Inscryption Review

ID@XBOX’s slogan should be “Better late than never”. All too often Xbox gamers are the last ones to get indie games. Steam and Switch almost always get them first, sometimes it’s Playstation, and on the rare occasion, we’ll get one. Devolver Digital is one of my favorite publishers but they are notorious for making Xbox gamers wait. Luckily the wait is over for one of the most talked about indie games of last year: Inscryption. Developed by Daniel Mullins Games, Inscryption is a one-of-a-kind game that combines elements of card games, puzzle games, and horror games. To make things a little more interesting, they also sprinkle in some roguelike flavor. After playing the game I understand why it received so much Game of the Year buzz in 2022. The game’s basic mechanics are easy to understand, but the different styles of gameplay and presentation, as well as a cryptic story, kept me coming back for more.

At its core, Inscryption is a card-based game. It is split up into multiple acts and while the card-battling gameplay is largely the same the mechanics surrounding the card game evolve over time. The first act sees you stuck in a creepy, dimly lit shack. You are the captive of an odd mask-wearing man named Leshy who forces you to play a card game with him. This is facilitated by what amounts to a roguelike board game, where you move a wooden figurine along a map that has various paths to choose from. There are many different spaces you can land on, some of which will start a card battle, but plenty of others offer different powerups, boons, and benefits, the most common being adding a card to your deck from a choice of three. In between rounds of the card game, you can get up from your chair and explore the one-room shack. Almost immediately you will realize that there are secrets and puzzles throughout the room, and there has to be something that you can unearth that will aid you in escaping. This part of the game is very much like a first-person adventure game or escape room. This was a great design choice from the developer because the two unique game formats seem like total opposites but fit together wonderfully. When it was actually time to escape, I was a little sad and considered staying with Leshy a little longer because the gameplay loop here is so satisfying.

The actual card game involves building a deck of cards that you can use to defeat your opponents. Each card has two numbers: attack power and health. You play on a board with four columns and three rows. You are only able to play your cards on the row closest to you. The middle row are the cards your opponent currently has played and the final row shows what cards they are playing next turn. Leshy dons different masks to simulate different opponents, each one is creepy as heck, especially with his spiraling yellow eyes. There is a scale to the side of the board indicating both you and your opponent’s health. At the end of your turn when your cards attack, if the space in front of the attacking card is empty then the damage is applied to the opponent. The scale starts in the middle and has five notches on either side. As you take your turns the scale will tip back and forth, but the first player to tip the scale past the fifth notch wins. If you have a good deck of cards and solid strategy a match can end very quickly, but other times the match will be a back-and-forth affair; however, I never once felt like the matches were drawn out. This allows the game to keep moving and prevents things from getting stale.

Unlike other card games, the cards in Inscryption are not just tools for battle – they also have a story behind them. Each card represents a creature or character in the game, and as you play, you will learn more about their backstories and roles in the world of Inscryption. By interacting with the objects in the small shack you will also learn more about the game’s lore, and some of the most interesting and useful cards can also be found in the room, though they typically require you to solve a small puzzle first. Clues for these puzzles can be found all over, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled.

One of the most impressive aspects of Inscryption is its creativity. The game’s developer, Daniel Mullins, has created a world that is both eerie and captivating. The game’s graphics and sound design are top-notch, and the game’s story is both intriguing and unsettling. Mullins makes use of multiple art styles throughout the game, and although the card-battling mechanics are the central part of each act, each one almost feels like a brand-new game. I appreciated the fact that the mechanics expanded with each act, which is just another reason why Inscryption feels fresh from beginning to end. 

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the various differences in the game and how it evolves as you play. The story in Inscryption is very meta and it unfolds in unexpected yet satisfying ways as you play. It is full of surprises, twists, and turns, and will keep players on the edge of their seats. You are given a fair amount of choices as you play such as being able to build your deck in different ways, but as much as I have enjoyed playing through the game I don’t think it has the replay value to get me to play through the entire game again. Luckily there is a more difficult mode that you can play once you reach the end of the game that will give some players the challenge they crave.


Overall, Inscryption is an innovative must-play game for anyone who enjoys card games, puzzle games, or horror games. The game’s creativity, different styles of gameplay, and mechanics that are easy to learn and fun to master make it a standout title that is sure to keep players engaged for hours on end. I hope this is the first of many games developed by Daniel Mullins to appear on Xbox consoles, as he’s definitely an indie developer to keep an eye on.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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  • Card game is simple to learn, and fun to master
  • Art styles fit perfectly with the horror theme
  • Meta story is refreshing and engaging and overall fantastically written
  • Third act drags on somewhat
  • Difficult to see in some first person areas, too dark
Written by
I started my gaming odyssey playing 8-bit console and arcade games. My first Xbox was the 360 and I immediately fell in love with achievement hunting and the overall ecosystem. That love was cemented with my purchase of an Xbox One. I play a bit of everything, but I usually end up playing fast paced games that remind me of my days spent in dark, smoky arcades spending quarter after quarter, telling myself "one more try!". Gamertag: Morbid237.

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