In 2021, Cryptex Hunt was one of my favorite puzzle hunts. This week has been the kickoff for the 2022 hunt, and tomorrow, March 5th, is when the rubber hits the road for the bulk of the challenge.
I was really looking forward to this year’s hunt. Last year’s Cryptex Hunt took the form of an Adventuron jam, with two text adventure games released daily and about five released the final day. I love old text adventures and the Cryptex team did a great job bringing their games to life. The 2021 games are still available on the Cryptex Hunt site- if you haven’t tried them, I cannot recommend them highly enough.
One of the things I appreciate about Cryptex Hunt is that it didn’t ask much of its participants from a time perspective. While I love the effort that goes into the MIT hunts, I can’t dedicate a full weekend to a single activity. Cryptex Hunt was a delight for my schedule- two ~20 minute games per night for a week, followed by a final round that took a few hours, was a great way for me to build my week around puzzles without sacrificing the rest of my life.
This year, Cryptex Hunt’s theme has changed to “hidden puzzle within a simple puzzle like a word search or rebus.” It’s a fun gimmick that’s extremely accessible for new players. Another change is that the first prize is no longer granted to the first finisher, but rather to one random team that finishes on the first day. Ultimately I feel like that’s a great decision- this is marketed as a hunt for beginners, so beginners deserve a shot at the prize. Competitive teams will still be motivated to race to the end for bragging rights.
The downside of the new theme is that there’s less puzzle to go around on any given day. In 2021, our team was drowning in puzzles- with two text adventures released per day, the team would split into different combos every day to see if both teams could place near the top. Then at the end of the night I would flip flop and play the other game I hadn’t tried yet. It meant I had about an hour of puzzles per night. And if I had a busy day, there was no penalty for waiting to try a game until it was convenient, as long as the game was finished before the final round on Saturday.
This year, the daily rounds only have one puzzle, and they’re much simpler than the 2021 games. The longest any round has taken my team was eight minutes, and the shortest was two minutes. My team has been signing on daily to work together on these, so it’s a little disappointing to get through them so quickly. The puzzles are generally fun- I just wish there were more!
I suspect this year is a bit of a breather for the team. The amount of work going into last year’s hunt was astounding- fourteen fully polished (with great artwork!) video games! It’d be tough to compete with that, so I appreciate that any given year the scale and complexity may ebb and flow. And ultimately this year’s simple approach may be more alluring for absolute beginners- based on what we’ve seen so far, I expect a motivated first time puzzle hunter would be able to complete the contest and be in the running for first prize, which given how esoteric puzzle hunts can sometimes be, is a really nice factor to have.
I’ll post again after my team finishes the hunt tomorrow! We placed 9th last year and I’m hoping to better that result this year. So far results have varied wildly given how many teams are finishing within ten minutes, and I’m assuming the final day will have a series of the hardest puzzles to set the curve and spread out the distribution a little. I’m really looking forward to it!