Ravensburger Digital, a subsidiary of the popular German puzzle, game and book publisher, released an iOS port last week for their award-winning “whodunit” board game, Whoowasit?. After a few days with the App, I’m happy to report that it stays true to its roots and provides an excellent and hassle-free mobile version of the original, physical game. Unfortunately, Whoowasit?’s initial release doesn’t provide enough content to keep the average adult player occupied for long. Like the board game, younger players seem to be the targeted audience here. And, appropriately, children anywhere from the ages of 5-9 will be delighted to dive into this suspenseful, classic and highly interactive mystery.
The premise of Whoowasit? parallels its board game version. In a medieval fantasy world of kings and magic, an evil wizard is on his way to your castle to cause some seriously unthinkable evildoings. Much to your kingdom’s dismay, the only tool that can ward off the wizard is your king’s magical ring, which has mysteriously gone missing. While all of the adults are off to search for it far and wide, the children back at home get word from the castle animals that the ring may be closer than they thought…
The most suspenseful element of this game is its time limit. As the castle children, players only have 6 hours (measured in game turns) to find out which castle-dweller stole the key. Was it the maid?? How about the knight? It absolutely has to be the witch! This is the mystery that players must solve as they search for clues, speak to animal informants, and unlock chests throughout the castle. If the ring is found in one of the chests before 6 P.M., the castle is saved and everybody lives happily ever after. If not…well, I’m not entirely sure what happens if the ring isn’t found, but I know it probably has something to do with evil magic. Either way, knowing that I was under a time/turn limit during my games made them much more engrossing.
Player actions in this game involve rolling a die, moving game pieces, unlocking chests, and searching for food to feed the animals. Dice rolling is fun and realistic. Game piece movement is intuitive, as is the mechanic for unlocking chests. Searching for food is engaging, especially for kids, because it takes the form of a “hidden object” mini-game. All in all, I’d say that the Whoowasit? app provides all of the interactivity and engagement of the board game, and then some.
The best part of Whoowasit? is that you can play with others on the same device. Up to four human players can join in on the mystery in teams of two or solo. The game screen even rotates so that players don’t have to rotate the device manually. While playing against the CPU is a perfectly suitable option, multiplayer is where children will get the most enjoyment out of this game.
The aspects I didn’t like about Whoowasit? weren’t huge, but they did take a toll on my patience after the first or second game. For one, the voice acting here is pretty lackluster. The ghost, which comes into play quite often (1/3 of the die is devoted to the ghost), is nearly impossible to take seriously. The evil wizard sounds silly. The animals sound mechanical. While the children’s lines aren’t completely horrible, there are only 2 or 3 of them for each character. Be prepared to hear them many times each game. Perhaps children won’t notice these elements, but in my opinion it makes the game feel less complete.
I would have liked to see a few more game modes, additional maps, or any type of real extra content other than the single, main game. Some sort of notepad feature to keep track of animal hints would have been nice as well. If I couldn’t remember all of their advice, I can’t imagine that kids will.
I can’t deny that physical board games have a certain unique and non-reproducible charm to them. The tactile sensations of rolling dice and moving game pieces evoke nostalgic feelings of traditional family fun. Playing board games on an iPad certainly has its perks too, though. Not having to set up or clean up is glorious.
If you’re interested in giving this game a shot, you can download it from the App Store for $2.99 or $4.99 (HD). If not, your kingdom will be left to the hands of the evil wizard. Do you want that on your hands?