Crux Club: Puzzle Rap Star | Review

Image

Puzzle Rap Star Review | Crank that beat up, grab the mic and show em’ whatcha got! Puzzle Rap Star is a new puzzle book that will challenge you to prove you got what it takes to level up in the rap game. To play, examine the images and text on each page then bend your mind to crack the codes. You’ll use what you learned to crush your competition in complex meta puzzle rap battles. 

Completion Time: ~4 hours
Date Played: May 2022
Party Size: 1
Difficulty: Medium

“Rapping” is not a theme I ever thought I’d encounter here at The Escape Roomer. In fact, I don’t know what category to place this in. It’s also not really a genre I would ever go for myself. For this article I tried to come up with some names of rappers in order to make rap-based-puns, but I got as far as “Eminem” then dismissed him as someone whose peak in the rap industry was a decade before I was born…

…All this to say, I know nothing about rap. But what I do know about is puzzles!

 

 

About the Puzzle Rap Star Book

What began as a Kickstarter by Jan-Luc of Crux Club earlier this year has now come to life in the form of a satisfyingly weighty puzzle book. That’s no joke on the ‘weightiness’, for this puzzle book contains well over sixty puzzles in it spread across six chapters.

The book has a compelling brightly coloured front cover, but is black and white inside. On the one hand, this is great for accessibility (not a colour-puzzle to be found), but on the other hand makes for grey-reading in an otherwise usually quite colourful genre.

At the start of the book you’re offered a QR code with music to listen along to. It’s just the one song with a general hip-hop beat that does help with some of the rhythm based puzzles, but not my cup of tea so I didn’t keep it on long. At the end of the book, you have your hints. This meant that (besides the QR code) the entire experience was self contained. This worked very well, meaning it’s exactly the sort of book you could bring with you on a long trip without internet connection.

 

 

Nothing Rhymes with Puzzle…

The story of the game is told through rhyming couplets- sorry, ‘rap song’. The first few times I encountered this, including in things like the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy, this was novel. Later the style felt more cringe and hard to follow along. For a medium (rap) designed to be spoken aloud, I’m unfamiliar with seeing it written down. Sure, I read poetry, but rap is spoken word, so be prepared to have to say things out loud before they make sense.

I would also say that the language in this book is very much for the American audience. For starters it’s set in Brooklyn, but just the cultural symbols of things like “tater tots” which we just don’t have over here. This proves a problem in a puzzle book as you’re never quite sure what is stylistic rap music language and what is an actual puzzle. Was “tater tot” some kind of cryptic clue I needed to solve? An anagram? A rhyme? Nope, just a processed potato based dish. Whoops! Who knew? Typos aside (for which there were a few I was sure were deliberate, like palendrome instead of palindrome), the language proved exhausting.

The language was a problem for sure, but it raises a bigger problem since most of the book was reliant on specifically slang from a very specific region and era of slang in Brooklyn. If I know one thing about slang it’s that it goes out of date fast. There’s just a few years between my brother and I and the slang we use is very different. I worry that in 5-10 years the sentences in this book I found difficult may become even more so, as they’re removed from the era they were formed in. Or maybe they’ll have a timeless confusion:

“baby-bat saw this bee when taking a spookie dookie. Gotta stay careful cause he couldn’t see, k?”

Whether ten years in the past, the future, or the present, I’m not sure I’ll ever understand that that phrase from the book means.

But linguistic quirks aside, the story follows you, a young rap star keen to make their name in the rap scene. Along the way you meet weird and wonderful characters like “Craz” and “Shotz Doc Menace” ** (whose name flipped between the spelling Shots and Shotz interchangably) and “Buttah Thug” who join you on your quest to find the mystical Book of Rhymes which is the holy grail of rap music – a list of perfect rhymes so that you may “spit good bars” (another amusing linguistic quirk I had to google and I’m sure I’m still misusing it).

Your journey goes through the stages from “Sick Flow”, to “Street Cred” through to “Top Player”, “Dope Hooks” and so on, as you climb the ranks in your own personal rags to riches story. All to culminate in a very sweet ending – one I literally said “Aww” out loud when I finally got to.

 

Puzzle Your Way to the Top

I’ve said all I can say about the problems of language in Puzzle Rap Star, but now onto the positives – the puzzles! Where this book really shines is in it’s puzzles.

Being set in the rap music world, there’s an abundance of language puzzles – as there should be. I’m a sucker for good ones that revolve around beats and rhythm, and this experience had buckets of them. But it wasn’t all language, there were spatial reasoning puzzles, logic grid puzzles, mathematical puzzles, creative ciphers, and even puzzles that involved some fun physical manipulation of the book. Each puzzle felt well balanced and fit in it’s respective universe. In short, it made sense why I was solving each puzzle, to what ends, and most importantly: it was fun!

With such a varied range, I never once found myself bored. The best thing about the format is how it’s possible to pick it up and put it down whenever you please with easy breaks in the form of puzzle chapters.

One of my favourite puzzles (and this is no surprise if you’re a regular reader) was the “Murdah Board”. Cringe spelling aside, this was your classic logic grid puzzle but was complex enough to be packing a few delightful surprises in it, and long enough to last one evening’s session as I sat cross legged on my sofa, pencil in hand, puzzling through the whodunnit.

 

 

The Verdict

Puzzle Rap Star is a puzzle book with a very niche theme, but the creators have managed to pull it off with an enjoyable puzzle game. As I say, it’s never a theme I would personally go for and I can’t imagine that the “escape room enthusiast” and “rap music enthusiast” Venn diagram is larger than a handful of people. Add in the hyper-specific “Brooklyn” rap world into the Venn diagram and your target audience is single figures.

But I commend the creator for doing something that had never been done before!

For me personally, sitting in my apartment on the other side of the world in London, UK with a google search history packed with bizarre slang terms, American cultural icons from the last few days, playing Puzzle Rap Star was… Really weird. I learnt a lot about the culture of rap music.

But the puzzles were a lot of fun. Like, a lot of fun! They were creative and delightful and there were some brilliant moments of “a-ha!”. In particular I loved the use of beats and rhythm. I would absolutely love to see the creators apply the same level of puzzle creativity to a different, more universally accessible theme. Which, apparently the have already with the “Mob Treasure” game I’m very, very much looking forward to.

As a final note, the book is currently available for purchase on Amazon US. Shipping to the UK incurs an additional VAT and Shipping Fee.

Head to the Crux Club website to support the team and purchase the game for yourself.

Escape Rooms: Pharaoh’s Chamber | Review

Image

Pharaoh’s Chamber Review | You have successfully passed through all 12 of the black hell gates and are deep in the heart of Egypt’s oldest pyramid in Pharaoh Khufu’s Chamber. Legend has it this Chamber is cursed and all who remain in it longer than 60 minutes will have their souls removed from their bodies and be destined to guard the Pharaoh’s tomb and his treasure for all eternity. You are the 100th raider of this tomb; the 99 that have come before you are believed to have perished in the chamber though no bodies have ever been found. You have 1 hour to find his treasure and light all the flames of the gods in order to escape; otherwise you will, as those before you, be forced to remain at the Pharaoh’s side forever. Are you Ready to Escape?

