Unplugged: Deckscape (The Curse of the Sphinx)

Image result for deckscape curse of the sphinxWhile it may be hard to get out of the house, fans of escape rooms have alternatives that can be played at home. Deckscape, one of several lines of at-home escape room games, is a complete escape room experience in a (large) pocket-sized box of cards. Obviously, it can’t take the place of an in-person, physical escape room, its nonlinear progression through many puzzles may be the next best thing.



Deckscape: The Curse of the Sphinx
Publisher: dvGiochi
Players: 1-6 (more than 4 is crowded)
Ages: 12+
Time: 60-90 min
(review copy provided by publisher)

A game of Deckscape consists of a single deck of cards that players use to proceed through a storyline. The various games in the line have similar formats, with The Curse of the Sphinx reviewed here. Players start with a single deck of cards and only flip over or draw new ones when explicitly told by the game. The first few cards in the deck lay out how the “game” is played and sort of holds the players’ hands through the first example puzzle. Then the game is afoot.

Cards in the deck are numbered (so the game can be reset) and often consist of a picture of an area  which must be scanned for clues, or they might represent some item that may be used in a future puzzle. Typically, there will be story-based text on one side that presents a puzzle and the other side of a card holds an image or room on the other. Players are encouraged to write down their starting time and can compare their final time taken to a “scoring” chart included in the game.

It doesn’t take long until the game instructs players to separate some of the cards out into multiple (typically 3) different decks on the table. This is a nice feature, as it presents players with several puzzles at one time and gives them multiple things to pursue, useful for keeping multiple players active within the game. In the case of the game reviewed here, the deck was “split” into three piles a couple of times during the game.

Meanwhile, players continue to work through the deck(s) until they finish the last puzzle. While I simply enjoyed the completion of the game, there is also a scoring mode that takes into account players’ performance as well as the time it took to complete the game.

Side note: dvGiochi has an extremely similar line called Decktective. Here, players are cooperating to solve a 3D crime scene. Players take turns playing or discarding clue cards. Clue cards have numbers and players can only play displaying a number that is lower than the number of clue cards already played. Players collaborate throughout the game, sharing information and making theories. At the end of the game, the players are presented with a series of questions and are given a score based on how many they get correct.

Currently, there are several different brands and lines of at-home escape room games. When compared to other options, Deckscape has some very nice features. First, consisting solely of a deck of cards the game is relatively inexpensive and highly portable. Since nothing is “destroyed” in the process of playing, the game can be passed on to friends to use.

There are some trade-offs when the only feedback players receive is a pass or fail. Typical solutions are checked by flipping over the puzzle card to see if you are right. If you are “wrong” there is no chance for a second guess. To help out, each puzzle does have an associated hint consisting of a sentence on the hint card – written in mirror writing to prevent accidental discovery. While this pass/fail option is generally fine, there were a few times during the game where I felt we had come up with a clever solution, but it wasn’t the correct one. Some sort of “close but no cigar” option would be welcome. On the other hand, I appreciated the way failures were handled within the game. It wasn’t a straight up “you lose” type of thing, but a fun diversion that primarily served only to add time to the players’ score.

In the end, Deckscape is a fine entry in the at-home escape room space. It gets high marks for its reusability (by giving it to a friend) and portability (bring it on a road trip) although I wish it were possible for players to get a “wrong answer” in such a way that they could try again.


Kid Factor
Most of the puzzles are graphical rather than text-based, although the story progression does rely on a fair bit of reading. So, younger kids could participate, but I suspect the game will resonate best with kids in middle school or older.

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