Marketing Tabletop Puzzle Games on Kickstarter — A Case Study
Between Time: Escape Room | Review
Between Time: Escape Room Review | You are going to steal a time machine. In this escape room, you have to travel through time, explore mysterious places and solve puzzles to get priceless treasures. Will you be able to make it back alive?
Console Played On: Steam
Number of Players: 1
Do you aspire to time travel? Check ✅
Do you like playing as an anti-hero or bad-guy? Check ✅
Are you in awe of the zones of The Crystal Maze? Check ✅
Well if so, this escape game might be for you.
We’ve Been Here Before…
Some of you may remember that my first ever review for The Escape Roomer, was mc2games’s sci-fi escape room Palindrome Syndrome. I had a good time with it; it was short, but it was fun and I enjoyed the risks they took from a narrative perspective. There also were some aspects I wanted to see improved for their future games roster, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Between Time has in store.
Between Time has you control a character known only as Robert, who aside from having deep bassy, George Clooney-type vocal tones, is looking to steal a time machine to go back in time and nab priceless treasures to become rich. The Time Machine itself is a talking AI called AITMA (Artificial Intelligence Time Machine Assistant) who guides you between each time zone.
BRB Changing My Name To Richard O’Brien…
From a narrative perspective, there isn’t much to go from at the beginning. You start in a futuristic laboratory immediately tasked with unlocking access to the time machine after Robert chortles to himself, bragging about the lack of security to gain entry. Bragging over, the eerie synth music comes within earshot and signifies it’s time to start playing the game.
The core game loop is essentially; you’re in a time period, solve the puzzles, grab the treasure and move to the next zone. This sounds like The Crystal Maze doesn’t it? Well, Crystal Maze fans, you’ll be pleased to know that 3 of the 4 original zones from the show are represented here; Futuristic, Aztec and Medieval. The only outlier being a Wild West zone in place of the Industrial (or Ocean) zones we were accustomed to.
Visually the game is polished with some lovely idiomatic touches, just like The Crystal Maze has. The Aztec zone in particular, looked very good with its fire torches and hieroglyphic-influenced puzzles.
Am I Doing This Right?
Speaking of the puzzles, there is a sizable amount of them during the game to keep players engaged. That being said, I feel the puzzles in Between Time are its weakest component. I came across the following issues; puzzles that could be solved in more than one way having only one solution to advance, puzzles that require more signposting to solve legitimately or puzzles that are not clearly instructed.
There was even one puzzle I couldn’t work out during the Medieval zone so I moved on to another puzzle. Before I knew it, I was leaving the zone with the treasure; with that puzzle still unsolved! In terms of the ratio of puzzles that work, to puzzles that need improvement, its not a large amount; however it does degrade the playing experience quite significantly. As a result of this, the fun factor is unfortunately reduced too. It’s something I would like to see the developers look at improving should there be any version updates planned in future.
Another puzzle-based consideration is that a larger proportion of puzzles (especially during the final third of the game) are maths-based; just like in Palindrome Syndrome. I’ll be repeating myself once again in saying that I don’t mind this personally, but I’m aware many escape room fans are adverse to an abundance of math conundrums.
There is a hints system however! Each puzzle has one visual hint that can be looked at, for further solving assistance. This is a feature that didn’t exist in Palindrome Syndrome and is a welcome addition. Of course, there are plenty of walkthroughs and the official guides to all mc2 games are here.
Take Control Of Your Journey
I’m aware that I played Palindrome Syndrome on the switch and Between Time on steam, so there is no direct comparison of controls. However my experience with steam controls for Between Time was a massive improvement. The controls do what they need to do and provide good customisation for both keyboard/mouse and gamepad setups.
It was initially confusing in two ways however, when trying to set up my gamepad; the gamepad controls are labelled joystick – not a huge issue but from a user experience perspective its not the most intuitive description. The other being that one more than one occasion, I had to unplug my gamepad at the start of a loaded save, because the game wanted to default to a keyboard/mouse setup and didn’t recognise my preferred method of controller. That being said, these were minor issues at worst and I stress again, was a huge improvement upon my previous experiences.
An Ending Kubrick May Well Be Proud Of
The main aspect I was hoping to be improved upon, was the immersive elements through the presented narrative. Don’t get me wrong, the time travel aspect with its different zones created some positive aspects of immersion. However if you look at my comments on the ending of Palindrome Syndrome, I applauded them for taking the risk of making an unconventional escape room ending, albeit it was lacking overall depth and as a result, had a lot more potential to give.
Does Between Time have an unconventional escape room ending? Yes.
Do I applaud the risks taken to do that? Yes.
Was the depth of the narrative’s end improved and invited into the whole story on a deeper and more meaningful level? …Afraid not.
Unfortunately, I had the same feelings from the ending of Between Time as I do from Palindrome Syndrome; great ideas, not executed thoroughly enough and thus, leaving the immersive experience once again looking for more.
Trading Treasures In Time
Between Time as a price-tag of around £8.50 for all consoles. For this you get around 2-6 hours worth of gameplay. This is between two and three times lengthier than Palindrome Syndrome, therefore the value is arguably higher than previously. It is to also be noted that mc2games is a two-person development team (plus one musician) and producing a game of this length for that price warrants at least, some form of commendation.
It’s a bigger game, with more to do than previous entries. However aside from the newly-featured hints system, the core components that needed improving I feel, haven’t been worked upon enough. It’s still a good experience however and this should not put you off from considering this as a cost-effective escape game purchase, especially if you enjoyed the mc2games formula from previous instalments.
To play Between Time on your platform of choice, head to MC2Games’s website here.