Date Played: April 2022
Number of Players: 4
Time Taken: 50 Minutes
Difficulty: Easy

I’ve heard stories (usually told nostalgically over drinks) of escape room players talking about racing through an easy room then getting stuck on the very last puzzle, watching the clock tick tick tick until the deadline and not escaping and woah- I never thought it would happen to us. Until Pharaoh’s Chamber. Except, we did actually manage to escape. But equally we did manage to complete 99% of the room in record time, and spend the rest of the experience trying to figure out what on Earth we’d missed.

But hey, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about Pharaoh’s Chamber in more detail…

 

Welcome to Escape Rooms

Last Christmas I was super lucky to nab myself a voucher to play at Escape Rooms in the charity auction. Actually, I surprised myself – just a short walk from where I live and I’d never even heard of ‘Escape Rooms’ least of all played there, so I was pretty excited to book my team in! Whats more, we had dinner reserved around the corner at one of my favourite spots (Kin + Deum if anyone is looking for a recommendation). In short, the makings of a great evening.

Escape Rooms is tucked away off a side street in London Bridge, just a stone’s throw from the station and the Shard. When we arrived there was another team waiting in the waiting room to be briefed, and since one of our party was running a few minutes late – they went ahead and briefed both teams at the same time. Our Games Master was the enigmatic Craig who delivered both briefings with gusto and flair, before hurrying us down into our room. I would say we did feel a little rushed, there wasn’t as much banter as I’m probably used to, but I can’t blame them – the site seemed quite busy for a Sunday evening!

From here, we were led into the Pharaoh’s Chamber – a large Ancient Egypt themed room with several doors leading off from the spacious main room. Our adventure begins!

 

100th Times a Charm!

Pharaoh’s Chamber follows you, the 100th team of adventurers into Pharaoh Khufu’s Chamber in search of his treasure. When our Games Master first swung open the doors, we were greeted by a comparatively quite sparsely decorated room. But, what struck me most was just how large this escape room was! It has one very spacious central area and a number of doors leading off at all directions. Each door is guarded by an Egyptian God – one of those large statues more at home in a museum – and each has a light above it’s head that will turn on when it’s relevant puzzle is solved.

Quite often in escape rooms it’s hard to know if you’ve solved something or not, but Pharaoh’s Chamber is very literal with it. Light on = Solved. Light off = Keep on.

So, solve all the puzzles, find the treasure, and escape… Simple? Right?

The room that followed was incredibly non-linear. I’m a huge, huge fan of non-linear escape rooms, but this one took the non-linearity to it’s logical conclusion. Each puzzle around the room could be solved separately, and there wasn’t a hierarchy of “beginning puzzles” and a “meta puzzle”, nope – you’d be let out once every single puzzle in the room was completed. When our clock started to count down, we all immediately split up and did just that – started to solve things separately. Meaning that for the average team there’ll probably be puzzles one individual will never encounter and vice versa, as each person gets on with their own things.

One thing I would mention here however is that one of our team was an escape room newbie. For this reason I think perhaps the non-linearity didn’t completely work for our team. She admitted post-game that it was hard to keep track of what each of us was doing. And yeah, I get that. We’d got it in our minds to try to beat the record, and so got stuck right in. But for someone with less escape room experience I can definitely see that it’s hard to know where to begin or indeed, what is happening at any given moment.

 

Crack Khufu’s Codes

In terms of the puzzles, they were fairly satisfyingly easy all round. There was a mix of brilliant little puzzles that fit very well into the environment of ‘Ancient Egypt’ which I enjoyed playing through. Others were a little more tenuous, such as pressing electronic buttons or cipher and letter puzzles. Overall, I felt that the puzzles, though fun, didn’t completely fit in the world. Nothing was uniquely Ancient Egypt – not the decorations nor the puzzles, and instead it felt more like a generic escape room with a theme loosely added. Pros and cons all round.

That is to say that one of the puzzles I encountered was easily one of my favourites – but then, I love a good word puzzle! Haha. In this particular puzzle, as I’m tempted to do in any newspaper-style word puzzle over my morning coffee, I spent reverse engineering it to get the answer. I was absolutely sure I’d solved it correctly but with the wrong method, but later our Games Master explained that nope, I’d done it the most common way. It felt like a big difficulty jump from the others, but it goes to show that there’s something for everyone in this escape room. Also, I got to feel super smart for a hot second. Win win!

The Games Master delivered clues via a walkie-talkie in the room, if we needed a clues we could ask. If he thought we needed a nudge in the right direction, he would suggest one. He did so with remarkable frequency, but we were very careful not to ask for a “Clue”. Teams who ask for clues are not eligible to be on the leader board, but those who get nudges or hints are okay. We’d made up our mind during the briefing to try our best to get on the leader board so we did not ask for any clues.

That said, we didn’t make it onto the leader board as we were tripped up on one tiny detail – an object not correctly placed somewhere that hadn’t triggered the mechanic output. So when we were sure we’d finished the room (in record time), our Games Master chimed in on the walkie talkie that we’d missed something. Cue 25+ minutes of wandering around the room trying to figure out what we’d missed. Boooo, no leader board score for us! In hindsight, we should have taken the clue and gone to dinner earlier.

 

 

The Verdict

Pharaoh’s Chamber first came out in 2014 and I have absolutely no doubt that it was a fantastic room then. In fact, I regularly read other escape room blogger reviews and that seems to be the consensus – when it launched a lot of people gave it an easy 5*s. Wow, when it came out I was still a teenager and at least 5 years from my first escape room… Fast forward 8 years, and the room does feel very dated. Slightly tired, sparsely decorated, and a host team that felt quite rushed and keen to get us through the room and out.

I just wish I’d played it when it first came out, because I would have been absolutely blown away by it! I can tell it’s got charm, and I don’t fault the room or the team in the slightest, I’d just love to see the creators use the space and create something even more exciting with all the learnings the UK escape room industry has had in the past 8 years. It’s a well-loved site, and I’ve no doubt it can be a top enthusiast spot with a little more TLC.

Since I didn’t pay full price for this, and managed to support a good charitable cause in buying the voucher, I’m not mad in the slightest. It was a great time for a fraction of the full price and we will definitely return again to try out the rest of their rooms. Maybe next time we’ll earn our place on that coveted leader board!

 

Pharaoh’s Chamber can be booked at Escape Rooms in London Bridge by heading to this website here.

The Tomb Raider Live Experience | Review

Image

This summer London comes alive with a whole host of brand new not-quite-escape-room immersive experiences. From the Gunpowder Plot, to The Burnt City, and now the very latest: Tomb Raider the Live Experience. This week we were invited along before the doors officially open to try our hands at being Lara Croft for ourselves.

