Preview: The Emerald Flame

Take the role of a historical expert and embark on a quest to piece together a recipe for a transformative elixir by deciphering messages, interpreting strange alchemical diagrams, and manipulating curious objects. The box contains three distinct episodes at 2-3 hours each, and culminates in a breathtaking meta puzzle.

Disclaimer: This preview uses final prototype components and rules. What you see here may be different from the published game.

The Good

Gorgeous Artwork and Production Value (+5)

I had a final prototype to work with on this review and I’m already telling you that I would even buy this prototype as is. I cannot even begin to imagine how much greater the published game will be! Rita Orlov lets her labyrinthian puzzlesmith mind and her equally-impressive illustration skills shine throughout the box. Everything is done tastefully and true to the time period as well as aesthetic of the game. The detail on all the components serves a purpose for both finding the solution and for staying on theme. Nothing seems forced.

Immersive Storytelling (+5)

You as the historical expert assisting this mysterious organization is a good story, though somewhat sprinkled tastefully with tropes. I had to keep in mind that this is first and foremost a puzzle game. In my experience, puzzle enthusiasts mostly create stories that support the puzzles, not the other way around. I cannot speak to how PostCurious manages this process, so if it was the other way around, then I unfortunately did not pick up on it.

What I will specifically note is the calculating suspense in the story without the graphics inflicting any shock factor! Everything is about timing in between episodes. I attribute this to the game’s methodical use of a digital supplement to communicate with in-game characters. The big difference between PostCurious and other escape-room-at-home style games that use tools like this is the sense of privacy as it does not collect any additional information on you to use the tool.

Intuitive and Hands-Off Hint System (+5)

Even if you’ve played your fair share of escape rooms or other puzzle games there is still a ton of skill exposure in this game. I’m very thankful that hints are broken down to very minute nudges. Sometimes it’s just “oh I’ve never encountered this before, how the heck does it work?” then you realize that once you know how it works you know what it’s asking you to do. The rest follows afterward and the normal rinse and repeat checklists of matching things takes place. Dissecting things and concentrating information to one segment after another is seamless. As I’ve said in other reviews, I am always down for learning new things if they have applications outside of the game.

Major Ego Boost at All Levels (+5)

In a high-quality, big box puzzle like this I admittedly want to feel and look smart. I want to be able to just show off profusely to colleagues and challenge by asking “Is this how this works?” and therefore give me the opportunity to say “YOU FOOL HAH!” like some mad scientist. That being said, some of the puzzles require lots of careful measurement and double-checking your work. If you’re off by a little, you’re actually off by a lot. So when revealing new information, that step-by-step precision absolutely kills you — and you’ll be begging for more.

Unboxing Gratification (+5)

Three episodes means three packages, and some items that are in those packages really incite some anticipation. You’ll wonder, “What could this possibly be for?” and each package has great tactile feedback matched with utter confusion. It’s delightful!

The Bad

Can Be Tedious (-3)

Remember what I mentioned earlier about careful measurement? Well, not all puzzles were winners. To be fair, while most of the typical games of this style have three out of four puzzles as time fillers, at least The Emerald Flame has this in the reverse. In other words, only one puzzle out of four could even be remotely categorized as a waste of time. I am not a fan of busy work to get to the finish line and there are some constructs right in the thick of the suspense that halt your progress, ruining the mood. While precision is important to me, some puzzle constructs I would rather manipulate to accommodate my own laziness but that isn’t always possible.

The Ugly

Alignment Puzzles are Unforgiving (-1)

I found myself slightly annoyed at some alignment puzzles but not overly upset. I don’t have much more to say on this other than patience is what will earn you the forgiveness needed for a right answer in this game.

Slight Disagreement on Terminology (-0.5)

The solutions were a bit lawyerly at times on specific features and definitions. I felt like I could extrapolate further than it allowed me to so I had to just skip ahead to the solution because the game and I were in straight up disagreement on what something was. It wasn’t game breaking or game changing, so no big demerits here.

Difficulty: 5/5 for God-like
Satisfaction Grade: A (94%) for Amazing
Worth Your Money? Yes!

Uncover the Secrets of the Emerald Flame on Kickstarter, May 27th.
p.s. PostCurious, if you’re reading this, goodness gracious now I wish I could play Tale of Ord too!