Room-in-a-box, Jan 2022
Deckscape’s compact and straightforward format has a lot going for it – you’re guided straight into the game without having to first work out how to play, and the large cards with their bright illustrations have good visual appeal. But while I generally enjoy the series, I’d suggest skipping Riddle of the Sphinx unless you like their games enough to want to play every one of them.
This yarn has you trapped in a pyramid, menaced by a mummy that draws closer every time you get a puzzle card wrong. This is with Deckscape’s usual system, where you have a puzzle card which you must attempt to solve, then flip the card to find out whether you had the right answer or not. Additionally, some cards are ‘items’, which you keep until they’re used, and some cards that simply advance the story. As normal for Deckscape, at certain points you’re instructed to separate the remaining cards into multiple stacks, to make the game less linear – although often the structure is actually still linear, and the multiple stacks just mean you have to work out which of the available cards can be solved next.
That’s a perfectly reasonable design, but added extra ambiguity to a game that already felt like it too often required mind-reading the designer’s intention to get to the solution. With no answer verification system other than flipping the card and seeing the answer, I felt too many of the puzzles involved counting, outside the box thinking, ‘what’s wrong with this picture’ questions, and other puzzles where you can’t be confident of your answer until you check it.
Coupled with a penalty system for making mistakes, that made for a somewhat frustrating game. The biggest downside was that, having lost faith in the game, we were less inclined to persist with some of the puzzles that were challenging in a fair and interesting way.
Some of that is personal taste, and others might enjoy Sphinx more than we did; but if you’re deciding which Deckscape game to get as a taster for the series, this isn’t the one to pick.