You learn a lot about yourself when playing Wilmot’s Warehouse. It’s a game about sorting things in a giant warehouse, but the interpretation of what those ‘things’ are, and where you sort them, is completely down to you. Whether things are orderly or disorderly is also your prerogative. But when you’re against a time limit, albeit a forgiving one, your brain makes certain leaps and compromises and, as mentioned, you start learning a lot about yourself.
My partner and I played Wilmot’s Warehouse together in co-op and independently, and our minds sorted things completely differently. It turns out that I order by the item’s relation to me – can I eat it? Will it hurt me? – and then store them in the corners of the warehouse in a haphazard, comparatively disordered way. My partner organises by colour, and stacks in very ordered, square-ish shapes. If they’re not in that square, well, time limit be damned: it’s going to get in a square.
As you can imagine we didn’t exactly dovetail well in the co-op version of Wilmot’s Warehouse, and we soon agreed it would be better to play independently (at least, my partner agreed), when the other wasn’t looking and couldn’t make any comments. There’s a warning in there, I think, about how and whether you play collaboratively!
It might give you the impression that Wilmot’s Warehouse is tense or frantic, and it’s worth correcting that immediately. It’s only manic if you make it that way: this is best played as a zen-like game that you barely even think about, dropping into a subconscious sorting mode and letting your worldly issues drift away. It makes Wilmot’s Warehouse incredibly accessible, since controls are (relatively) simple, the objective is clear and the time limits are so long that they may as well not be there. The old and young could play, and it’s fine solo, co-op, or in a group, all shouting about where the right boxes are stored.
Let’s back up a bit and try to give more orientation of what Wilmot’s Warehouse is about. We get the feeling we are structuring the review in much the same way that we stack boxes in the warehouse. Wilmot’s Warehouse’s premise is simple: you are Wilmot, a solitary warehouse worker. Every morning, a lorry backs into the warehouse and drops off several boxes (read: squares with symbols inside). You have a period of time to store away the boxes, and it’s entirely up to you how and where they are stored. A time limit winds down, and when it elapses – or when you manually open the hatch – customers appear, and they want a certain number of very specific boxes. It’s like Argos Simulator.
Serve up the boxes in a timely manner and the hatch will close, giving you stars based on how well you did. After three rounds of this, you’ll reach the end of the Quarter and have an opportunity to spend the stars, buying things like speed bursts, increased carry limits and the ability to destroy whole columns of boxes. Then you’re chucked into a safe period where you can reorganise the warehouse – my partner could spend whole afternoons in this mode alone – and then the cycle begins again.
A note on the presentation, which isn’t exactly photo-realistic. Wilmot’s Warehouse is very basic line-art, with Wilmot himself being no more than a square with a smile inside. The boxes are extremely simplistic – squares with a grenade, pill, rainbow or pattern inside, as an example. Most are vague to the point of interpretation, and that’s the genius of Wilmot’s Warehouse’s art style: you are the one that decides whether a circle with two circles inside is a ladybird, mask, Spider-Man or whatever takes your fancy, and sorts it accordingly.
There are 200 of these boxes in total, and you’ll unlock another four every morning, ensuring that you don’t nestle too far into your comfort zone. But that is largely it: you’ll keep playing, more and more box types will drop out of the lorry, and you’ll get increasing unlocks to deal with it all, turning Wilmot into some kind of Amazonian, of the Amazon.com variety.
This is an extremely simple game, and that simplicity will be divisive. My partner and I both really enjoyed Wilmot’s Warehouse, but the depth of our love for it was different. My partner adored Wilmot’s Warehouse to something close to obsession. There’s clearly a personality type that finds something reassuring in the control, and the sorting becomes therapy. For me, Wilmot’s Warehouse was a fun diversion that could only be played in small chunks. It’s something that I might dip into for a few minutes in a morning.
For calibration’s sake, it mirrors how we play games like Animal Crossing: if you’re the type who could play it for days on end, then you’ll fall into my partner’s camp. If you graze on it like a casual, then Wilmot might just be a pick up and play. My partner would have upped the score by a half mark; I dallied with knocking it down a half.
Regardless of the love you’ll have for Wilmot’s Warehouse on Xbox, it’s a game to admire. It is incredibly minimalist, in its fantastic chillwave soundtrack, visuals and the basic sorting it tasks you with, but that just highlights its elegance. It’s a very original game, but at the same time feels so refined that it could be from a genre that’s been around for decades. For a game that’s currently residing on Xbox Game Pass, there are very few barriers to giving Wilmot a go and seeing which box you fall into.