WBG Score: 8.5/10
Player Count: 1-4
Published by Big Potato
Designed by Ed Naujokas
What Next? is a fascinating game. It blends story telling in a ‘choose your own adventure’ style with mini dexterity challenges in a way I have not seen before. I was instantly intrigued when I saw the game being excellently demonstrated by the wonderful @buryboardgames and @nothern_dice at the @Zatu stand at @ukgamesexpo I was hooked and wanted to play again and again!
Now, after owning the game for a few weeks, I can safely say, that this feeling hasn’t gone away! The game is a lot of fun, the three story’s are highly entertaining and the process of picking your path through the various narratives is genuinely absorbing.
I took the game on a recent camping trip with my family and we started off playing the game each night as a replacement for our usual bedtime story with the little ones. But due to the excitement of the adventures we were on, we quickly started playing in the daytime game sessions as well. The game wraps you up in its coils and grips you until each adventure is done; and then you want to try again right away. People often say a good game is one that you can’t stop thinking about after you play it, which I very much agree with. This game certainly has a lot of those powers of attention and obsession.
Coming from the good people at Big Potato Games, the team behind some of my favourite party games of all time; Top of the Pops, The Chameleon, the recent Snakesss and my all-time number one party game, 20 Second Showdown; you know this game is going to have a certain family-friendly party game flavour. But this game has a different style and is quite different to anything the east London publishers have done before. It feels more of a full on experience than a normal party game, with the narrative and card play fuelling a different, bigger game atmosphere. As you play What Next? the usual laughter and frivolity of a party game is certainly present, but not in the same way as the usual Big Potato production. Built alongside the fun, a co-operative adventure awaits, offering a more inclusive experience for younger families.
Built within the games core are the gripping and entertaining stories. There are three in the box. But the thing that really sets this game apart from other games of its ilk, are the dexterity games and challenges mixed within the story. There is a clever sense of theme built within within each one, as every mini challenge is linked to what you are currently doing in the story. If you are trying to reach through a hole to grab an item, the challenge then would be to feel inside a bag of multiple random shapes to try and pick out the one that fits the silhouette on a card. Or, if you are hurtling along an old mine shaft in an out of control cart, and you need to hit the junction lever to change direction. Well, then flick a tile along a table to knock off a wooden piece positioned near the edge without letting the tile fall of the table in an old game of shove-ha'penny. Everything is thematically linked, and of course your performance will directly influence your chances of success in the game. But don’t worry, nothing is make or brake!
Out of the box there are three different adventures to go on. I won’t go into too much detail here on the stories as I don’t want to spoil any surprises. But suffice to say, they all feel very different, and they are all very much repayable. People often ask in games like this if it is essentially a ‘one-shot’. We have played the first game six times so far and I still want to play again. I know from the Zatu crew who demonstrated the game at the UK Games Expo, that after playing non-stop for three days, they were still seeing different paths chosen and new mini games being attempted. There are multiple paths to go down for each story based on your decisions and the outcomes of the challenges you take. So, most importantly, re-playing the game is a lot of fun!
Completing the game is a simple matter of getting to the end of the story. Which would seem easy if it were not for one clever addition to the game. Each time a story card shows a certain symbol, players must add a peril piece to your Tower of Peril. This is a collection of oddly shaped wooden pieces that must be stacked in a separate balance game that runs throughout each story.
Delicately placing each piece can be quite tricky, so make sure you have a stable surface and all players know not to knock it! Most games end with the Tower of Peril falling over rather than any other conclusion. Especially on a rickety camping table! I would say that it is very much possible to remove this element from the game if you get frustrated with your adventures ending prematurely and you just want to see the story reach its full conclusion. But this is the genius of What Next? The blend of dexterity and storytelling is more than a clever idea. The sense that the further into the game you go, and the more daring choices you make, the rewards may be greater, but so too will the risk. Climb a tree to chase a pesky Koala and potentially advance your story in a more strategically advantageous fashion; but you are climbing a tree. You have to accept the consequences of that. You could fall!
Another part of the game that keeps the story fresh and each adventure unique is the time dial. As you progress along the story you must turn the dial along one rotation. This will then indicate either the time of day, the sate of the New York power grid, or your robot’s current battery life; depending on which game you are playing. Each story card is double sided showing either a light or dark, and the dial’s current location will determine which side you must play. And of course, there are often more dangers and tougher choices on the reverse side.
Within the box, outside of the three main stories, there are over 60 different challenges to complete. Each individual game will typically have between 5-15 of these incorporated depending on how well your Tower of Peril goes!
‘Drums of Koala Cave’ is ranked as an easier story with more simple mini games and a shorter story. The ‘Sky Scraper Caper’ is ranked as medium and ‘Blinky’s Great Escape’ is the hardest in the box, rated 2.5/3 stars. This suggests to me that the designer of this game has ideas for further stories, there has to be a 3 at some point right?! This game is rife for expansions. In this box is all you need to play these three awesome stories. But the game is infinitely expandable with new stories. I hope this game develops in the way Arkham Horror the Card game has and keeps pumping out new adventures at regular intervals.
Some of the challenges are time based and a little tricky. But the game allows for practices, and with younger players you could always allow more time or more practices. But failure in a task doesn’t mean failure in the game. Just a different path to take. And you could always assign different players different tasks based on their age and abilities.
My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed playing this game. I often get asked what my recommendation for a good family game is, and my answer changes regularly! But I think for a long while, this will be my answer. Everyone feels involved throughout. You can take it in turns to do the challenges, make the choices as a team through a vote; and some of the mini games require multiple players. This is a true team game. But it’s the story that holds this together. No matter whose turn it is, in What Next? all players feel constantly involved and thoroughly entertained.