If it feels like I am pumping out a few game reviews, you’re right!
We played these games over successive weeks, so the second I got the blog up and running, I grabbed my notes and wrote them up.
So, The Werewolf Experiment is Mattel’s attempt at getting into Escape Room in a Box genre of boardgames, and you can really tell.. from the price point.
Coming in at the higher end, with a current tag of £29.56 on Amazon, I get the feeling that Mattel expected this to get popped on your shelf and kept, keeping this is beyond the realms of what I am willing to do.
They tried to make it feel premium by giving you three locked boxes, one requiring a key and two requiring a combination.
Okay, okay, so I am being facetious, The Werewolf Experiment wasn’t the worst game we’ve played, but it really rubbed me up the wrong way and I will tell you why.
“This Game can be completed in 15 minutes if you’re good enough!” the game boasts as you are setting up.
Now I am not going to claim my friends and I are expert puzzle solvers, but we’ve got a good mixture of lateral and logical thinkers, so I thought it would be a good time.
Apparently I was wrong, you want to complete the game in 15 minutes? It’s not through expertly solving the puzzles, the biggest boon you can get to your time limit is by dissecting the pieces the game gives you, there are spoilers below, so be warned.
So, in The Werewolf Experiment, you are given a pencil and a pad of paper.
All Escape Room games suggest you bring such tools, so it’s not a bad thing, right?
Except herein lies a problem for me, those items themselves are the solutions to puzzles, to put it in simple terms, the key to one of the lockboxes is found taped into the pad of paper, and the pencil has a plastic shell that conceals another answer.
Thematically they are out of place, but more importantly the solutions can be found almost instantly with just a slight bit of meta-gaming, the game boasts about having 19 puzzles, then gives you the key to the first of the lockboxes if you merely flick through a pad of paper.
Seeing these two just left me with a feeling of being let down.
I actually came into this game with high hopes, upon opening the box I immediately gravitated to what looked like a petri dish with black symbols along the edge, so imagine my glee when a second petri dish appeared, taking both it was evident that you could create a message using both.
I tell you, I would have been happier with the outcome if it read “Be sure to drink your ovaltine”, the contained message was needless, this “puzzle” felt as if they felt they didn’t have anything sciency enough and threw something in without really needing it.
Beyond that there is one small issue in the game that destroys the verisimilitude of the situation.
As noted previously, we have 3 small plastic containers, two boxes and one “jar”, I can suspend my disbelief over immediately opening them, but the one box with a key is the one immediately opened, the two with combination locks just sit there as the game reminds you “Trying to force the combination locks is cheating”, and it is, trying random combinations is the definition of not playing a game, but in such an instance as the game presents, ie: you are trying to quickly find an anti-serum, and you find it behind a combination padlock, you can be damn sure that while my friends try and logic their way through the puzzles I would be sat there trying numbers sequentially.
We managed to solve the solutions, get through and open the final box in under an hour, but there was one issue, we got a number on the final padlock wrong, I believe we thought it to be a 2, and as we’re scrolling down to the 2, we pass 4 and *click* the lock opens.
Now, my biggest complaint over the price point (Who are you kidding Mattel, once someone’s finished this they’re not going to want to replay it, they already know the solutions) is how the puzzles are presented.
In most Escape Room type games, you solve a puzzle and then recieve another and then another, you unlock puzzles as you progress, maybe you unlock 2 or 3 at once, but it gives a sense of accomplishment and lets you see how you’re coming along.
The Werewolf Experiment however, dumps about 60% of the content on you as you open the box, and sure that allows everyone to pick a puzzle and start solving, but it means you lose group cohesion, you can’t always keep track of what’s happened, what’s been solved 100% and what’s been filled in but not completed.
For lack of a better term, you’re data-dumped and a small sense of being overwhelmed can happen.
I think the reason for this issue is the decision to go for physical locks, instead of going for the more common decoder wheel, making it harder to deliver content piecemeal as the boxes were far too small to contain much more than the next small clue.
Ultimately, The Werewolf Experiment just fell flat for me, I really wanted to like it more, the visuals were great, the inclusion of a blacklight hit my nerdy science side, but this could have been done so much better in my opinion.
I’m gonna give this 5 out of a theoretical 10.