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regular-article-logo Monday, 20 May 2024

Games and Gadgets: House of horrors: how charming!

Imagine this. A cabin in the middle of nowhere. A pair of yellow eyes stare at you from across the table. “Let’s play,” says a gravelly voice. A hand stretches out and lays your cards out before you

Aritra Mukhopadhyay Published 22.04.24, 07:54 AM

Game: Inscryption: Breaking the Fourth Wall by Daniel Mulins

Games Genre: Narrative deckbuilder

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Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series S & X, Xbox One

Imagine this. A cabin in the middle of nowhere. A pair of yellow eyes stare at you from across the table. “Let’s play,” says a gravelly voice. A hand stretches out and lays your cards out before you.

Inscryption is hard to pin down into a single genre. If you were to simplify it, the game would be a narrative-driven deck-building roguelike, where you play a card game against a mysterious entity controlling the rules. However, most of the game’s charm lies in seeing how it twists and bends your expectations of a video game ruleset to consistently surprise you with new things, both within the story and
the gameplay.

It plays with your idea of a typical video game and its structure to the point that I actively stopped being able to guess where the game would lead me beyond Act 1, where the fundamental principles of the gameplay are defined. In further acts, Inscryption takes these and bends them as much as possible, while adding more elements on top of it, providing an experience where each act truly feels unique, even if some of these twists do get tedious after a point.

Act 1 of Inscryption is structured like a roguelike. You play the titular game of Inscryption against a mysterious entity staring at you from across a table, as he narrates out loud your actions within the game, rendering personality to each encounter. This entity is essentially the dungeon master, with him deciding what you find and encounter. Every time you die, you lose out on your current hand, but all the cards you collected during the run get added to your deck for you to draw from on your next run. You also get to create a death card with decidable stats that gets added to the pool of cards you can draw from. The catch is that most of these cards require you to sacrifice some other card you have already played before you can place them on the board, which forces you to really weigh your options.

While playing, you’ll never be able to shake off the feeling that something is severely strange about the game, that it’s hiding something. This is where the escape room segment of Act 1 comes in, which has you investigating these secrets, most of which influence the card game too. Once you do dive into these secrets, however, there is no going back, as the game takes you on a wild ride spanning found-footage investigation to meta-gameplay that will have you poring over binary code in a wild attempt to find out the true nature of Inscryption.

VERDICT: Inscryption is a special experience that combines elements of deckbuilding with a mysterious story that values curiosity above all else. If you like your games to be dripping with amazing (and spooky) atmosphere, then this game is for you. Oh! Also, don’t forget to turn the lights off before playing this one! I give it a nine out of 10.

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