Dark Arcana: The Carnival
Gameplay 7
Graphics 7
Sound 8

Dark Arcana: The Carnival is a hidden object game where you step into the shoes of a detective tasked with locating a young mother who went missing at a carnival. Evidence seems to suggest that the manager might be involved, but it quickly becomes apparent that it is not an ordinary missing persons case. If you like hidden object games with creepy locations and interesting twists, then you’ll enjoy this one. Just be warned that none of the puzzles or mini-games are particularly challenging and the game is quite short overall.

Gameplay: Interesting, but relatively short.

Graphics: The artwork is decent, but cut-scenes and animations definitely show their age.

Sound: The voice acting isn’t great, but the music and sound effects are good

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Dark Arcana: The Carnival

Developer: Artifex Mundi | Publisher: Artifex Mundi | Release Date: 2012 | Genre: Casual / Adventure / Hidden Object | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Dark Arcana: The Carnival opens with a young woman, named Susan, and her daughter spend their day together at a carnival. However, the young girl is distraught to find that her mother has gone missing and after a search for her turns up nothing, law enforcement is brought in to assist. This is where you get to step into the shoes of the female detective who is given the assignment of discovering what happened to Susan and hopefully reunite her with her daughter. It doesn’t take long to discover that not only is the carnival hiding some dark secrets, but supernatural elements were also involved in the disappearance. Things really become interesting when your character stumbles across a magic mirror that serves as the portal to a surreal world that is home to an ancient evil.

Dark Arcana is a typical hidden object puzzle adventure, which means you are going to have to explore your surroundings to find objects that are useful for proceeding with your investigation. Some objects can be found out in the open, but for most of them you will need to either complete a hidden object scene or solve a puzzle. Dark Arcana features plenty of hidden object scenes, although we wouldn’t classify any of them as really difficult. The fact that most of the game is set in a surreal world means that the artists had a bit more creative freedom when it came to the objects and layouts of these scenes, but most can still be completed very quickly. There is just one small nuisance with these scenes in the form of incorrect item labels that cropped up a few times. Each hidden object scene has a list of objects that you need to find, but in some cases the words on the list did not quite match what was visible on the screen. Notable examples include a “record” that actually turns out to be a plate and a “windmill” that should have been labeled “fan.”

Although Dark Arcana is really not the game to play if you don’t like hidden object scenes, it does offer the option to skip them in favor of a card game called “Monaco.” Here you are presented with cards featuring typical carnival images, such as rabbits in hats, elephants, lions and clowns, which you then have to match in order to cross words off the hidden object list. It’s not our favorite type of mini-game as the novelty wears off very quickly, but it does make for a change of pace from the usual mahjong mini-games.

The puzzles in Dark Arcana also tend to be straightforward affairs and none of them had us reaching for the “hint” or “skip” buttons. You’ll be required to do everything from assembling broken mirrors and making adjustments to a stove based on a meal recipe, to rotating rings to form images and calibrating televisions by adjusting sliders. To be honest, none of these puzzles really wowed us much, but at least there is nothing too illogical or obscure to deal with. The game also presents players with a monkey helper early one, so you’ll have to use it in a couple of scenes to acquire items that are out of reach for your detective.

Seeing as Dark Arcana is one of the earlier titles by Artifex Mundi, it’s no surprise that the game is showing its age. The hand drawn art still looks great, though, and each scene packs plenty of detail. However, cut scenes look extremely low-res and outdated, while the animations are also not up to the standards of recent releases. The world on the other side of the mirror is a lot darker and more disturbing than the bright, cheerful locations of some other hidden object games and even features a couple of jump scares. This makes the game more atmospheric, but also means that completing it is not quite as laid back as in other hidden object games.

In terms of audio, the game makes good use of some creepy background music to set the tone for the mirror world. Although all the scenes are mostly static hand-painted images, the inclusion of sound effects such as birds or other noise does make them feel more alive. The voice acting is also typical hidden object game fare, so you can expect characters who sound passable, but not outstanding.

The interface should be familiar to anyone who has ever played an Artifex Mundi title before, so we had no issue navigating our character around and interacting with the world. A handy map is available to show your location, but unfortunately the game lacks the option to fast travel to previously visited scenes. This means that later on in the story there is a bit of backtracking involved, but typically it doesn’t take too long to get to where you need to be.

Hidden object games tend to have very formulaic stories and while Dark Arcana follows most of the genre tropes, it does have a couple of highlights. You still end up on a rescue mission to find a missing person and battling some ancient evil in the process, but the game also features a few nice twists. The inclusion of a tragic love story also caught us by surprise and overall we don’t have any qualms about the plot. Dark Arcana is a relatively short game, but it does contain a bonus chapter that becomes available after completing the main story. Here you get to play as a different character and tie up a few loose story ends, which is a nice touch. Achievement hunters will also have to complete the game at least twice to get everything as it is impossible to get them all in a single run.

While Dark Arcana: The Carnival is not our favorite Artifex Mundi hidden object game, it definitely offered a pleasant enough way to pass the time. Most fans of the genre should know exactly what to expect from the game as the basic formula tend to remain unchanged. Unfortunately, this means that if you are not a fan of the genre, then there is nothing here for you. However, if you do enjoy the occasional break from driving, shooting and other action titles, then Dark Arcana is a nice alternative.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
    Processor: 1.5 GHz
    RAM: 512 MB of RAM
    Video Card: 128 MB VRAM
    DirectX: Versions 9.0
    Disk Space: 1 GB
OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
Processor: 2 GHz
RAM: 1 GB of RAM
Video Card: 256 MB VRAM
DirectX: Versions 9.0
Disk Space: 1 GB
OS: 10.6.8
Processor: 1.5 GHz
RAM: 512 MB of RAM
Video Card: 128 MB VRAM
Disk Space: 1 GB
OS: 10.6.8
Processor: 2 GHz
RAM: 1 GB of RAM
Video Card: 256 MB VRAM
Disk Space: 1 GB
OS: Ubuntu 12.04 (32 / 64bit)
Processor: 1.5 GHz
RAM: 512 MB of RAM
Video Card: 128 MB VRAM
Disk Space: 1 GB
OS: Ubuntu 12.04 (32 / 64bit)
Processor: 2 GHz
RAM: 1 GB of RAM
Video Card: 256 MB VRAM
Disk Space: 1 GB

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