Six to Start

Enigma Phone Line: An old favourite

When we produced the Enigma Challenge for Wired UK, we had a lot of fun creating varied tasks and puzzles for our players to tackle - from online flashmobs to collaborative photo montages, by way of Victorian trivia and obscure visual codes. But six months down the line, there’s one that’s really stuck with us above them all and we’d like to bring it to your attention.

It starts with some strange symbols around the edges of a double page spread about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Alien Glyphs? Messages to agents in the field? No. But fold them a certain way and you’ll see - they form a number. A phone number. Curiosity piqued, you dial:

The British Empire welcomes you to the Ministry of Immigration, Naturalisation and Citizenship. Your call is very important to us. Please select one of the following options...

What follows is a labyrinthine bureaucracy - a series of nested menus, wrong turns and endless informational messages. Full of information about the mysterious Ministry of Immigration, Naturalisation and Citizenship. You navigate it like any automated phone line - dialing numbers, taking notes of important options, swearing when it sends you to the wrong prompt. But unlike other phone lines, this holds a secret.

One option offers you access to the Administrative System - a chance to get your application for citizenship approved automatically! But only if you can alter your Application Reference (AR) number until it equals zero, which requires some careful logic and mathematical manipulation. Each step in the Administrative System alters your AR number according to a certain mathematical function. By following the steps through, keeping track of their effects and then applying them correctly, the successful player can hack the system and emerge victorious!

We liked this puzzle for a few reasons. Firstly, its architecture and audio design was created by the fantastic Alexander Macmillan, which meant it was robust, reliable, and sounded creepy as all hell. Secondly, it let our players use their powers of deductive reasoning and apply their maths skills - which are often neglected in today’s games! The solve rate on this one reflected its level of challenge, but it was consistently rated as a players’ favourite - tough, atmospheric and satisfying to solve.