Light in the Mist Review | Your friend’s mysterious disappearance results in the discovery of an unusual item, leading you to embark on a journey through time and memory. In this narrative puzzle adventure by PostCurious and Jack Fallows, an intimate coming-of-age story is told through an object that serves as a tarot deck, a puzzle game, and a work of art.
Number of Players: 1 – 4
Time Taken: 6 Hours
Date Played: May – June 2023
Why, oh why do I leave the very best games to play very last on my to-play pile!? If I texted any of my puzzle friends right now and said “Hey have you played Light in the Mist? It’s really good” I’d be laughed out of the WhatsApp chat. To be honest, I think it’s because I either buy them and keep them on my shelf for years waiting for the perfect opportunity to play it, or don’t purchase them at all thanks to extortionate extra-EU shipping fees games have these days *wipes tears with the UK flag*
Light in the Mist is one of those really good games I played very late. But in this case, it wasn’t me but a friend who bought it. And little known to me til I ended up chatting to the creator, PostCurious actually has distributors in the UK so shipping fees are… Surprisingly affordable!
Hey, better late than never, eh?
I first got my hands on a copy when my super lovely friends at Escaping the Closet and I boarded a ferry from Hull to Rotterdam en route to play a weekend of escape rooms in the Netherlands. We were sitting lazily on the top deck of the ship, listening to the drone of a singing-dancing-castanet playing ferry performer, when Ash suddenly reached into her bag and brought out a little box. “Oh hey, I brought a game! Shall we play?” She plonked a copy of Light in the Mist down on the slightly sticky plastic table, brushing aside the remains of dinner. And, as the boat left the port and sailed off into the deep water of the channel, we all started playing Light in the Mist.
I didn’t get a chance to finish the game until a month later, when I bought myself a copy and, completely forgetting where we’d ended up on the ferry, I started again from scratch in the comfort of my own home. So in short, at the time of writing, I’ve played Light in the Mist not once but twice… And you know the strangest part? Both playthroughs felt completely different. I understood the story in a different way. Different things happened to me. I collected different items. I learnt different things. Wow!
“There really is something weird about these woods, you know?“
Light in the Mist can’t be described as a game so much as it is described as a “puzzletale“. It’s a character driven narrative story, but the medium isn’t pages and ink, it’s told through a deck of tarot cards.. And of course, puzzles. As you work your way through the deck you choose which cards to draw in an almost choose-your-own adventure flow of the dreamlike meandering story. To navigate through the tarot cards, you solve each tarot card’s puzzle. Each solved puzzle will take you to a new page in the book and you’re encouraged from there to go at your own pace and follow your intuition. You’ll collect items, loop back on yourself sometimes, and uncover more and more with every metaphorical step you take through the woods.
With each puzzle solved you, the players, get a glimpse into the life of your friend Sam. You see, Sam is missing in these woods and the only item you have to guide you back to her is this deck of tarot cards. What follows is a story that unfolds non-linearly. It’s compelling, intimate, and in some parts quite upsetting.
Over the course of the game, which is around 5 or more hours (but I think I came in at at least 6), you’ll build up a complete picture of Sam. There are some trigger warnings at the start of the guide contained in the box, but it’s all handled gracefully and with respect. I believe somewhere in the trigger warning it mentions the intention of the game is to help tell painful stories, so nothing is in there for fun, it’s all essential to the story.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
I don’t know why but the whole time playing this game I had this poem going loops in my head. I love this poem. I also have a tattoo inspired by the poem, which features a little path curving through the woods (DM me and I’m sure I’ll be happy to share it the tattoo, haha). But all this to say, I had ~ that vibe ~ in my mind when playing the game. Not in a small part thanks to the illustrations by the ever fantastic Jack Fallows of Cryptogram Puzzle Post, who was PostCurious’ collaborator on the project.
On each new tarot card a new scene loosely inspired by the usual tarot imagery. Yet Light in the Mist takes place in a deep and dark woods, and Fallows has rendered these scenes absolutely beautifully. Dark trees rising from the mist, a shining moon hanging in the sky, and soft lights that glow from the depths in colours more vivid than I thought possible to print on the card.
These woods for sure are lovely, dark and deep.
Given how beautiful this game is, we’ve also decided to award it a special “diamond badge”, awarded to puzzle games which are beautifully visually amazing. You can read more about our award badges here.
Last but not least, the puzzles
It says a lot when it takes me this long into a review to even mention the puzzles. But what can I say? There’s just so much else about this game I wanted to talk about first.