It was time to put on our shorts, tie our hair back, and leap into the action!

 

Photo (c) Tomb Raider the Live Experience

 

What is Tomb Raider the Live Experience?

First and foremost, what actually is Tomb Raider the Live Experience? To be sure, it’s not an escape room. Well, not quite anyway.

You and a team of up to 8 intrepid explorers (note, non-exclusive bookings) join Professor Lara Croft on an adventure that’ll take you quite literally around the world. You’re part of her university course and as her top 8 students, the fate of the world is in your hands! But beware, there are nefarious forces working against you.

Starting in Professor Croft’s study, you’re sucked in a whirlwind of adventure, first travelling to an icy cabin in Finland, then into a dangerously sinking ship, before disembarking (by portal, of course) into the heart of the jungle in Costa Rica. Throughout your adventure your goal is quite simple: Recover as many ‘Relics’ as possible. These relics are small orbs that fit within the palm of your hand. The maximum you can get is around 16.

In our particular team, including us at The Escape Roomer and our new friends at Scare Tour, we managed to complete the challenge with a respectable 8 relics in the bag. Enjoyably, we also managed to complete several ‘hidden’ tasks, which was a very nice reveal by our host at the end – but no spoilers as to what those are, you’ll just have to wait and see! 8, or 16… It’s no easy feat! Different relics pose different challenges and some of those quite challenging indeed.

The main way players obtain relics is by solving escape-room style puzzles. Here at The Escape Roomer, we were big fans of these. We only wish we had more time in those sections of the game! Players can also expect to find them hidden around in odd places, as well as the chance to complete physical challenges to obtain those oh-so-shiny relics.

So is it an escape room? No, not really. You’re not escaping, you’re going on a scripted adventure. In some rooms there are puzzles to solve and goals to complete, but it’s a lot more than an escape room. Let’s get into that further.

 

Photo by Us

 

Crawling, Zipping and Leaping!

The best thing about Tomb Raider the Live Experience is the physicality of it. There are very few other experiences that require you to get quite so ‘down and dirty’ than this one- and yes, I mean that quite literally! I’m still brushing off sand from my knees and finding bits of bark in my hair a day later! Each time we rounded a corner and found a new, exciting looking physical challenge, my heart fluttered a little. What would they expect us to do next? Jump from a high height, fire another weapon, or get down on the floor?

For this reason however, there’s a big ol’ note on accessibility to mention. Whilst the best source of information is their own FAQ, our impression is that the experience as a whole isn’t suitable for folks with accessibility needs, or folks who might be pregnant. If any player does have any accessibility need and would like to to skip a section the actors are on-hand to help a player through or bypass it for them entirely. So, yes, you could skip whole sections. But since this is the centrepiece of the whole experience, you would be missing the star of the show!

Still unsure? From the main lobby there’s an enormous window overlooking the most physical part of the experience and all but a few of the ‘most physical’ challenges are visible before you even take part. So you could decide ahead of time what you’re comfortable with and what not.

For a spoiler free list of what physical challenges to expect – highlight the below:

  • A zipwire (~2m tall, 20m long)
  • A leap of faith, forwards or backwards (~2m tall)
  • An army-style obstacle course involving crawling and climbing
  • Ducking and crouching
  • Firing a bow and arrow
  • Crawling through a pitch black tunnel with stairs

Photo by Us!

 

…And Solving Puzzles?

As this is The Escape Roomer, we’re always looking out for fun puzzles to solve. Tomb Raider the Live Experience has plenty of them. In fact, too many puzzles as there was definitely not enough time to solve everything.

For the average escape room enthusiast, this may leave a slightly bad taste in your mouth. Since this is a timed event you’ll be able to spend no more than 10, maybe 15 minutes in each location and after interacting with the actor(s) in the room, there’s not much time left for solving puzzles. Each location can cater for up to 8 players at once, so whilst the spaces are large, a lot of people may be crowding around one thing.

Over the course of the entire experience, I solved one puzzle in it’s entirely. It was a great feeling. There were a further three that I was able to engage with but did not have enough time to solve. At one point I held a 4 digit lock in my hands and was just about to enter the last digit when the actor came over, took it from my hands, and hurried me along. Noooooo- I stare wistfully at the relic in the box just seconds away from me claiming it. For this reason I mention again, it may leave a slightly bad feeling for escape room enthusiasts, because we are enthusiasts because we love to solve puzzles. Being shown puzzles and having them whisked away wasn’t as fun as it could have been.

 

Photo (c) Tomb Raider the Live Experience

 

“Everything lost is meant to be found”

I am sure that fans of the Lara Croft franchise will love this experience. Personally, I’ve never played any of the Lara Croft games and so I don’t mind admitting that a lot of the story was lost on me. At any given moment, I wasn’t completely sure what was going on – and I could tell that I wasn’t alone. In our team consisting mostly of strangers there were more than a few blank looks as the actors asked us a question and we weren’t sure what or how to reply. Simple things like who we can trust and who we were up against might have done with a little more explaining – but as I say, hardcore fans familiar with the ins and the outs of the franchise likely won’t have that issue.

Part adventure game, part scripted – there’s a lot of actor interaction and each person we met along our journey played their role with gusto and enthusiasm! One or two actors perhaps a little too enthusiastically as increasingly aggressive orders were barked at us when we weren’t sure what we were supposed to do, but I’ll not fault the actors for teething issues on the first night.

 

The Verdict

Overall, we did had fun at Tomb Raider the Live Experience. It is a very physical experience with an on-site bar in a prime London location, making it a good spot for teambuilding activities or birthday parties. Tomb Raider the Live Experience comes in at £77 – £99 per person, though if you’re lucky you might just nab a “super off peak” ticket for £66.

Since we are ‘The Escape Roomer’, we have to ask whether we’d recommend it for escape room enthusiasts and to that I would say probably not. It’s a very fast-paced experience where teams are herded through impressive physical spaces, but that doesn’t leave much time for solving puzzles. There’s few things more dissatisfying in an escape room than not solving all the puzzles, but unlike a real escape room there’s no games master to explain ‘what you missed’ after. For every ‘yay’ moment of taking part in something physical, there were many more moments of confusion and dissatisfaction.

That said, if you’re looking for something ‘a little different’ and enjoy running, jumping and hopping around through the jungle, then this might be for you. In particular, we really enjoyed taking part in activities outside of our comfort zone. It’s not every Thursday night I get to climb ropes and leap off things backwards with my eyes shut. And hey, no matter what anybody says, I didn’t scream that loud. Okay, maybe a little bit loud.

For now, I think I’ll stick with Lara Croft on my video game consoles, but I’m excited to see if and how the experience will evolve in the future.

 

If you wish to try Tomb Raider the Live Experience for yourself, head to their website here.

