My last update shared a few quick takeaways from a puzzle hunt I had gotten involved in. All of a sudden I’ve hit three puzzle hunts in three weeks and I’m ready to consider myself an addict. As if that wasn’t obvious already.
When my usual team wasn’t free to participate in Edric’s Truzzle Hunt, I got involved with the Constructed Adventures Discord to take it on. I ended up enjoying it more than the 2021 Treasure Hunt, but it had a lot of the same issues too.
Chiefly, I stayed up unreasonably late one night after making a breakthrough, after cracking the first metapuzzle with a house of cards of assumptions I built with only a few characters of the meta’s message. I nearly fell out of my chair when my response was accepted and stayed up waaaaaay too late moving forward from there. This is fun and all, but tiring, so I was extremely chagrined when I learned that the hunt had actually concluded before I had even looked at a single puzzle, but no announcement was made.
I expect this is intentional, that Edric is trying to discourage players from stopping or slowing down as soon as a winner is crowned, but that hasn’t discouraged individuals in any of the other hunts I’ve done.
I also find that Edric is a little less polished than some other puzzle designers in making puzzles where the final answer makes more sense than the other answers. A few times I encountered cases where I would enter an answer and be caught off guard when the answer was accepted. Sometimes this is the calling card of what puzzle hunts call “difficult,” but I still dislike cases of where you end up having to try twenty equally valid approaches before one spits out something that looks like a word.
Next up was Hunt 20. I kept going with Constructed Adventures on this one, though I’m a little bummed I didn’t have my regular team for this one, and I think it would have been up my teammates’ alleys. The puzzles had a similar feel to Puzzle Boat puzzles, and I think we would have cranked through them quickly and maybe even contended for a top spot.
I wasn’t able to dedicate much time to Hunt 20 but we still made it through very quickly. I will definitely be circling this one on my calendar for next year.
Finally, that takes us back to the present. Galactic Hunt 2020. (Yes, you read that right- the 2020 hunt was delayed a year)
So far, I’m finding this one ok, which is interesting because I’ve heard that it’s the creme de la creme of online puzzle hunts. The puzzles are indeed layered and nuanced, but they also are tending dangerously close to un-fun. We’ve only solved a few thus far, and two of them are definitely cases where I could write down ten plus directions you could go and it would be tough for you to pick which one was actually the correct path. Similar to my criticism of the Edric hunt, I find myself having to try a bunch of things until something spits out a word. Overall that’s less enjoyable for me, since one of my favorite things about puzzle hunts is when I’m off doing something else and I realize the crux to a puzzle.
I suspect Galactic set it up this way because they have dedicated fans who have played their games year in and year out and want to keep upping the challenge, so that the winner isn’t just the fastest team that gets the general idea. But for me it’s a bit of a buzzkill when we enter the answer and think “Wow, I guess that was it.” Especially when you have a limited number of submissions for each answer.
Here’s an example: you’re solving a puzzle and extract something that says DC COMICS 5. You look up the fifth issue of DC Comics series, nothing there. You check how many characters are in the Justice league, and it’s more than five. You start thinking of characters this could be cluing. Joker? Robin? Bruce? Wayne? Clark? Flash? Some are more likely than others. But wouldn’t you be disappointed to try a few of these and the answer ends up being Flash?
That’s pretty close to how one of the puzzles we just solved ended up working. I don’t hate it, and I probably wouldn’t care at all if we weren’t limited in the number of submissions we could try per puzzle. But I’ve only done a few puzzles and two of them left me feeling this way.
I don’t mean to knock either of the two puzzle hunts I criticized, and I’m sure that there are players who are loving those little challenges added to each contest. But as someone who’s just getting into puzzle hunts, I’m finding I enjoy the others more, when the cluing and puzzle come together elegantly to point toward one solution that makes more sense than the others.
I will have to continue to provide updates- still a long way to go in Galactic 2020!