Mysterium keeps us guessing in more ways than one.
Android & iOS
5 - 10 Minutes
# of Players
1 - 7
Mysterium is a deduction game in which one player acts as the ghost and provides clues that the other players, psychics, must use to attempt to solve a murder. The clues come in the form of vision cards with artwork on them. A game plays in about 5-10 minutes depending on the number of psychics and how well the investigation goes. A game ends when the mystery has been solved, the psychics choose the wrong murder scenario, or the clock runs out.
In Mysterium one player takes the role of ghost and has to get each of the remaining players to guess a specific person, place, and thing to chain together a possible murder scenario. To start, the ghost picks one or more vision cards from a supply to attempt to get a psychic to guess their murder suspect. After the clues for one psychic are locked in, the ghost replenishes their vision card board and moves onto the next psychic, and so on. At the end of a round, the ghost reveals whether the psychics each made the right guess or not. Those that properly deducted their suspect move onto trying to figure out the location of the murder in the same manner, then the murder weapon. Those who guess incorrectly simply repeat the round, getting new clues from the Ghost. There is a limit on the number of rounds (hours, in game terms) of guessing and if all psychics don’t guess their person/place/thing correctly, the game ends when the clock is up.
After the initial stage of guessing has completed, if all psychics correctly guessed all three phases of their murder scenario, the final stage beings. The ghost now gets to choose one of the sets of three person/place/thing that they had the psychics guess during the game, picking which of the scenarios was the actual murder. The ghost assigns up to three vision cards in an attempt to get the psychics guess the one he or she chose as the actual murder. If the majority of psychics guess correctly, everybody wins, otherwise it is a loss.
The short version of this game is that it is Clue combined with Dixit. If you have played both then it should take about twelve seconds for you to make that connection once you start playing Mysterium. The game does add a few wrinkles not discussed which allow for some changes to gameplay. The ghost can use crows, for example, to swap out clue cards they don’t like. There are also clairvoyance tokens which can be earned by correctly predicting whether your fellow psychics guessed right or wrong throughout the game. If enabled, you need clairvoyance tokens to earn the full slate of three vision cards during the final guessing phase of the game.
Mysterium is quite honestly an odd choice for an app port. Having never played the physical game, I can’t say with 100% certainty, but it seems like much of the fun of this game is derived, like Dixit, from watching people try to decipher the clues on the vision cards. The art is abstract (in that each card has multiple, random things going on), just like Dixit, and sometimes it lines up perfectly (the vision card with a cannon always leads to a positive match for the gun weapon, for example), but often times it is more obtuse. The fun of trying to unravel the thought process of the ghost would seemingly make this a great family/party game. You take that personal interaction away with an app, and that is a tough obstacle for Mysterium to overcome.
Barrier to Entry
Mysterium includes a detailed rulebook which is accessed via the settings menu. This goes over the rules in detail and some app-specific features.
The tutorial in Mysterium is folded into the Story Mode. More on the mode later, but the first four games you play will act as tutorials for the basic aspects of the game. It will walk you through the role of psychic, then ghost. It does a fine job of slowly adding in the rules as you go. The game is simple enough that it probably doesn’t need four full games to act as a tutorial, but we always like to see a good teaching tool.
The complaint here is that for the third and fourth stories in Story Mode, you are being taught how to play as the ghost. This is all fine until the end of the game. As mentioned earlier, during the very last phase of the game the ghost chooses between all of the scenarios the psychics pieced together during the game, and uses one of those as the true murder scenario. The tutorial explains how to switch between the scenarios (clicking on the icon for each different psychic), but this doesn't actually work in these stories. This is crucial because you already have your supply of vision cards so you are supposed to match the scenario to the vision cards you have to make a proper guess more likely. As it stands, you are at the mercy of the draw hoping you have the cards which can tell the story of the scenario the game chooses for you. It took me four or five tries to get through these stories in Story Mode because of this bug. It would be less of an annoyance if this were just a tutorial, but you can’t proceed with Story Mode until completing these stories. The scenario selection works just fine outside of Story Mode, thankfully.