M9 Games: Vereda | Review

Image

Vereda Review | Vereda is a 3d escape room puzzle adventure. Play as a secret agent assigned a mission to recover a secret dossier set in an unusual town. Explore areas and take in your surroundings. Use all of your puzzle solving skills to make your way through the town and recover the missing dossier. As a secret undercover agent used to adventure and mystery you are tasked with your latest mission to infiltrate a town guarding a top secret dossier. What the dossier contains is not known, your sole focus is just to find and recover it. What you are not prepared for is the lengths the dossier has been protected. It’s down to you to use all your experience to solve the puzzles and contraptions that block your way.

Developer: M9 Games
Date Played: 1st April 2022
Console: Steam
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 49 minutes

April first?! Wait, that’s April Fools! In an effort to hide myself from all of the April Fools’ jokes floating around, I booted up my PC and sat down to play a brand new escape room game from indie game developer M9 Games: Vereda. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d seen a few reviews doing the rounds in the escape room community, so was excited to try out the game for myself at last.

Vereda takes a single player on a short (probably less than an hour) escape room puzzle adventure. You play a secret agent and your one goal is to recover a mysterious dossier. That mysterious dossier is locked behind doors and doors worth of increasingly curious puzzles. Pushing mysterious switches to make giant pillars in a back alley move, and rearranging cards on tables to unlock doors… It’s, interesting! Certainly a game to get the cogs moving.

 

 

Meet the Developer, Chris at M9 Games

The most important thing to know about Vereda is that it is a passion project of solo game developer Chris, who got in touch with us at The Escape Roomer with an invitation to try the game. Since the lockdown, Chris has turned his hand to creating video games full time – from early point and click and 2D exploration games, Vereda is M9 Games’ first fully 3D escape room adventure for PC and (we hope soon) console. Presently, it can be downloaded on Steam (where I played) or on mobile devices. For the full and most up to date list, check the website here.

Okay, okay so enough background. How was it? Vereda was… Decent! I don’t think it will be winning any awards, but as a game developer myself I admire the drive and creativity that has gone into pulling this fun experience together, and I hope it’s the first of many Chris and his studio creates. Take it from me, making a video game is REALLY HARD. It’s hard enough when you have a whole studio made up of narrative designers, puzzle/level designers (oh hey that’s my job), 3D and 2D artists, programmers, and so on. So when I heard that Chris was doing this all by himself, I had nothing but a huge amount of respect.

 

 

Enter Vereda, a Noir World of Secret Agents…

In terms of visuals, I love the whole back-alley, dark and dirty, vintage vibe of video games like L.A. Noire, Overboard, or Inspector Waffles. For me, Vereda had that feel and it was very exciting to move through the unique spaces in search of puzzles and… A way out!

After a cinematic sequence where a mysterious grey car drives through deserted street after deserted street, players spawn into a locked room with a few desks and scraps of paper on the desks. There are drawers to be unlocked, documents to read, and a big door tantalisingly waiting for me to find a key for it! Ooooh boy, I love a mysterious setup.

The assets were largely store-bought, but it would be grossly unfair of me to call it an asset flip. No, everything that was put into the game was put in with purpose and felt right at home. I would have preferred to see original art, of course. The setting was ripe for something a little more unique, but the developer did well with the resources he had available to himself. The game came together visually consistently and definitely managed to create a dingy atmosphere of a seedy criminal underworld.

 

 

 

Secret Agents, and Puzzles!

In terms of puzzles, there’s a lot of discourse in the escape room world about mimesis and diegesis which I won’t go into here, so instead I’ll regurgitate the words of Errol Elumir,

A puzzle is diegetic if it fits the theme and reality of its game universe. A puzzle is mimetic if its existence and its solution reflect the reality of its game universe.

 

There were many types of puzzles in Vereda, and largely they seemed to follow a trajectory of diegetic at the start, fizzling out towards neither mimetic nor diegetic at the end. But that’s not to say they weren’t fun!

At the start of the game I began looking for tools like screwdrivers, or missing buttons in order to fix panels to unlock gates. Exciting! Towards the middle of the game, there were some riddles and colour puzzles and a very unique puzzle involving levers and giant pillars in the middle of an alleyway. Which is… Well, I suspend my disbelief.

As the game came to it’s climax, I encountered puzzles that I’d call neither diegetic nor mimetic, such as piecing together jigsaw puzzles to get puzzles that look like a pigpen cipher, to mysterious tarot cards being placed on an electrical panel, to an infuriatingly tricky picture slider puzzle, and something about phases of the moon.

 

 

Okay, okay I don’t want to sound harsh – because the puzzles were fun! But this is all to say I enjoyed the first half of the game a lot more, but as the game progressed the puzzles felt slightly more detached from the context of the game and felt like they were in there to provide unique things to solve. But in truth, I would have been happy to keep looking for broken panel buttons, or deciphering mysterious graffiti, because those made sense in the world. There’s no hard and fast rule about what puzzles a video game should have in them and of course, loads of fantastic games have puzzles in them that have no relation to the environment at all. But for me there was a slight disconnect between the puzzles and the environment that the creator had so carefully set up.

In terms of difficulty, Vereda comes in on the easier side. It’s a short and sweet game that is possible to complete in around 20 minutes if you’re feeling speedy. 40 minutes if you play through comfortably with a glass of wine in your hand *glances down at hand*

This puts it at about the same length of time a real life escape room takes, but this is a tiny, tiny fraction of the price. And since it’s a video game that is out on mobile or PC, you can play it in your pyjamas. Win win.

 

The Verdict

For all of the reasons above, I’ve given it a 3 stars out of 5. For the average escape room enthusiast, that might be a little generous, but I thought it was a really promising game with some ‘noire’ vibes. Vereda had all the makings of being something special, and for a solo game dev project I am seriously impressed. Sure, it felt a little rough around the edges and felt slightly short on a few points but nobody comes into any industry fully formed. If Chris and M9 Games continues to create puzzle games with the same enthusiasm in the future then I have absolutely no doubt that the company will do well. The world needs more escape room games.

My lasting thought is that after playing the game I would honestly love to see this designer build a physical escape room. Vereda in video game format was a decent indie escape room game. Vereda in a real life warehouse? Take my money now!

If you want to purchase Vereda for yourself or keep up with M9 Games, you can check out their website here.

Komnata: Doctor Frankenstein | Review

Image

Komnata Doctor Frankenstein Review | Some say that the inspiration for the character of doctor Frankenstein came from Johann Conrad Dippel, a German scientist, who was born in the Frankenstein castle. Could they be right? In the mystical world of steam machines and airships, you have only one hour to revitalize a homunculus and unravel Frankenstein’s mystery. You will follow in the mad scientist’s footsteps to complete his final experiment and attempt to reanimate the body of Frankenstein’s Creature!

Completion Time: 55 minutes
Date Played: February 2019
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Medium

Komnata is (apparently) one of the highest rated companies in the US, but for some reason, it seems to be overlooked here in London. I myself was guilty of ignoring them – they didn’t even feature on my wishlist.

