The Enigma Emporium – Wish You Were Here

The Enigma Emporium focuses on narrative-based puzzle games to play at home, using codes, ciphers and other puzzle constructs. They are set apart by their affordability and their sustainable practices since you will not tear, destroy or manipulate anything. This means you can keep these puzzles around as mementos, share them, and even revisit them later!

Wish You Were Here consists of five postcards which you receive in an envelope by a mysterious criminal. All postcards intertwine and have unique covers, addresses, stamps, postdates and messages for you to mercilessly tease your brain with.

The Good

Sustainable Design (+6)

While many immersive and challenging puzzle games force you to cut, fold, write and otherwise completely destroy the game parts, this game does not. This means that you can hang onto it, display it, and even pass it along to a friend. Though of course, if they enjoy it, they should buy a copy of their own – or gift a fresh copy to one of their friends — to support the publisher!

Immersive Story (+6)

I could not sleep while this game was on the table. Puzzles that were on my mind stayed on my mind and kept me up at night, which is why I knocked this out over a day and a half. Every puzzle unlocks some new insight into what was going on in the story and uses real world information.

Challenging Puzzles (+6)

I’ve become a bit of a puzzle snob lately, categorizing things as “oh this is spot the difference” or “oh this is an acrostic”. These puzzles took me off my high horse. The normal checklists I go through in my head did not work all the time. I repeat: if you have a typical go-to method for puzzles they will, for the most part, NOT. WORK. I loved it! I found myself wondering how on earth to approach a graphic or set of letters.

Learn Cryptology and History (+7)

I’m very new to the world of cryptology and ciphers, so playing this game was such a nice way to dip my toes in. I can finally be of some use in the future for friends who take part in MIT Mystery Hunts! I learned a lot about historical figures, time periods, languages, and technology from this game. I did not expect that at all, considering most puzzle games create their own rules for you to dive into.

The Bad

Time Investment is Deceiving (-1)

If you’re used to spending about an hour or two on a puzzle game, you better keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times because this is a BUMPY one. This took me about 5-6 hours over the course of two days – because a woman needs her sleep – which shocked me just a little. If you’re one of those people who needs to finish something, make sure you try and do this on the weekend, or you’ll be faceplanting onto your keyboard during the workday.

Non-linear thinking and Leaps in judgement is Mandatory (-0.50)

In general, you can get a feel for where a puzzle wants you to logically go based on any similarities you can identify… but it’s not the case here. If you want to make any meaningful progress, you will need to try something for the sake of trying it.

Use of Meta-knowledge (-0.75)

It’s always a double-edged sword when you assume that someone faces information they will recognize. On one hand, it’s immersive and encourages teamwork; but on the other hand, you’re assuming the player has access to meta-knowledge. In my experience, socioeconomic standing or cultural community influences meta-knowledge. But, I enjoy the rewards for this because admittedly I seek validation of my intelligence, so this is not a full point demerit.

Solutions on the Website (-0.50)

When all else fails, they do provide a website for you to review clues based on the postcard you are working on. Yet, I find that providing solutions defeats the purpose of how difficult this game is meant to be. I’m not docking this a full point, but I had hoped that they would have only provided strong clues with no solutions. I want the street cred that goes with solving this thing!

The Ugly

Unclear Prerequisite Materials (-1.75)

On the envelope itself it does not provide any information about what sources of information or tools should be at your disposal. They are assuming, at least, that at the time you play this game you will have a computer around. Not everyone has this luxury.

Language Barriers (0)

You may not recognize that something is in another language, let alone what language it is. You could always just type all those letters into a search engine and see what you find, so I won’t remove any points for this.

Some Puzzles do not Accommodate Postcard Design (-0.25)

Some of the puzzles need you to work your way around the limitation of postcard material by using other tools. I cannot say much more than this without spoiling solutions, but I suggest that you explore all possibilities in your hunch.

Technology Danger (-0.25)

Some puzzle solutions need you to take technological leaps of faith, and in the world of data theft there’s a bit of hesitation. You can, of course, double check with Enigma Emporium that you’re on the right track before you try anything weird. Yet if you’re impatient there may be a bit of wondering if you’re legitimately making a mistake.

Difficulty: 5/5 for God-like
Satisfaction Grade: A (93.3%) for Amazing
Worth Your Money? Yes