This is a very well designed, highly detailed tutorial, unfortunately it is derailed by an obvious, highly disruptive bug that extends beyond just the tutorial.
Solved cases in story mode
Making a guess as a psychic
Look and Feel
The artwork in Mysterium is great. The vision cards are eye catching and the game allows for easy zooming to see some of the finer details. The artwork throughout the rest of the game is top notch as well, all of the psychics look great, the menus are clean, etc…
The in game controls are just fine. The menus take a while to load and often you will hit a button to traverse menus a few times before you actually get taken to the new menu. You don’t need to hit it multiple times, it gets your click, it is just that slow to react.
Mysterium features synchronous, cross-platform online play with weekly and all time leaderboards to see how you stack up. Games are created in a lobby which includes a chat where players can discuss desired options, a nice touch. When creating a game you get to choose the number of players (and which are AI and which are human), what your role is (ghost, psychic, or random), the difficulty level, whether or not to play with the clairvoyance feature and the Hidden Signs expansion, if purchased. Blitz mode is billed a shorter variant of the game for 4-6 players. I’m curious as to what this means, but none of the players online are interested in playing it, so perhaps it is a bit of a dud. For reference, the top player on the all time Blitz leaderboard has 9 games of Blitz played.
An online game of Mysterium plays how you’d want, there are no surprises, good or bad, to be found. The game has a fairly active user base, there are almost always players in the lobby when I check in. The in-game chat provides some added flavor to the game, psychics can help each other try to decipher the ghost’s clues. There is a fair amount of waiting during online play and it can be tedious, especially if you are a psychic who finishes guessing their scenario while other players are still going, but that is a part of the game, not app-specific.
Mysterium also features a pass-and-play mode. The game does a fine job of hiding the solutions from the psychics so the game isn’t spoiled. Pass-and-play is well done and really one of the main draws of this app.
Story Mode was touched on when discussing the tutorial. The rest of the stories carry on the same path, they also unlock some extras in the game such as a Ouija Board as murder weapons. This is a fine mode, but doesn’t really do anything different than the standard game besides provide a little backstory to follow, it is also fairly short at only nine stories. The other solo option is to set up and play a normal game with AI teammates. The options for this are the same as they are for online games.
There is just something odd about having to try to get an AI bot to connect the dots between random drawings and a person/place/thing. You can’t get inside their head and make a connection that you could with a friend, you simply have to try your best to get the most appropriate cards available. What if there are none to speak to the clue you are trying to get them to guess? Is it occasionally impossible to coax the right answer out of the AI depending on the vision cards available? The game simply isn’t built for solo play in our opinion. The app does a fine job of making the AI playable, but there is no satisfaction in getting a bot to guess the right clues if you’re the ghost. Things are slightly better as a psychic but still feels lacking.
Final stage, choose the right culprit
Selecting vision cards as the ghost
Hidden Signs is an expansion available as an in-app purchase. The expansion adds six each of characters, locations, objects (weapons), along with 42 new vision cards. A new expansion, Secrets and Lies, is slated to be released this year for the physical game, we’re unsure if that will make its way to the app as well.
The Wrap Up
Mysterium is a mostly well made app, a couple of notable bugs aside. The artwork is great, controls intuitive, and it has a variety of game modes. Online play is well implemented on top of this. We can’t argue that this app isn’t well done, the problem comes in when considering how much fun this game is to play in app form. Pass-and-play might be the best mode in the app as it is the only way to get the fun, interactive discussion going from this app. And perhaps the greatest draw of the app is learning the game and seeing if it would make for a good physical purchase for you and your group/family.
It is tough to recommend Mysterium as a solo game. Playing a deduction game with AI is simply a bit odd. On the multiplayer side, the game does have an active community so you can get in games if you want. The game is much better online, but ultimately still fell flat for us. There are active users who enjoy it, so if this game appeals to you, it is likely worth a try.