Dark Arcana: The Carnival iOS Review

Dark Arcana The Carnival


Developer Artifex Mundi created a fantastic story for their hidden item adventure Dark Arcana: The Carnival. For the duration your at the helm of a female detective searching for a mother named Susan, who’s mysteriously gone missing at the traveling carnival that’s in town. There are always oddities, houses of mirrors, and big tops when the circus comes to town making it a fitting setting for horrors to ensue. This time the circus we see is a farce for a much more sinister plot unfolding a layer beneath our perception.

I was rather surprised by the plot that unfolded throughout Dark Arcana: The Carnival. The encroachment of an evil parallel universe upon our own, driven by love of all things, was a nice touch. A dark force is using a heartbroken man driven by regret and shame as it’s puppet. As the plot thickens you realize you not only have to rescue Susan, but the motivations for her disappearance bear far more weight than a simple kidnapping.

The art direction chosen for the 48 separate locales is fantastic. Each location is perceived with, and without the veil of reality strewn upon it. During your adventure to find Susan you’ll encounter almost insurmountable challenges. A constant string of barriers separates you from the truth of what’s really happening at the carnival. Artifex Mundi also created elaborate cut scenes that showcase some fantastic visuals. These are used throughout the experience to further the plot lines. The color palette is what you’d expect from a carnival, that is until you pass through an inter-dimensional portal, and start to see the environments for what they really are. When this revelation occurs were treated to hauntingly intricate visuals. One of my favorite visuals from Dark Arcana was the transformation of the fortune teller booth. Needless to say the visuals in Dark Arcana are one of it’s many strengths.

Game play is broken into several different aspects, and that helps to keep the nearly five hour experience moving. There’s the typical exploration mechanic of finding hidden items in the environment, as well as the use of those items to forward your progress. I also very much enjoyed the many puzzle mini games that were used to activate doors, circuit breakers, and all manner of items throughout the game world. Another more standard aspect of Dark Arcana was the I Spy like item finding challenge.  In lieu of playing said item finding challenge there was also the addition of Monaco (a card matching game) that could be completed in place of finding items. I thoroughly enjoyed both options of furthering my progress. If the games, puzzles, item finding, or navigation ever gets too confusing there’s also a fully functional hint system available to help you out.

Developer Artifex Mundi did a great job of keeping the player in mind when creating item menus and deciding how you’d interact with the environment. I felt completely uninhibited by the collapsing item menu, and the game space was never intruded upon by needless clutter.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dark Arcana: The Carnival through and through. It was a surprisingly deep experience for a mobile game. The variety of game play kept it fresh, the visuals were great, and the clever plot make this a full recommendation. I can’t really say anything bad about Dark Arcana: The Carnival, but as an avid console gamer it’s hard to get the full perfect ten feeling from a mobile game.

+ Fantastic art direction and cut scenes
+ Game play is varied and fun
+ The use of the clever sub plot helps the story continually evolve

Review Score: 9/10

Dylan Zellmer

I split time between games journalism and making video games. My love of it’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), fitness and my family define me otherwise.