However, when I was given about 2 days notice to find an escape room in central London, that had space during a Saturday, and was suitable for someone under 14…I wasn’t really left with many choices.

However, even though I perhaps went into this room a little reluctantly, and apprehensive, I am glad I did. Like most rooms, it has good points and bad points, but I left feeling like more people should know about it.

So…here you go! Here’s me telling more people!

The Set

The room we did was “Doctor Frankenstein”. It was a wonderfully done set – it really did transport us with extremely well-done decoration and set design. The theme was excellent – without giving too much away, it cleverly subverted pretty much all Frankenstein tropes I’ve come to expect. Pretty much as soon as we were in the room I realised I needed to leave my preconceptions about the room at the door.

The Game

As mentioned, I chose this room as my team consisted of 2 newbies, one of which was 12. However, that doesn’t mean this room was easy. There were some really simple, but clever, puzzles in there. I wouldn’t say there was anything new here, but then again I wouldn’t say there was anything familiar either. There were enough red herrings to be interesting without being frustrating; engaging without distracting.

The room was mostly linear, but to its credit, it didn’t feel like it. It was very well done – I only realised afterwards that really there was only one, at most two, puzzles to solve at a time. Most of the puzzles felt satisfying to solve, and there was one in particular towards the end which used a unique concept I haven’t encountered before.

One of my favourite things about this room though is the fact that, for a few puzzles, there were multiple ways of solving them. I think this was a really nice touch and was a nice way to balance out the difficulty depending on different skill sets.

However, I can’t mention the pros without the cons. The hint system here wasn’t ideal. You are essentially given a guide to the room and puzzles early on, which was a blessing and a curse. Having what was practically a walkthrough ruined a little bit of the mystery/satisfaction from working it out, as well as causing some confusion. There were also additional hints…and again I felt the timing was slightly off. We received hints after already completing what they were hinting for, and as they were given over a speaker system I found it quite hard to understand (given my hearing difficulties).

The team rocking our new glasses

Outside the room

The staff were friendly and welcoming and did a decent brief. I really appreciated how they set up the story (which I sometimes take for granted). We didn’t really get much of a debrief though, and I felt a little rushed to leave.

Was it worth the money?

I mentioned at the start that Komnata has been overlooked a little here in London, and I think that’s probably down to cost. These cost ‘from’ £27 a person, but you’re looking at £35 ahead on a weekend at least. It cost me £42pp to book for 3 of us.

When you consider a lot of London rooms charge around £25 ahead, regardless of the number, that’s quite a considerable difference.

So, was it worth it?

I don’t know. It was a really good escape room, and if it was £25 I would definitely put it on my list as somewhere to return to. However, I can’t deny the price does make me hesitate. There wasn’t particularly anything here that justified that extra cost to me. I’ve done cheaper rooms with puzzles that were just as good, or better. I’ve done rooms with just as fantastic themes and sets. Everything here was good, really good, but not exceptional or deserving of that extra £20, in my opinion.

If you’re not too worried about the money aspect, then I definitely think it’s worth the trip. However, if you’re new, or a little warier of how you spend your money (like myself) I think there are other rooms in London I’d visit above this.

After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I congratulate Komnata on a beautiful room and just hope too many people aren’t dissuaded by the cost.

Accessibility

The venue is wheelchair accessible, but the room isn’t (due to a few steps) and there isn’t really much of a waiting room. There is a chair within the room to sit on, and it is a large, wide room.

The room is initially dark, then dim, then fully lit, with good lighting throughout.

There isn’t a necessity to hear, although this may help with the hint system. There is also a section with some smoke (the smoke effect kind), but you can stay out of this if you have issues.

There is a radio playing old-timey songs as you play, but you could ask to be turned down/off if required.

TL ; DR

Pros; Great set design, the variety of puzzles, difficulty

Cons; Price, hint system

Doctor Frankenstein can be played at Komnata London by heading to this link here.

Escape London: Overthrone | Review

Image

Escape London Overthrone Review: The King is dead, long live the King! With no natural successor to the King the throne is up for grabs. He who raises the legendary Sword of Britain will take the throne. Legend has it that the wily old King has hidden the sword within the castle. You are first onto the scene, explore the castle and retrieve the sword before the pretenders arrive!

Completion Time: 37mins
Date Played: February 2019
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

I’ve done a few Escape London games now, and I always have a great time. I booked this room for myself and one other friend, both of us fairly experienced, as it was the only one available (I need to stop booking rooms last minute!)

I always like Escape London, and think they’re a company you can rely on for a good room – enjoyable, light-hearted fun. I’ve never had a real brain workout or adrenaline rush, but have also never had a bad experience or left feeling disappointed.

The Set

Their ‘Overthrone’ room is a vaguely medieval, slightly mythical themed room – it’s like combining the legends of Arthur and Camelot with the Tudors. The brief we are given is that the king is dead and his nobles are out to kill you next – to stop them you need to find the crown and sceptre and sit on the throne.

I think this is a great set up – I haven’t come across many like it, so immediately I was sold. They already have a magic-themed room, so I was a little worried that it would be a similar set. However, they were very clever in skirting the line of “Wizard school” magic and instead focusing on the Arthurian elements. The hint of magic was really just a subtle nod, and I appreciated it.

The set was really nice. Like their other rooms, it’s obviously a plain rectangular room that they’ve decorated. However, it’s been done pretty well, with lots of nice touches. It’s one of the few rooms that actually managed to surprise me with it’s set.

My only comment would be that it wasn’t particularly big – it worked well for the two of us, but don’t think any more than 3 or 4 would fit.

The Game

The game was fairly multi-linear which was really nice. There were two of us, and we were never bored. Towards the end, it became more linear, as expected, but by that point, you’re just excited for the final puzzles!

The puzzles also perfectly suited the theme and were nicely creative. For the most part, we were able to figure out what we were doing – we only used one hint for the entire room! There were no annoying locks which didn’t work, and at no point were we left wondering if we were wrong, or if something was broken – which you can’t take for granted!

The hint system was also my favourite type – just a screen, although even this was perfectly themed to fit with the room. My only qualm with this was that there was no indication of a hint appearing.

The only other issue with this room was there were a few points where we felt a little lost, and unsure of what we still needed to do. However, when we did figure things out there was one puzzle in particular which combined a few different parts of the room into a satisfying solution.

Overall, we had a great time in this room – there was less going on than in many rooms we’ve done, but that allowed us to appreciate the set. I think seasoned professionals would breeze through it, but there is enough to keep them interested. Likewise, I would also recommend this to newcomers, as the puzzles were all really nice and I think it’s a great example of a room to get started.

Outside the room

We were greeted by one staff member, but ‘debriefed’ by another, which I don’t tend to like. However, they were both really nice and friendly. The brief before going into the room was fun and informative and got us excited to go in.

