“Venice, 2000. The Scream, Edvard Munch’s famous painting, disappears right before the opening of a posh Art Biennale. Was it stolen for ransom? Or to cover up a larger mystery? You are now hired by the Italian Art Gallery’s President, and he’s got some game-changing insider intel for you…
Delve into the world of art crime, recover the precious artifact, identify the art thief, and get all the answers about the art heist of the century!”
One of the best things about the Scarlet Envelope series is that it’s a shapeshifter, morphing into new genres and play styles with each new installment. This also ensures that if one installment isn’t your cup of tea, the next one might be more to your liking. Which is to say, that while Screaming Venice Art Heist isn’t my favorite in the series, I’m not too worried about how much I’ll like the next installment, because it will be something completely different.
I played the game over the course of two hours, drinking a warm mug of a tea on a cool autumn evening in Seattle while I did so. While there were some frustrations I ran across in the second half of the game, I had a fun time overall with the experience.
Screaming Venice Art Heist sounds like the name of a pretty rad metal band, but it actually is a petty apt description of the story. Edvard Munch’s The Scream has been stolen in Venice and it’s up to you to catch the culprit and recover the painting. Recovering the painting is the primary goal of the game, while determining who the culprit is definitely is a secondary objective.
The story is told across a variety of mediums—physical ones, like brochures and photographs, that come in the envelope and digital ones, like websites and videos, that are hosted online. These multimedia elements do a good job of providing immersion into the era and telling the story, while also sparing a bit of time to nudge the overarching meta story along.
Screaming Venice Art Heist‘s puzzle play is a big departure from the other installments, with the experience effectively being one large meta-puzzle. It’s a tough experience, even tougher than Wild Mansion of Mr. Ferri, but I was able to puzzle my way through the first half without issue.
I got stuck around the midway point and made my way to the puzzle that unlocks the hint site. That’s where I hit my first big stumbling block with the game. Unfortunately for me, the hint puzzle required distinguishing between red and green in order to solve it, though it wasn’t obvious at all that there was a color element to the puzzle. The hint puzzles are always fairly easy by design, so I ended up beating my head against the wall for a half hour, wondering what I was missing. (Eventually taking a photo with my phone and zooming in on the elements helped me clue into what I was missing.)
Once I got to the hint site, I found them to be the usual, helpful progressive hints that I’ve come to associate with the Scarlet Envelope series.
After I was able to move forward, there was a final, tough, color-related puzzle that sent me running back to the hint site. So, it was more of a stumble across the finish line, instead of a smooth home stretch.
Overall, the majority of the puzzles were clever, difficult, and enjoyable, but the color-related frustrations shaded the rest of the experience for me.
While I had some issues with this chapter, I still find the Scarlet Envelope games to be a lot of fun and their ever-shifting nature means I’m still really looking forward to the next envelope. I think their games are best played in the intended order, so I would recommend starting with Newspaper: Intro to Mysteries instead of picking this up as a standalone. I’d also recommend playing this one with a partner, especially if you’re colorblind or are intimidated by a more difficult experience.