from the hints to get us back on track, in addition to Oliver telling us on multiple occasions that he had no idea what we were talking about, and they were just enough to give us a lovely moment of “Oh, right!” swiftly followed by wanting to kick ourselves for missing the connection in the first place.
If you’re looking for an immersive, family-friendly adventure you can’t go wrong with The Bewitched Circus. The game is perfect for Halloween, but don’t worry, any spooky theming is very light, and the game would be a delight at any time of year.
- Device(s) with an internet connection
|Value for Money|
Team: 2 players
Time Taken: 60 mins
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review