Afterwards, the GM was also really friendly, and from the way he was talking it seemed he was invested in our game, which I don’t often see. He commented that he regretted sending us that single hint slightly, as he felt we probably could have done without it, but he was very excited watching us. This was a really nice touch and shows they really care.

He took a great photo for us and gave us a discount code for a future visit (which I will definitely be using!). The venue itself had lockers to store your belongings, and are smart enough to assign each locker by room (rather than allowing a group to monopolise all the lockers). They also provide water (which I’ve stopped taking for granted now!) and have a nice waiting area.

Was it worth the money?

This room should have cost us £33 each, but we used a discount from a previous visit to take it to around £25 each. I think it was definitely worth the money for two of us, but I probably would have felt short-changed in a larger group, particularly if it was an experienced group.

Accessibility

Neither the room or venue were wheelchair accessible, and there isn’t anywhere to sit within the room. The room isn’t particularly big (as previously mentioned), but you won’t need to be physically agile.

The room lighting is a little dim, and partially sighted people may struggle to read.

TL; DR

Pros; Staff, Hint system, set design

Cons; Not enough puzzles/not clear, space

Overthrone can be booked at Escape London by heading to this link here.

Escape Rooms Cardiff: Z & Oculus | Review

Image

Oculus: Get into the psyche of the notorious serial killer, Oculus. Known for his obsession with eyes and scooping out his subjects blinkers, you must search his home to discover his holding room. Becky Morris, a local news reporter has been missing for some time and is feared to be his final victim. Can you come to her rescue before Oculus returns and her time runs out!?

Z: You guessed it, Zombies. You’ve managed to locate the safe house and medical unit of a zombie hunter. He’s abandoned ship and left the bunker’s defence system down. Explore his bunker and medical bay that’s in disrepair. You have 60 minutes to get all systems back up and running otherwise… You. Are. Food.

Completion Time: 65 minutes (Z), 51 minutes (Oculus)
Date Played: 2018
Party Size: 5

We completed Escape Rooms Cardiff’s original 3 rooms (Sherlock, Heist and Tomb) very early on, so when we heard they were expanding (into what used to be a Costa below) we were excited! I’m putting these two rooms together, as we did them reasonably close to each other, and had similar experiences.

The set

Z: The room is very well done – they’ve done a really good job with the set decoration, particularly given it’s not the largest footprint. They were obviously very clever in picking which theme would work well with the space they had. However, there was an element of the room which affected me, to the extent I felt unable to continue once we had got to that point, around halfway through. Technically, we ran out of time for this room, but the GM added another 5 minutes (as we were so close) and remedied the issue for me.

Oculus: Again, the set here is very well done, and a perfect balance between normal, but with things that are slightly off. There were a few bits I thought were unnecessary and/or confusing, but similarly, there were parts which caught me by surprise, and I love it when that happens! There were 5 of us, and we were stepping on each other’s toes a little, but not too much.

The game(s)

Z – As previously mentioned, I managed around half of this game before I felt I couldn’t continue. For that first half, we were actually lost pretty quickly – at one point we didn’t even know what puzzles we had to solve, let alone finding the solutions! The hint system in both of these is a screen system (yay!), but I am fairly sure the GM wasn’t watching, as we didn’t receive many hints, and when we did they were usually for things we’d already done/found.

We also found we used certain things more than once, and the use of technology in places hampered the flow. There were some interesting ideas, but for the most part, I didn’t find the puzzles particularly fun, and we found them frustrating and confusing rather than fun challenges.

The Z team – I have never been so happy to have the game over!

Oculus – This room flowed better than Z – we weren’t stumped as long here, and for the most part we either had a puzzle or a solution most of the time. We probably were stumped for longer than in other rooms, but it wasn’t too bad. There were more unique puzzles here, which were perfectly suited to the theme. The only issues we had were, again, with technology.

Outside the room

There was a real difference just walking into the venue – they’ve done it up so it looks very slick, with a screening room for the briefs, which makes things a little different. However, I do miss that human element – both times it felt very clinically when we arrived – we are asked for our names, handed an iPad to fill in and left alone. As this happened both times, with different employees, I don’t think I can put this down to an inattentive staff member.

Likewise, when we came out of the rooms we felt very rushed to leave. For Z, where I had almost the worst escape room experience ever (the worst was City Mazes), it was apparent the GM didn’t particularly care. We enjoy talking to our GMs after the game, but he was really uninterested in our opinions, didn’t appear to have even watched our game (I’m fairly certain he didn’t, as I would have expected him to remedy my issue earlier), and physically opened the door to the venue guide us out.

After Oculus, the GM was a little more chatty, and there was another GM who was also excited about how we played (I can’t remember why though!). This was a far better customer experience, but we still felt pressured to leave after having our photo taken.

Now, I’m not an idiot – I know escape rooms are still businesses, and they need to get through one customer to get to another (much like a restaurant). I’m just making the point here that I far prefer rooms where the GMs are genuinely invested in your game, willing/eager to discuss the game with you afterwards, and talk about other experiences you’ve had. I know that’s not always possible, but for this company, it is very obvious just from the venue that you’re straight in and straight out – very different from what it was like before.

The Oculus team – you can guess when we went by my amazing jumper 😉

Accessibility

There are 3 steps into the venue, but the briefing area is all flat. You then need to walk down a flight of stairs to get to these rooms, and through a narrow corridor, so there is no way they are wheelchair accessible. Oculus does have somewhere to sit (a rather comfy armchair), but Z does not. There are some smaller spaces in both rooms, but the general room for each is reasonably sized, although we found Oculus started to get quite warm.

I believe Z has added sound effects since we were there, and although they don’t mention an age limit I wouldn’t take someone below 13. It is a well-lit room, and it was easy to read text on a page. There is a screen that has flashing images – they were fairly fast, so would highly recommend contacting the company if this is something which could affect you.

We found Oculus had very distracting overhead music, which was both loud and disconcerting. We did ask them to turn it down at one point, and I wish we had done this sooner and asked them to turn it down further. The room is not the lightest, but you are able to comfortably read some text. Imagine a living room with a couple of floor lamps and you should get the idea. There is also a section where there is a dark room, like your bedroom at night if you leave the hall light on and the door open. However, you do not necessarily need to go into this room if you don’t want to.

Was it worth the money?

For Z I believe we paid £20pp for a team of 4, and for Oculus I believe it was £19pp for a team of 5 – it was paid for by a teammate, so I’m not certain!

Looking at the experience as a whole, Z definitely wasn’t worth the money – and I technically did it for free! We found the customer service sub-par, the flow of the room annoying, and I was literally stood in a corner for around 20 minutes before deciding to hit the panic button and get out. If you’re a fan of horror, or at least aren’t squeamish, you’d probably enjoy it more. However, for me I hated it.

Conversely, I thought Oculus was done a lot better – customer service, flow and theme were all a lot better. As my only major issue with this room was the noise, I would say it was worth the money.

