Games can be many different things, from relaxing escapism to exciting, action-filled experiences. Games can also challenge your brain with puzzles and help improve fine motor skills and spatial reasoning. In these simple terms, Wilmot’s Warehouse is a difficult game to categorise because it manages to be a puzzle game where you are uniquely tasked with both creating and solving problems in front of you. It is also much more than a puzzle game, as it is tests your skills at organising, pattern recognition and spatial awareness. At moments it is a calm and methodical game asking you to make simple decisions about grouping items that share a connection in your mind, and at others a frantic game that demands precise spatial reasoning and the ability to make split second decisions. It’s a curious blend of genres and I think it is absolutely brilliant.
Things look simple enough. Your avatar is a cheerful looking square and the warehouse is your domain. At the start of each round a truck will dump a variety of stock items, their “type” indicated by simple pictograms that are both figurative and abstract. You are then given a short amount of time to move these items around your warehouse and organise them in a way you see fit. The tutorial neatly summarises your key challenge by asking you to sort hats and winter items. Simple enough right? Then you are given a winter hat to sort – does it go with the hats, or with the winter items? How you choose to categorise each item is entirely up to you, and if you are like me you will find yourself second guessing every decision you make. Should I categorise by colour? Or item type? This one looks like a mixing board, this one a microphone and this one like stage lights, perhaps I can have a group loosely based around entertainment? I have a candle, a lampshade and a lamp, perhaps household items? But then I also have a lighthouse and the aforementioned stage lights so maybe “lights” is a better category?
Whichever way you decide to categorise you will only have a short time to distribute the items the truck has brought you until a window opens directly opposite to where the truck is. Four people will be waiting at the window with requests for a variety of things from your stock. You will then have a short amount of time to locate them in your warehouse and deliver them. If you do this swiftly you will be encouraged with some motivational words from your boss and a number of stars. The quicker you process the orders, the more stars you are awarded with, which can in turn be utilised on loose upgrades to make your navigation around the warehouse easier. Tools such as being able to rotate your stock around your person for easier stacking, and increased carry capacity.
Once you have satisfied your customers there will be another truck with more items that need arranging. There is always more stock arriving than going out, so you need to react quickly making categorising choices on the fly with no real time to second guess. It’s not all stress though because after every few rounds or so you are given a chance to breathe and properly arrange your warehouse in the way you want. Once you are satisfied you can start the process again with your warehouse gradually filling up as time goes on. The challenge comes from the time pressures to make snap decisions about pattern recognition and spatial reasoning as well as possessing excellent recall skills to remember where you stored the damn item required in the first place. It is basically like that scene of Neo in The Matrix where he is has become so attuned to the complexities of the code he is operating in that he can see and dodge the bullets firing at him in a beautiful ballet of precise movement. And, once you have cracked the code of categorising in the way that makes sense to you, each round feels like you are experiencing the same amount of control. Frantic, split second decision making has never felt so… relaxing.
Of course, it goes with out saying that you are playing the role of a warehouse worker, something that is in the news a lot at present, and while there is a certain amount of joy to the organisation you are being asked to do, there’s also some subtle satire at work that reflects the real life situation of some of these types of workers. There are no tales of the need for adult diapers or anything, but there are definite themes running through Wilmot’s Warehouse that hint at the kind of capitalist dystopia that the real-world stories engender, albeit told with tongue-in-cheek and a knowing wink to camera.
In case it has escaped your notice, I really, really enjoyed Wilmot’s Warehouse. It has a ridiculously simple premise, but everything is so precisely crafted that it is utterly compelling. I was initially worried that the organisation aspect would become a little too compulsive, perhaps activating unhealthy behaviours, but in actual fact the process of sorting is surprisingly soothing. It is difficult to describe, but there is a sense that while playing Wilmot’s Warehouse your brain is being tasked with a number of increasingly complex tasks, at speed, and it feels pretty good when you realise you can do it.
Simple, elegant presentation
Process of sorting is therapeutic
Makes you feel smart
Could be repetitive
Pattern recognition may be challenging for some