I’ve already ranked many of the demos I played in 2021, with one notable exception. I have yet to rank any of the casual puzzle games published by Artifex Mundi, of which there are a wide variety. While these games can be a bit cheesy at times, with some comically unenthusiastic voice acting, that’s honestly part of their charm. Like entertaining B movies. They’re also solid puzzle games in their own right with some beautiful artwork. Keep in mind that I’ve only played the demos, which usually cover the first 30 minutes to an hour, so I’m really only judging these based on first impressions.
16: Uncharted Tides: Port Royal – So far, this is one of the most lackluster Artifex Mundi demos I’ve played. My brief time with this game was spent wandering around on the deck of a ship, and even when we get attacked by pirates, it’s not particularly interesting. The story is also yet another case of locating one’s missing father, which has been done in these games countless times before.
15: Queen’s Quest 4: Sacred Truce – While I enjoy fantasy, this particular genre is very well-represented in these Artifex Mundi games, and this one felt like one of the weaker examples. The demo opens up with an overly long climb up a cliff, and it didn’t get much better after that. I just remember spending a lot of time having no idea what to do, plus it does very little to distinguish itself from the rest in any creative sense.
14: The Secret Order 8: Return to the Buried Kingdom – So I guess there are 7 games prior to this one? Anyway, a fantasy game featuring a sunken (not buried) kingdom where humans and dragons lived together in harmony sounds promising, but I didn’t have that much fun with this one. Plus, the demo was rather short, so I couldn’t get a very good impression of what the rest of the game would be like.
13: King’s Heir: Rise to the Throne – This game might have an interesting story, as it involves two brothers who are framed for the king’s murder. But the puzzles weren’t too fun. I feel like too much of the demo’s short length was working on a multi-screen hidden picture puzzle. The puzzle variety was sorely lacking in this demo.
12: Skyland: Heart of the Mountain – This demo is spent repairing an airship. We also fight a robot once. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this one, but I’ve played so many of these, and this one didn’t do much to stand out in terms of gameplay.
11: Persian Nights 2: The Moonlight Veil – While I liked this game’s unique theme and the fact that you get a moonling companion to help you solve puzzles, I also got confused a lot, as well. It could just be me, but considering I don’t struggle too much with the majority of these demos, it’s possible this one is just less intuitive than its competitors.
10: Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart – Another pirate-themed game, in which you play as a museum curator whose daughter was kidnapped by undead pirates. While we’ve seen ghost ships and skeleton pirates countless times before, I suppose there’s a good reason for it, because the game is sufficiently atmospheric and spooky. While a few clichés are okay from time to time, the abysmal variety in puzzles, however, was not. So far, this game has had the highest number of hidden object puzzles, which has since become my most dreaded puzzle in the series. They do give you this mahjong mini game to play instead (so they must have known it was boring), but that might have been just as dull to play, if not more so.
9: Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink – This game has a steampunk theme and follows Agent Evangeline Glass as she tries to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Ink, who was trying to uncover the cause of the recent earthquakes shaking the world. This feels like it could be another solid puzzle game from Artifex Mundi. You even get to team up with Dr. Ink’s adorable clockwork bird, Matthew. With what felt like more characters to interact with, however, the extra dialogue did sometimes feel like it slowed down game progression.
8: Lost Grimoires: Stolen Kingdom – While the fantasy genre is used quite often in these sorts of games, this one stood out with the interesting nightmare you find yourself in during the second half of the demo. I mean, it’s nothing that groundbreaking, but there was a cat with disturbingly human teeth, so I’ll never fully recover from that…. There’s also a whole alchemy aspect to it, which could be interesting.
7: Eventide: Slavic Fable – This game is based on, as the title suggests, Slavic mythology, where you play as a botanist searching for her missing grandmother in the Slavic Heritage Park where she works. The game is quite atmospheric and just a generally fun and relaxing time with a unique theme. You can find my full review here.
6: Modern Tales: Age of Invention – This game takes place in Paris 1900, and you play as the daughter of one of the scientists who were kidnapped during the recent world expo. Your adventure begins in Paris, after which you follow after the blimp of the suspected kidnapper to an abandoned house in the woods. I had a lot of fun with this one, and the demo was quite generous, as well.
5: Dreamwalker: Never Fall Asleep – This game has a pretty interesting concept, as we start by travelling inside the mind of the mayor’s daughter in an attempt to figure out what has caused her coma. The demo hints at some spookier elements, as we catch a brief glimpse of a bizarre creature before returning to the real world to continue our investigation. While the premise is interesting, I did feel like I struggled with knowing what to do this. As was the case with Persian Nights 2, I’m unsure if the problem was with me or if the puzzles really were less intuitive.
4: Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan – My first Artifex Mundi game, Grim Legends 2 has us playing as an herbalist trying to cure the Queen of the Eagle Kingdom, who has never spoken a word. Things take a turn for the worse when the Queen is accused of practicing dark magic and sentenced to death, even though it’s quite clear she was set up! My first experience with these games was definitely a positive one. You can find my full review here.
3: Endless Fables 4: Shadow Within – In this game, your goal is to help your childhood friend Agatha locate her missing brother Hans, whom she believes is trapped within some nightmare realm. This game has a pretty cool concept, particularly with the spooky creature coming through the mirror, and is yet another intriguing puzzle game I might like to play more of.
2: Scarlett Mysteries: Cursed Child – I love almost anything with a Victorian theme, so maybe I’m biased with this one. We play as Scarlett, who is searching for her father using her psychic abilities, which allow her to see visions wherever her father has recently been. I just really enjoyed the puzzles in this game, along with the atmosphere, as we visit a rundown train station and a few rooms of the possibly haunted Steameyer mansion before the demo inevitably ended. I’m quite interested to see what other spooky locations await me in this one, even if the “searching for your father” story is quite overdone.
1: Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden – Thus far, this has been the most unique Artifex Mundi demo I’ve played. Abyss takes place in the ocean, in an underwater city called Eden where something clearly went wrong, considering the abandoned city’s rundown condition and the presence of creepy, wraith-like beings. It seems like this game has a good mixture of intriguing mystery and haunting eeriness, and if I had to pick just one game from this list to buy, it would probably be this one or Scarlett Mysteries.