It is important to point out these are based on my personal experiences. The rest of my team were fine in Z, and continued to attempt to solve the room, whilst trying their best to comfort me and find some way for me to participate. My criticism isn’t of the thing that caused me the issue, as it fits well with the theme and is very well done, but with how it was handled. I would have expected the GM to note that I was as far away as I could get from the source, and physically unable to continue playing, and remedy the situation sooner.

TL ; DR

Z: Pros – Theming, hint system, price (to a certain extent) | Cons – Customer service, puzzles (both flow, variety and issues), price (to a certain extent)

Oculus: Pros – Theming, puzzles (particularly the way the majority fitted the theme exactly), Price, hint system | Cons – Technology, Noise, Heat

Head to Escape Rooms Cardiff’s website here to book in to play either escape room

VRCave: Space Station Tiberia | Review

Image

Space Station Tiberia Review | Become a member of the Space Station Tiberia crew and to save the planet from a unavoidable catastrophe in this free-roaming VR Escape room! Enjoy the unprecedented level of immersion: walk around the room (up to 4 people) and use your logic and teamwork to succeed. Don’t expect this to be an easy task. The clock is ticking and the challenge you’re about to face is very real.

Date Played: November 2021
Number of Players: 2
Time Taken: 35 minutes
Difficulty: Hard!

Space Station Tiberia is free-roam virtual escape room that is available at a number of locations across the UK (and the world!). We originally played it at DNA VR, a fantastic little VR arcade located in the new build near Battersea Power Station. You can read more about this venue in our guide here. In this review, I want to reflect both the general experience of this game (that’s likely identical wherever you play it), and our specific visit to DNA VR.

Image (c) DNA VR

About DNA VR

DNA VR is one of London’s first VR arcades and is home to a whole host of arcade games, including one of the most impressive escape room suites we’ve seen in the UK! including a range of original, free-roam titles.

On a quiet Monday evening in November, we visited their brand new site in the beautiful riverside arches at Battersea Power Station to find out what all the hype is about. We were greeted by Games Master Chris our enigmatic host for the hour. As the previous group was just finishing off their session, it gave us a chance to explore the venue and find out all about the exciting games they have on offer.

As well as all of the Ubisoft escape room games, you can play a number of other free-roam and fixed position VR experiences, including this one.

About Space Station Tiberia

Space Station Tiberia is an exciting, fast-pace virtual reality ‘escape room’ that places you, a team of astronauts on a space station, in the unenviable position of stopping a meteor from crashing into Earth and destroying the planet. You have just 35 minutes, but the only problem is your Meteor Defense Platform is broken – no pressure, hey!

Throughout this experience you have two goals:

  1. Fix the space station!
  2. Stop the asteroid

The game begins inside a very clean and clinical space station. A lot more high tech and comfortable than the ISS – so we must be living in the near future! After an initial ship-fixing first 20 minutes, you spend your last 10 outside the ship in a very cool outro sequence fighting off asteroids.

The best thing about Space Station Tiberia is that it is free roam. normally in VR escape rooms you’re fixed in one spot. Sure, you can sometimes teleport location but largely the puzzles come to you. In this game, you could move freely throughout the room in any direction. We had to crouch down, stretch up, and peer around corners to succeed in this room. oh- and of course we bumped into each other quite a fair few times! Haha!

But let me tell you, it is hard! Though unfortunately, not in a good way where we walked out satisfied that we’d solved a lot of puzzles. It was obtusely difficult. For starters, outside information was required which is a big no-no in escape rooms. I was lucky to be playing with someone who knew the answer, but otherwise we may have needed to skip that puzzle. Secondly, it made use of VR in an unconventional way. Small spoiler incoming – one of the puzzles required you to balance objects on top of each other to reach a high up place, a nearly impossible feat in virtual reality and didn’t really quite us to ‘solve’ anything either.

That said, if we look at the experience less like an escape room and more like a general VR game, then it makes a little more sense and becomes more enjoyable. It’s a fairly solid first-generation (if such a thing exists in the VR world) escape room that challenges small teams to perform quite manual puzzles around a space ship. There are more than a few action-centric scenes of shooting asteroids and lifting and throwing things around, but mostly it’s enjoyable to be in a sci-fi environment unlike anything else you can play ‘in real life’.

After Space Station Tiberia…

We finished the ‘escape room’ with a little extra time on the clock and were invited by our games master Chris to play another, much shorter experience: The Hospital of Horrors

“Not sure I like this”, my player two uttered from the other side of the room as we descended a rickety old lift into a pitch black basement. As the lights came on we realised we were surrounded by spiders…

Overall we both loved Hospital of Horrors a lot more than Space Station Tiberia. It’s a truly creepy experience that really pushes what is possible in VR and one we’d definitely recommend everyone try. So not quite an escape room but if you’re looking for something unique in VR then this is where it’s at!

Player beware, you’re in for a scare!

The Verdict

We had a great time at DNA VR, it’s a great venue and our host was fantastic. Did we love Space Station Tiberia? Honestly, not particularly, but I do like the genre of escape room in VR and I really, really liked that this one was free roam. It gives the player a chance to do some very cool actions and solve puzzles that simply wouldn’t be possible in real life. But hey, there are better experiences to try out in VR (some of those also available at DNA VR!) if you want to do something very special.

If you want to book an experience at DNA VR, head to their website here.

iDventure: The Fire in Adlerstein | Review

Image

Adlerstein Review | A citizen was killed in an arson attack in the city of Adlerstein. Isn’t it a strange coincidence? You, inspector, have to find out who the culprit is by detecting files and alibis.

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 23rd October 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

“Let’s play a board game, here are two choices” I say to my escape room un-enthusiastic partner on a Saturday morning. Surprisingly, rather than picking another ancient civilisation building romp, they selected Adlerstein as something a little different. It’s not quite an escape room in a box, but it’s not quite a board game either.

The packaging – a box that fits neatly on my board game shelf – is deceptive. What you actually receive within this box is a detailed paper case file. The game also doesn’t come with any instructions, except for a single letter entitled “Dear Detectives“.

No turns, no dice, your goal is to simply ‘solve the case’ in the fastest time possible.

Good luck!

Find the Culprit, Crack the Case

Your introduction to the case begins when you receive a letter from a local journalist. Interested in the case, we had gathering evidence when suddenly he got arrested – I mean, he was spotted at the scene of the crime and took an unhealthy interest in the fire! Protesting his innocence, he sends you all the evidence he’s collected in the hopes you’ll solve the case for him.

From here it’s a classic whodunnit… A number of suspects with motives, unpicking their actions and figuring out who reasonably could have been at the scene of the crime at the correct time with the right motive to have commited the crime.

