Puzzling Hunts – Sleighlink II: Santa’s Secret Mission [Hivemind Review]

Sleighlink II: Santa’s Secret Mission is a light puzzle hunt created by Puzzling Hunts in Boston, MA.

Comic of Santa landing backwards on a roof. A reindeer is saying, "He's trying a sleighlink II landing."

Format

Style of Play: light puzzle hunt

Required Equipment: ClueKeeper app installed on a mobile device

Recommended Team Size: 1-4

Play Time: No time limit; the game recommends 2-3 hours, but our reviewers finished much more quickly

Price: $18 per team

Booking: purchase through ClueKeeper and play at your leisure

Description

This is a linear puzzle hunt delivered via the ClueKeeper app. It comes with a companion PDF that contains several common codes. To solve the puzzles, you often must refer to this PDF or to the internet for more information. When one team member solves a puzzle, all players receive the solution information.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

Sarah Mendez’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

This is a standard linear puzzle hunt that seems to cater to novice players. The majority of the sixteen puzzles are straightforward and artfully clued through the story, and a couple are genuinely unique and challenging. Oddly, the most difficult puzzles are scattered randomly throughout the sequence, giving an early impression that the game might be trickier than it turned out to be. We finished in less than half of the suggested 2-3 hours.

Given the variety of puzzle types and overall low difficulty, I think this would be a fine activity for people interested in a new puzzling hobby. However, it’s hard to recommend it to experienced players at the current price because it has so much free competition at a more engaging difficulty level (e.g. Puzzled Pint and Palacesphere). It’s a well-designed sampler of common puzzle types, but if you’re beyond that, I’d spend the money elsewhere.

Brett Kuehner’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.
  • + Puzzle difficulty level is good for beginners. I wouldn’t recommend the game for advanced/ expert puzzlers.
  • – Estimate of duration is probably incorrect. Even beginners would probably not take the 3 hours it estimates.
  • + There was one cipher that even our experienced team hadn’t seen before, but it was clued well enough that novices would be able to solve it.
  • – One puzzle had a lot of information that seemed to go unused. The solution appeared to require only a subset of the information.
  • + ClueKeeper interface is pleasant and easy to use.
  • + Hinting is fine-grained, allowing players to get nudges without spoiling the entire puzzle.
  • +/- Ending requires making a choice that felt odd, but did provide reasonable story resolution.

Theresa W’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Sleighlink II was a very cute ClueKeeper game with solid puzzle design. The humor in the game was fantastic — it takes a lot to get me to laugh, and one puzzle has me giggling a week later while writing this review. Overall, the game wasn’t flashy or fancy, but used the ClueKeeper platform well. While lighthearted and very on-theme for this time of year, the game did not have many stand-out puzzles or moments. Most of the puzzles (of which there are 16) took our team 1-2 minutes to solve, with only 3 taking more than 5 minutes. For the price, the game is worth checking out if you’re looking for something on-demand and on-theme for the season to play with a small team.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Sleighlink II is a light puzzle hunt which will appeal mostly to novices. While the game contains 16 puzzles, most are sub-5-minute solves at or below Puzzled Pint-level, and they utilize many common (aka overused) cipher and riddle-esque puzzle types (my so-called “naughty list”, speaking as a puzzle designer). The puzzles are cutely themed, with an amusingly perplexing framing narrative, and I enjoyed being introduced to an obscure cipher variant which was new to me. However, despite an apparent awareness of some puzzle hunt conventions, the game lacked a consistent difficulty progression or meta structure, leading it to at times feel like a disconnected jumble of social media puzzles.

I’m a big fan of ClueKeeper, and per usual the mobile platform led to slick answer verification, hinting, and team management, but Sleighlink II doesn’t use ClueKeeper for much beyond the bare bones. The game included one simple Zappar AR interaction pulled straight from a ClueKeeper demo, which has potential novelty for some audiences, but which I wished were more of a puzzle. Overall, there’s not much here for anyone who has done a couple Puzzled Pints and up, but this would be a fun holiday-themed initiation to puzzle hunts for many escape room enthusiasts less familiar with puzzle hunts.

Tammy McLeod’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

This was a fun little Christmas-themed puzzle hunt. It’s linear so the whole team will work on the same puzzle at the same time, but it’s easy for players in different locations to play together if they have a voice call going. The puzzles are cute, and the difficulty lies somewhere in between that of a standard escape room puzzle and the average puzzle hunt puzzle.

Disclosure: Puzzling Hunts provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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