Simulacra Games – The Wilson Wolfe Affair [Review]

Animated

Location:  at home

Date Played: Spring 2019

Team size: we recommend 2-4

Duration: variable, there is a lot of game

Price: £59 for Silver Package, £119 for Gold Package, £219 for Platinum Package

REA Reaction

We dove down the rabbit hole that was Simulacra Games’ The Wilson Wolfe Affair, Silver Package (the smallest, but still quite substantial edition).

This puzzle hunt-style game was very difficult in comparison to escape rooms and felt pretty average in terms of puzzle hunt challenge level.

A movie poster for Wilson Wolfe "Ice Odyssey" features the feline title character exploring frozen tundra dragging an ice block with a mummy in it.

The Wilson Wolfe Affair really shined in its production value. The materials and design were consistently beautiful. The writing felt strong and in-character throughout every item… and there were a lot of items. Additionally, the puzzles that made use of some of the more animation-focused components really stole the show.

The Wilson Wolfe Affair stumbled in some aspects of game design, particularly on-boarding, which was chaotic, and led to many of the game’s less than stellar moments. There were also a few puzzles that played it a little too loose for my taste.

All in all, I’m happy that we spent 4 evenings playing through The Wilson Wolfe Affair. I was content with only playing the Silver Package. Although there is a part of me that’s curious about some of the puzzles we never got to see, when all was said and done, I was fine turning to my teammates and saying, “That’s all, folks.”

If you’re a puzzle hunter and can get your hands on a copy of The Wilson Wolfe Affair, I think it’s a worthy challenge. If you’re unfamiliar or inexperienced with puzzle hunts, please don’t make The Wilson Wolfe Affair your maiden voyage. Attempt something a little more guided and with tighter, more definitive puzzles. (I discussed this in my Cryptex Hunt Primer.)

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle hunters
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Deep puzzling
  • Some nifty interactions

Story

A secret society was operating from within a 1930s Los Angeles animation studio whose most popular character was the cartoon cat Wilson Wolfe.

We had received a package of items from the studio and had to decode and decipher the secret organization’s communications.

Simulacra Games/ Jinks Studios box.

Setup

We cracked open a box and found a wide variety of meticulously designed paper puzzles.

The documents ranged from animation cells and movie advertisements to internal corporate memos and a newspaper, among many other things.

The printed materials varied greatly depending upon the item, but the print quality as well as the art direction was unquestionably strong.

An assortment of items including a journal from 1936 and a pamphlet titled "Modern Magick."

Gameplay

Simulacra Games’ The Wilson Wolfe Affair was a play-at-home puzzle hunt with a very high level of difficulty relative to escape rooms.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling, making connections, piecing together the story, and staying organized.

A newspaper, a map, a poker chip, an a patch with a South American-esque design.

Analysis

➕ The Wilson Wolfe Affair was loaded with challenging and largely entertaining puzzles, more than 35 of them.

➖ There were some puzzles that were too tedious, requiring pixel hunt-like detail fishing. There were also a few puzzles where the solutions were too loose for my taste.

➕ The writing and art were wonderful and consistent, especially considering how much content was in the box.

➕/➖ The online hint system was mostly sufficient and helped us get back on track when needed. The biggest struggles that we had were when we couldn’t tell exactly what puzzle we were working on, which happened from time to time because of the nature of the game structure.

➖ Opening The Wilson Wolfe Affair felt like drinking from a firehose. There were tons and tons of materials. It wasn’t entirely clear which items went together, or which puzzles we should start with or leave for the ending. The Wilson Wolfe Affair needed stronger on-boarding.

➖ There was a journal that included cluing. This thing was kind of strange. Sometimes it was the key to solving a puzzle; other times it offered nothing or worse, functioned as a red herring and led us wildly astray.

➕/➖ There was a clever system that conveyed how many letters in each puzzle’s answer. While this was clearly designed to lend a hand to the solvers, we didn’t figure out what it was until we were almost finished with the entire game. We thought it was a separate puzzle and not a clue. I’m not pointing fingers…. It’s possible that this was conveyed somewhere, but we never found it. This ties back to the need for stronger on-boarding in The Wilson Wolfe Affair.

➖ The net effect of the disconnects between on-boarding, the journal, and the puzzles themselves was that we solved them in a completely random sequence. In most puzzle hunts, this wouldn’t be a problem. The Wilson Wolfe Affair, however, attempted to convey a story. In the end, we could barely follow the story because it was more out of sequence than a Christopher Nolan film.

➕ The more tangible puzzles were among the most memorable and unique of the game.

❓ We played the less expensive and less expansive Silver Package. The larger versions of the game seem to have included many more tangible puzzles, and tangible puzzles were among my favorite parts of the game. On one hand, I’m really curious what they played like. On the other hand, when we finished up the Silver Package, I felt satisfied and didn’t really want more content.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: a large table
  • Required Gear: paper and pencil or frixion pen, an internet connected device
  • Recommended Gear: a spreadsheet for keeping answers organized

Buy your copy of Simulacra Games’ The Wilson Wolfe Affair, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

To do so, you’ll have to check the second-hand market because it is no longer available from Simulacra Games. You can sign up on their website to learn more about their future projects.

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