To help you out, you’ve got a box packed with a large quantity of stuff to sort through, which was a lot of fun. One made up location, but plenty of impressively realistic pieces of evidence, ranging from Google Maps, license plate searches, stills from CCTV, high quality photographs, written notes. We can’t fault how exciting and realistic it felt to receive a box filled with such objects.

By the end of the hour as we were approaching the climax, we’d completely covered two tables in a ‘detectives board’ style of flat lay, spreading all the relevant information out and drawing lines and connections between characters and events. If you enjoy completely immersing yourself in fictional worlds as you unravel a complex case, then this game is for you! For sure, there are better games out there that do the same thing, but it certainly scratched that armchair detective itch.

Photo (c) iDVenture

There’s a Killer Among Us…

Putting our ‘escape room’ hat on for a moment, it’s hard to judge Adlerstein on puzzles because there weren’t many puzzles to solve in the game – with one exception in the form of a classic cipher puzzle. But this cipher didn’t fit well in the universe, and whats more it was long, cumbersome, and not fun to solve. We ended up skipping the cipher by checking the hints as not to disrupt the flow of the gameplay.

Otherwise all the puzzles players will encounter are pure social deduction puzzles. “If this, then that” or “If he said this, and she said something else, who is lying?” type of thing. Which are fun in their own right, but are less common in the escape room world.

You solve the case by filling out a grid – find everyone’s motive, their alibi, and so on. Whatever the gaps int he grid are is where you’ll find your killer.

So how did we do? We played Adlerstein once through without filling the grid and instead just holding the information in our heads. We reached the ending and short of an educated guess – couldn’t crack the case. So we started from the top and went through methodically, filling the grid, and making sure that each piece of information couldn’t be guessed. And then… We couldn’t crack the case either. I’m quite sure we guessed every single wrong answer before getting to the correct one, and even then we were like “huh? how?” A little but anti-climactic and a lot of frustrating, but we were glad for the resolution at the end.

No, the best thing about playing Adlerstein wasn’t solving puzzles – or even cracking the case. It was reading through a pretty cool story and feeling like you too were at the heart of it. People (fictional, sure) are depending on you to crack the case. It’s not your regular board game, it’s something quite different and that’s exciting!

Photo (c) iDventure

The Verdict

The Fire in Adlerstein is a classic whodunnit with plenty of twists and turns in the detailed story. Our tip to anyone using this post to help solve the game is to read and re-read everything for even the smallest details. The game comes in at between 1 – 3 hours, but can easily be reset and regifted. We made a lot of effort not to ruin any of the materials, and passed it along to the next person at The Escape Roomer to see if they could solve any faster!

The creators want you to feel like a real detective, but they’ll make you work for that solution – good luck!

Adlerstein can be purchased from iDventure’s website here.

itstravelti.me: Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant | Review

Image

Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant | itstravelti.me is a free puzzle, it’s like the online equivalent of a multi-part escape room. But with time travel. Navigate through 6th Century China, Egyptian zork-style tombs and the ’90s to help the time traveller, Agent 14, complete their mission and return to safety. The puzzle is split into three parts, each part will take roughly 30 minutes – 3 hours. There’s no time limit, take as long as you want to solve it, you can take a break and return where you left off at any time.

Completion Time: ~1hr30
Date Played: February 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Hard

There’s something incredibly exciting about seeing a listing on Craigsli- I mean, Daveslist for a Time Traveller’s apprentice. Just like in the 2012 film starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson, I too was answering a mysterious call from the internet to embark up on an adventure like no other. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but that is definitely the coolest thing ever.

So when we received a mysterious email from one of the creators of Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant, we were very excited indeed! Al, Ash, Tasha and myself got together on one of our weekly puzzle-solving Sunday nights and all agreed to open the introductory link at the same time to get started.

Safety not Guaranteed…

Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant is a web-based ARG (alternate reality game). Not much is known about it, except that’s it free and it begins right here. As an ARG, it isn’t any sense of the word ‘traditional’. By that, I’m comparing it to other escape room type games usually hosted on Telescape where you’re pointing around the room and clicking on objects to interact with them. Instead, you navigate through a series of web pages.

To guide you along the way is ‘The Time Traveller’ / Agent 14 who is caught in various eras throughout history including 6th Century China, ancient Egypt and the ’90s. Thanks to modern technology, they’re able to communicate directly with you via a handy one-way chatbot.

Because of the ARG nature, it’s not the most suitable game for playing with friends via video chat – which is exactly what we did. It’s definitely more suited to solo play, or playing with people in the same room. But if you do choose to play with friends online, you can always share your screen or read the text-heavy segments out loud.

In terms of technology, Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant was really unique. A lot of ARGs are on the basic side, but the creators have pulled out all the stops to make something unique and fun to play. At each time it felt immersive, almost like we were really talking to some pour soul at the other end of the interface. Plus, no surprise to say we loved the 90s aesthetic. Ahh… The internet of my childhood! *wipes tear from eye*

The team has done a lot with just a little text and created a digital world I really wanted to explore more and dig deeper into. I am impressed!

Part One – 6th Century China

The game begins in 6th century China with a mysterious puzzle about the zodiac years. Your goal is simple – figure out when the heck your Time Travelling companion is stuck! We whizzed through this puzzle using a clue or two and plenty of Google and before long we were on a roll. Onwards and upwards to Part Two!

Part Two – Ancient Egypt

The second part of Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant was maybe one of my favourite puzzle levels in any digital game for a long time. But heck, it was difficult! Players are presented with a text-based input to communicate with the Time Traveller who is in a maze. You’ll need to draw the maze as you instruct your companion to progress because the maze gets more complex the further in you go.

Along the way we encountered different chambers, different mini puzzles, and some delightful roleplay elements. I like a good maze as much as the next person, but it turns out I enjoy directing someone else through a maze even more so! Especially when the maze is full… Of cats!

One of the fun things about playing this game with other players is we all ended up in different parts of the maze. “Wait, where the heck are you? how do I get there?!” we called to each other back and forth as each of us exclaimed they’d found something different. Here working together really helped. The maze was not quite as daunting when we divided and conquered it.

Part Three – We Have No Idea!

Wait, what?

That’s right – we couldn’t actually progress to the third section of the game. The puzzle ‘gating’ the third section of the game we found insurmountably difficult between the four of us. It’s a common type of puzzle (no spoilers here) that two of our party were comfortable solving, but the ramp up in difficulty combined with the fact it was already quite late on the Sunday evening when we arrived at it meant we gave up after ~20 or so minutes and put the game to one side.

This particular puzzle is probably uniquely and logically solvable, but again not well suited to playing with a group of four players over video call since it’s very much a solo-puzzle. I later went back and did have a second attempt in my own time after printing the puzzle out and pouring over it over breakfast a few days later. But I came up against the same issue, not being able to pass beyond this point. I don’t consider myself particularly bad at solving this kind of puzzle but this particular iteration just didn’t click for me.

But I don’t just a game for my own personal shortcomings. So I couldn’t solve one puzzle – that’s on me. