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dvGiochi's Escape Room style game "The CURSE of the SPHINX" is designed by the same couple, Martino Chiacchiera & Silvano Sorrentino, who have brought us every DECKSCAPE game and the new, similar-but-different, highly enjoyable DECKTECTIVE game.

It is for 1-6 players (can be up tyo as many as you want really, but the more players involved generally means the longer the game goes on) aged 12+ and can be found in game stores and online for under £15.00.

Seeing as Fran and I went to Egypt this (oops, last) year we have been very much into all games, books and ornaments Egyptian/Middle-Eastern. Thus when The CURSE of the SPHINX was made available to play and review, and considering our love of the DECKSCAPE series, we went into this game full of competence and excitement, as it turns out we were possibly too confident and too full of the goodness of Deckscape.

The CURSE of the SPHINX game follows the same base rules as the other Deckscape games. Start on the first of the 60 cards and from then on only do what the cards tell you to. When you split the deck into three sections, which you do twice in this game, you can do it by colour and/or number, then you get to try to solve the top card of each stack, remembering to not look at or show the next card or to flip the top card over until told to.

Where to start? Well for one thing although it says to have a timer ready the game has its own timing mechanism - a set of 'Mummy' cards. Fail to solve a puzzle and the Mummy advances. If the Mummy deck expires then the players have lost, though their game continues to its conclusion. There are also a couple of cards that request you to mark them with Pen or Pencil - although this is a one-off-play game this isn't a Legacy game, so there really is no need to deface it, just use a piece of paper to keep the necessary bookwork.

The artwork is a mixture of great, acceptable, good or okay (or in one or more places 'cheating'), however the text is a minor problem in a few places. It is mostly white with a black edge and often blends onto the darkish backgrounds making it not as legible as it could be. There are also mistakes, typo's and actual errors, that are not generally found in a Deckscape game. For example there is a 'T' missing from the word 'Threatens' (#48) and on (#30) you see 'Footsteps' (not Footprints) in the sand along with a pair of continual parallel lines and an obvious end-of-walking-stick indentation. These parallel lines are supposed to be heel marks of a person being dragged but the person doing the dragging is also using a walking-stick, thus this person can drag a 'body' one-handed in a straight line whilst needing to use a stick to walk with. If this were the case then the footprints within the drag lines would be deeper due to the weight being dragged pulling down on that side.

I normally wouldn't give any sort of hint/clue to a Deckscape puzzle, but there are so many discrepancies betweeen the clues and the solutions that at least one needed bringing forth. Of all the Deckscape games this is the most disappointing. Not just because we had high expectations due to our Egyptian adventure but because it is the first one we have ever lost the excitement of playing before reaching the end, though we did continue onward to the last card.

So many puzzles, even when the answers are described in detail make little or no sense or at the least are virtually impossible to solve using anything other than luck (one puzzle is impractical - it just doesn't work if you put your mind to it). I truly hope that we are the only group that finds this game to be as lacking in atmosphere and adventure as any of the others. We may be being over-critical because we enjoyed all the other Deckscape games so much more than The CURSE of the SPHINX, though I truly think that if this is the first Deckscape game anyone plays it may put them off of the others and that would be a crying shame as this is a series definitely of value.

You must be true to yourself/yourselves. If you all agree or democratically agree to an answer then if it is incorrect you cannot say one of you had the right answer so you didn't really fail - you failed, live with it! Part of the fun is the arguing and anguishing over the answers to clues and then berating those who went against you (correct) advise and chose the incorrect option. The more you squabble though, the longer the game takes. Even though there is no 60 minute timer required you should still time your game, come on guys, you are detectives of a sort, so detect!

Players who enjoy the Deckscape series as much as I do will want to play this because of its predecessors. Even though I/we didn't enjoy it as much as we have the others it doesn't mean that I want to persuade you against it. The above text is my opinion, as are all my reviews. I try to pick out the good and not so good points of games because as the old saying goes, one man's meat etc.... I admit, in hindsight, that we were probably/possibly expecting too much after playing the other five games in the series, but remain concerned that the designers may be scraping the barrel for clues. I will say that their imaginations are working hard and brilliantly to be continually coming up with compellingly different storylines.

So to put this review to bed and in the proverbial nutshell; The story is imaginative and would make a reasonable TV movie. The artwork ranges from so-so to excellent. The clues are, in places, so cryptic (I used the word 'crypt'ic in an Egyptian labyrinth, well someone had to) they are only solvable once you know the answer and can work backwards. The typo's and spell-checking don't affect the game, but aren't up to dvGiochi's usual high standards. Of the six Deckscape games played I would rate this in line as #6th.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015