The puzzles in Light in the Mist are varied. As a designer myself I usually like to mention some kind of “puzzle arc” or the overall “gameplay flow” in my review, but Light in the Mist presents a peculiar challenge in that it’s a non-linear game. Meaning players can tackle the puzzles in any order they want to. They might encounter a difficult one first, followed by an easy one. They might ramp up logically in terms of easy – medium – difficult. Or they might do something else entirely. I can’t say.
But what I can say is that players can expect to encounter a range. When I played in a team of 4, we seemed very well matched to play together, as different puzzle types played to our comparative strengths. However when I played solo, I had much more of a challenge. At least, with the ones I had left to solve. Without a second person or two to rely on for support, I found myself spending more time looking at the hints and mulling over different theories before I’d eventually crack the codes.
Nothing felt too insurmountable. There were frustrating moments, and other moments where the puzzle just clicked the moment I flipped the cards out. In the end, it balanced out to be satisfying across the course of the game, and with each puzzle being so surprising and varied never once did I ger bored or feel like I’d already seen something similar. But it is a unique aspect to the game in that people might end up playing it in an order which isn’t necessarily conductive to satisfying gameplay. Notice I said MIGHT. My gameplay experience was fine, but it’s just something to watch out for.
A Mystical Convergence of Puzzles and Palms
When we were done – on the ferry I mean – I grabbed the deck of cards and started to read everyone’s tarot more traditionally. There’s something super cool about having a game that also doubles as something else when you’re done. In Light in the Mist’s case, it’s a deck of tarot cards that yes, you can read as a tarot. Not only does this give way to some lovely arcana imagery, but it also means you’ll be able to keep and treasure the deck once you’ve completed the game.
For the purposes of this review – not that I really know what I’m talking about – I decided to do a card reading for you. Yes, you reading this! I thought really hard about the type of person who might be reading our review. Who you are, what your hopes and dreams are, and where you’re going in live. Then I asked the special Light in the Mist tarot deck if they had any special message I should share with you. I drew:
- The Queen of Swords (upright)
- The Three of Cups (upright)
- The Knight of Swords (upright)
The Queen of Swords generally refers to independence, perception and organisation in one’s life. The Knight of the same suit usually means ambition, haste, and communication. Inbetween these two cards we have the Three of Cups, which indicates groups coming together to focus on a common emotional goal – a sense of community and the sense of getting involved emotionally. When the Queen and the Knight of swords appear together it seems pretty significant. Court cards usually mean specific people, and because the two in the suit are side by side it probably means two connected people.
Now I’m not sure I really believe in this tarot stuff, but there’s a clear message shouting out to me in these three cards, and that is: Get together your two people, your real people-people (friends, family, whoever they are to you) and come together for a common goal – such as solving a puzzle together, and you’ll all grow closer together emotionally. If I sit back and think about that for myself then yeah, I do have two people I usually play puzzle games with, they are connected, and one of them is more perceptive and one is more the ambitious type. We usually play games together and it does bring us closer together emotionally. They’re my community. It’s nice to think of it in that way.
I’m not gonna say the cards are saying to go out and buy this particular game – but if you are here for a recommendation. Well then. This one ain’t bad.
Light in the Mist | The Verdict
There is a really good reason PostCurious and Light in the Mist are so well known for their puzzle games. Sometimes the pressure of expectation can make a game fall flat, but somehow Light in the Mist avoids that and still pulls itself off as a perfectly well-rounded, beautiful and thoughtful experience.
I would recommend this for, well, pretty much anyone. It’s not traditional in any sense, but with the rules it breaks, PostCurious and the team have executed it near-flawlessly to create a compelling experience. Part puzzle, part story. A round of applause and a standing ovation from us at The Escape Roomer.
Unlike many other games, Light in the Mist is regiftable – though I’m equally sure you’ll want to keep this one for yourself. There’s one destructible element, however this element is provided twice just in case you want to regift it and keep it pristine. At a price point of around £30 GBP (£37 with UK shipping), it’s on the slightly expensive side for what is essentially just a deck of cards. But as someone who has spent close to that on a particularly pretty deck of tarot cards that doesn’t contain any puzzles, I think you’re getting an excellent value from Light in the Mist. There is also a collectors edition available for £90. Do with that information whatever you will.
Light in the Mist can be purchased by heading to PostCurious’s website here.
All photos in this article belong us at The Escape Roomer for the purposes of this review. Please seek permission before using them.