Room-in-a-box, Mar 2020
Fifth in the Deckscape series (but the fourth one I’ve tried), Behind The Curtain has a conjuring theme and a backstory that starts with you attending a magician’s show. This is the usual Deckscape format, where you proceed through a deck of somewhat oversize cards, and where you check your solution by flipping a puzzle card to check the answer on the back.
Much of the game splits the deck into multiple piles such that you can look at more than one puzzle at a time. That’s standard for the series, but is handled better here than in many of their other games. The main drawback of this system is that it’s often unclear whether you have what you need to tackle a puzzle or not; and adding insult to injury, if you attempt a card before you have all the information you need for it, the game tells you to take a double penalty for it.
However, the most distinctive feature of the game is the extra props that you unlock partway through. These are arguably a bit gimmicky, but I found they gave consistently pleasing solutions, and allowed the game to introduce more interesting ideas than might otherwise have been possible.
My experience of Deckscape games has been somewhat mixed – most of their games have mostly perfectly good puzzles which are then marred by a few weak or terrible ones. Behind The Curtain had several that I’d count as weak, but by the end I was broadly impressed by the game. The main reason for that was that it managed to evoke a bit of an illusionist feel, with clever puzzle ideas involving information being revealed in unexpected ways. What’s particularly satisfying is that those reveals are performed by you the player, through your own ingenuity (more or less). For me the pleasure of the games highlights comfortably outweighed its points of friction; as a result I’d rank it alongside their original Test Time game as one of the stronger games in the series.