Review: Whoowasit?
Publisher: Ravensburger
Year: 2007
Tagline: Reveal the secrets of the speaking animals and find the thief!

Cover shows the electronic component in lower left and cartoon animals around, including a prominent owl

how we met

Whoowasit? caught my eye amongst the rest of the thrift games with its Harry Potter-looking font. It was clearly a children’s game, but I love a good deduction game, and it was electronic! I was ready to hear what that Owl had to say.

how it plays

Whoowasit? is a cooperative, roll and move deduction game. The object is to determine who among the ten suspects is the thief before time runs out. Then the whole team wins!

The board is many rooms in a castle, cartoonish and kind of busy
The game set up for play, including ghost in the Courtyard, pawns in the Nursery and door tiles where needed

To accomplish this, players move around a handful of rooms in a castle. Each room has an animal in it, and a few rooms also have magical objects.

On their turn, players will roll the (almost weightless) die. If the ghost comes up, move the ghost one space in the ghostly track. If the ghost enters a room with pawns, those pawns return to the Nursery where they started the game. The player keeps rolling until they get a number. Then they can move up to that number of rooms and perform an action.

The ghost is sticking his arms up and frowning
Booooooo. He starts in the Courtyard, and he is not happy about it

When the player lands in a room, they click the corresponding animal on the magic box to let the game know where they are. Then they can choose to either search the room (eye), talk to the animal (mouth), or use a magical object (stars, if relevant) by clicking the corresponding button. The magic box will let you know what happens and continue to emphasize that time is running out.

The box just has icons indicating rooms and actions on its top
This is what the magic box looks like, from the top. The first two rows are rooms and the bottom row are actions. That on the left is the repeat button.

When you search a room you will usually find a piece of food. These are important to collect because the animals will want to be fed in exchange for information. You can store up to two pieces of food on the cat and any others in the pantry. Players in the pantry can exchange what is on the cat and essentially equipped.

If you speak to an animal and it wants to be fed something that you have equipped on the cat card, then you can choose the additional action of feeding it (hand). This action always follows speaking, when it happens. Usually a fed animal will reward you with really good information, like that “the thief has something on their head.” This would eliminate two suspects. Turn them over or set them aside, they are not the thief.

Ten suspects as cartoon characters
The ten suspects, with handy differing things like head coverings, thin vs fat, short vs tall, you know..

Sometimes when you search a room you will find a key. This is needed to end the game and will sometimes unlock doors.

NOTE: The rules note that you may have unanswered questions as you start the game, like how do I open doors, etc. The magic box will address these things as you play, so if you feel unsure starting your first game don’t worry.

Play continues in this way until you are able to eliminate all but one suspect. Once you have the thief identified, go to their room and unlock their chest (the chest action icon). Then wear your recovered ring proudly. The team won!

The ring is red and gold and sizing is flexible because it expands
Yep, this is what it’s all about

Replayability is handled by the magic box, so rest assured that your next game will be different.

how it went

Whoowasit? was even simpler than I had imagined. You are essentially moving around just a handful of rooms with a die that goes up to 5. You can really book it around that castle, especially if through the course of gameplay you unlock doors.

Our play showing magic box and the game board
A shot of our play

The sound quality is always a potential issue in a game like this. We only once hit the repeat button to replay what the ghost said. But all in all, we could understand it pretty well.

The highlight of our game was when John fell through a trap door into the courtyard. We play a lot of Betrayal at House on the Hill in this group, and John is a magnet for that coal chute. It was delightful to see that this behavior is something we can rely on, even outside of Betrayal.

Now is the part where I express disappointment in this children’s game. What bugged me about the game is that eventually you have searched every room, spoken to every animal, and fed anything that wants food. And…. nothing.

A large picture of a cat with a bag, with two areas for food and one for keys
The cat can hold two food items and as many keys as you find. Consider these items “equipped”

The game does not urge you forward in a smooth way, so suddenly you realize that nothing up to that point is sacred (which is pretty terrible for a deduction game) and you have to start retracing your steps and speaking to animals you already spoke to. Because something in the game will have prompted them to behave differently now, even though it’s not transparent to you. This is such a shame and my biggest complaint even on behalf of the children who play Whoowasit? This game play certainly doesn’t prepare one for future deduction games. You should not accuse Colonel Mustard in the Billiard Room with the Candlestick over and over and expect different results (not an equal comparison, but a valid one).

But I seem to be the only person in the world with this particular complaint. So it is either not consistent in the game, or it doesn’t matter to most people.

The magic box does some weird kind of count down and will occasionally inform you of the time in game. We had until 6pm to find the thief and John managed to open the correct box at 5:50pm. I assume the times are completely made up and not tied to anything in real-life, or maybe tied to magic box entries at most. But yay, we won!

A hand wearing a ring
John could not wait to show off his new ring

play or pass

Pass. Whoowasit? has a flaw severe enough that I don’t even think it’s a good starter for deduction games. I can see children enjoying the game play, with its magic box and its animals. But make sure they know that randomly repeating their movements in other games will not always pay off.