It’s the Halloween season! That means spooks. For those of us who are into video games, it means spooky games, and we’ve got a winner for you. Looking at Inscryption, you might not think it suits the spooky theme all that well, but this is from Daniel Mullins, creator of notoriously spooky titles Pony Island and The Hex. Maybe you’ll want to keep the lights on for this one.
You wake up to find yourself in a dimly-lit log cabin out in the middle of nowhere. You’re here to play cards, whether you’d like to or not. Specifically, you’re playing the trading card game Inscryption against a mysterious opponent who’s only visible as a pair of eyes across the table from you. He’ll give you some cards. He’ll teach you the game. He’ll hope that you can learn to play and defeat him…and if you don’t, he won’t be happy.
The card game you’ll be playing is pretty similar to something like Yu-Gi-Oh. You’ll use a variety of animal-themed cards to engage in simulated battle against your mysterious opponent’s menagerie. Weaker cards, like the no-cost, no-power Squirrel, can be sacrificed to summon more powerful cards that can put the hurt on your opponent. The stakes, of course, are a little higher than most CCGs. Maybe the fact that damage is counted in terms of teeth might have clued you in there.
Along those lines, you’ve also got a few different items you can pick up to help you cheat, the nature of which we also won’t get into. Oh, and sometimes the cards talk to you. That’s fine. Don’t worry about it.
Between card matches, you’ll explore a roguelike map somewhat akin to Slay the Spire. The map offers more difficult matches if you’re feeling risky, along with several means of upgrading your cards and obtaining new ones for your deck. The map is split up into a few different areas, with a more complicated boss battle denoting transitions. Also like Slay the Spire, losing twice means being sent back to the beginning, with the chance to make a special new card for your next run’s deck for, uh, reasons. Oh, and between matches, maybe you’ll want to get up and walk around the cabin to solve a couple puzzles…for more reasons.
Yeah. Reasons. If you’ve played Pony Island or The Hex, of course, you’ve probably guessed that there’s a little bit more going on than we’re talking about here. We can’t go into that, of course. It’d ruin the fun. Let’s just say that your instincts are accurate and the point at which you think the game is going to be over is actually far from it.
Again, without getting too far into Inscryption’s many secrets, we can say that the game’s presentation is fantastic. If the idea of a horror-based card game that offers up some real scares and plenty of spooky atmosphere seems weird, well…you’re bound to be surprised. Inscryption actually lends just the right amount of horror edge to the concept, but then it goes a step beyond in ways that you won’t expect.
The lengths to which this game will go to surprise you are pretty impressive. That’s what makes Inscryption work, and boy howdy, does it work. As a game for the Halloween season it’s pretty much ideal. Even outside the ghoulish holiday festivities, horror and card game enthusiasts alike will be well-served by sitting down with this one…though you might want to reconsider if you’ve missed your last few dental appointments. Trust me.