I found out about the Huntinality puzzle hunt about a week before the contest launched, but any thoughts of participating were squashed when I had a major family event happen the day I would have been working on it. I was thankful when a friend suggested we go through the hunt a week late- better late than never!
And boy, am I thankful we did! Huntinality 2021 was immensely enjoyable. All the puzzles are still online, so I can still share links to a few of my favorite puzzles.
I have to admit, I didn’t follow the hunt’s story too closely and skipped over most of the story-related content when it wasn’t part of a puzzle. I believe it’s about the Nintendo character Waluigi attempting to make money, perhaps by creating a Super Smash Bros. clone. I would have spent more time on this, but by the time we started the puzzle hunt, we were racing the clock for when progress would officially stop being tracked, so I stuck to the puzzles.
The hunt itself consistent of 17 puzzles of varying complexity. One of the things I enjoyed is that none of the puzzles were what I would call “tedious.” Once you figure out a course of action, each puzzle could be solved in less than 30 minutes, with only one notable exception- the final puzzle that consisted of eight mini puzzles plus one metapuzzle, which would have made a neat little puzzle hunt event by itself.
In general I thought the puzzles were extremely well-designed, too, with a lot of really cool nudges leading participants toward the right decision. Some puzzle hunters may prefer a little less nudge, but for a beginner puzzle hunter, the cluing felt just right to me. There were two puzzles I enjoyed less than the others, but I loved 15/17, and I’ll call that a big success by any measure.
A few of my favorite puzzles from this hunt:
Incredibly elegant in its design, this one gave us fits with how many threads there were for us to tug on. Once we found the first loose thread and tugged on it, it was wonderful seeing how much content was packed into this puzzle.
Juice Factory doesn’t show as well on here because it was sound-based, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The “busy-work” section, identifying the music, was fun, and it got Christina intrigued enough to jump in for a little bit. In other puzzle hunts, I’ve found music puzzles can be a little tedious (please save me an hour on Shazam by just giving me the song titles!) but this one had an obvious link between the soundbytes that made the research phase a lot of fun. And the final twist of this puzzle was delicious.
A “dating game” scenario in which Paper Luigi is answering questions in the pursuit of true love. It’s a funny setup built out in a full-featured minigame. And the final twist en route to solving the puzzle was one of my favorites.
One of the things I liked is that the game tells you which questions you answered correctly and which were answered incorrectly. The game really didn’t have to tell us- Google would suffice to look up the answer to every question- but I appreciate that the puzzle designer wanted us to spend time on the right things, not spending 30 minutes looking up answers online.
Huntinality saved one of the best for last. The final puzzle combined a simple minigame with eight mini puzzles that all feed into an elegant final metapuzzle.
The mini puzzles were on the easier side, but this final puzzle throws so much at teams at the same time that it’s tough to know what to tackle first. It was delightful finishing off the puzzle hunt with a bang, and I can only imagine what it would feel like diving into this in the midst of the competitive portion of the puzzle hunt, trying to race through it as quickly as possible.
I really enjoyed my late go at Huntinality 2021 and would be extremely interested to play for keeps next year. The time commitment is relatively low compared to the other puzzle hunts I’ve done, with most competitive teams finishing in about eighteen hours, meaning that I wouldn’t have to plan a full weekend around it. Here’s hoping that next year’s hunt is as good as this year’s was!