Dark Arcana: The Carnival on Xbox One is a dark, atmospheric puzzler

Hidden objects, a missing mother, and a carnival manager who is on the run. That's how the journey through the mirror in Dark Arcana: The Carnival gets started. It delivers a combination of different mini games, with an emphasis on hidden objects, and a curious story to pull you in and keep you playing. You'll explore the Mirror World of the Carnival, solve a mystery, and help to find a missing woman. There are tons of different puzzles that will have you squinting trying to figure them out. Here are all the details.

Dark Arcana: The Carnival is available on the Windows 10 Store for PC, and it'll launch on March 17th for Xbox One.

See at Microsoft Store

Painted pictures

Gorgeous backgrounds

The art scheme for Dark Arcana: The Carnival wavers between being gorgeous and just a little bit weird. Each setting is painted with expressive colors, and little details bring everything to life. From the animations that play out story scenes, to the individual detail on the items in the hidden-object challenge, it all looks amazing. It also definitely has the look of many hidden object games. Because you don't actually see movement from one area to the next, these small details make a big difference.

While playing, you run through both the real Carnival, in the real world, and it's dark mirror counterpart. The designers did a really good job of taking the bones of the Carnival and messing with them in the mirror. Everything you see in Mirror World is the dark reflection of our world, and the art style of the Mirror Carnival shows that very well. You can recognize the differences immediately, and slowly as you journey through you start to notice things that haven't changed.

While overall the art style and animations are done pretty well, there is an exception. When you are speaking directly to other characters, the animations look a bit wonky. Their faces don't seem to properly blend with their heads. It's a weird little glitch in a game that otherwise delivers fantastic visuals.

Do your job and save the girl

The mirror world is where the mystery lies

The story in Dark Arcana: The Carnival starts out pretty simply. You are a female detective, and you are summoned to the Carnival when a woman goes missing. Her daughter is crying for her, and you're tasked with figuring out what is going on. While things definitely start out normally, they don't stay that way. Upon seeing you, the manager, Jim, takes off running and locks the gate behind him to stall you.

Things keep going downhill from there. First, I befriended a small spider monkey that helped me to get to a story wrench the manager had tossed up on top of a game stall. After that, I got the piece I needed to complete a puzzle where items in a picture were mismatched and I needed to move items around inside of the frames. This got me a ticket to enter the hall of mirrors, and that's when things went sideways.

Julia, the woman you're looking for. is right on the other side of the mirrors yelling for help. In pursuit is what looks like a grim reaper. It catches her, she screams and throws something through the mirrors, and they all shatter and fall to pieces. That's when you know things are definitely not OK. Julia is in some serious trouble, and apparently there is a dimension on the other side of the mirror where things are definitely not good. That's is just the beginning of Dark Arcana: The Carnival.

Find the items you need

Dark Arcana: The Carnival hidden object challenge

The gameplay in Dark Arcana: The Carnival breaks down into three basic types: mini games, collecting items, and finding hidden items. There is plenty to explore within the grounds of both the real Carnival and its mirror reflection, and each area is littered with important items to pick up in order to continue. Essentially, you'll find tons of things to open, but to open up anything you need the correct item, which might be found in a completely different area.

In one of the first sections of the game, you find a monkey that becomes your companion. He can help you out by getting items that are out of your reach, on far-off platforms or up on top of items in the landscape. Often, the items you find with the monkey's help are absolutely mandatory in order to continue further in the game.

If you get stuck trying to find a specific item, there is another option.

In each area, you find at least one hidden-item game, which is actually broken up into two pieces. You have the hidden item side, in which you have a list of items you need to look around for and find in the environment in front of you. These environments are always cluttered, and in some cases, you need to interact with several items to create what you need. For instance, if the list includes a full candelabra, you may need to place the candle stubs into the silver before it is accepted.

If you get stuck and can't find hidden items, there is another option. There is a matching card game that you can play to knock off items from the hidden item list. You need to match cards, and once you match a powered-up card to its match, an item you need to find is crossed off the list. It starts out quite easy but quickly becomes more difficult as time goes on and more card types are added. However, it is a super handy way to get through a tough hidden-item challenge.

You'll find yourself returning to the same locations several times during the course of gameplay, and this often includes returning to a hidden item quest and receiving a new quest item in return. You also will return to these areas when you find the quest items that are required to open locked doors. This includes everything from keys to sleeping pills to masks, and even in one case, a steak. Sometimes the quest item that you need will be found innocuously halfway across the Carnival, while at other times you'll find the items long before you find the quest they are needed for.

You don't really control movement in the game, and it's based entirely on puzzles and dialog scenes. You can choose which area you want to go to, and once it opens you have a scene with various different places you can interact with. You can move backward by pressing the "B" button, but other than that you have to move through each scene to get your quests completed.

Return from the Mirror World


  • Easy to play.
  • Figuring out puzzles is intuitive.
  • Versatility of puzzles.


  • Game may not be enjoyable if you dislike hidden object games.
  • Figuring out when to go where can be frustrating.
  • Gameplay can become repetitive.

Dark Arcana: The Carnival is a simple, but fun game that plays to its strengths. With tons of different puzzles to keep you occupied and a story that is consistently interesting, it does a solid job of keeping you entertained. And it's a good choice for anyone who enjoys a brain workout.

Dark Arcana: The Carnival is available on the Windows 10 Store for PC, and it'll launch on March 17th for Xbox One.

See at Microsoft Store

This review was conducted using a copy provided by the game's publisher.

Jen Karner

Jen is a contributing writer for WindowsCentral. She's an avid gamer, especially when she gets to kill zombies, craft things, or use a bow. She can often be heard yelling about her chainsaw while playing Gears of War 4. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.