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The Light in the Mist Game Review

I Don't Even Care About Tarot

The Light in the Mist is a unique and moving escape room experience. Read more in this Meeple Mountain review.

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

I’ve never played anything quite like The Light in the Mist. I’ve done dozens of escape rooms and escape room games, and I’ve played a handful of games that were narrative-driven. The résumé is strong. None of them have managed to combine the two in the way that designers Rita Orlov and Jack Fallows do here. I’ve never played anything quite like it.

To be fair, I could say “I’ve never played anything quite like it” about every Rita Orlov design I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with. In the span of only five months, she’s gone from someone I knew nothing about, to a designer I would follow into hell, carrying the banner all the way. The Light in the Mist just makes me want to carry that banner a little higher.

The manual, deck box, and a small and mysterious envelope you use for noting down answers.

This is a simple box, with nothing more than a deck of tarot cards and a booklet inside. The deck, a fully-functional tarot set, contains all of the puzzles. Each is anchored by one of the Major Arcana, a subset of tarot cards. The Major Arcana card will in turn lead you to the particular Minor Arcana cards necessary to figure out the puzzle. Most, if not all, of the Minor Arcana cards are used for multiple puzzles, and it is a testament to the design work done here that I never found myself unsure of which parts of the art I was meant to be focusing on. The process always manages to suggest itself.

The puzzles are clever, patient, and rewarding. Those that took time, and quite a few of them did, felt worth that time. With every mystery, you are encouraged to explore, but there are no puzzles that require absurd cognitive contortions or leaps of faith. The Light in the Mist perfectly walks the tightrope between challenging and intuitive, which is exactly what you want from an escape room.

Most of the booklet consists of the narrative, which is focused around friendship, substance abuse, and family relationships. There is a great deal to be impressed by in this box, but the story structure is far and away the most remarkable. The Light in the Mist is designed in such a way that 20 of the 22 puzzles can be solved in any order. There’s an entrance and an exit, but otherwise the rooms are yours to explore however you wish. You could lay the Major Arcana out and pick your favorite illustration, or shuffle them all together and draw from the top.

The cards in the major arcana, laid out so you can see the illustrations.

Once the next card has been chosen, you read the corresponding bit of story in the booklet, gather the Minor cards that apply, and get to work. The solution, or solutions, will lead you to other pieces of the narrative. Despite the fragmentary nature of the presentation, there are still revelations and resonances, every piece another dab of paint in a Seurat.

The greatest praise that I can give this clever, radical choice is that, once I was confronted with it, it felt inevitable. “Of course,” I thought, “how could a story told through a tarot deck work any other way?” There is, in fact, nothing inevitable about it. It’s astonishing, inventive work.

The structure frees you up to complete The Light in the Mist in as many or as few sessions as you want. It really does take the 5+ hours listed on the box. I took to doing four or five puzzles in a sitting, then packing it all up for next time. Between sessions, the story stuck in my mind. Each time I sat down, I looked forward to learning more about the characters, seeing more of the puzzles, and generally taking in more of what was in front of me.

If you are a puzzle enthusiast, Orlov’s work is necessary. It is unique, caring, and united in voice. These games are the work of a true artist, with an individual voice and approach. Given its price point and comparatively short playing time, The Light in the Mist is an excellent place to get started with Orlov’s work. It’s ideal for one or two people, sharing a few quiet hours at the table. When you’re done, you can easily package it up to gift to somebody else, or you can keep the tarot deck. This is singular stuff. Don’t miss it.

The deck and box it comes in are beautiful.

  • Excellent - Always want to play.

The Light in the Mist details

About the author

Andrew Lynch

Andrew Lynch was a very poor loser as a child. He’s working on it.

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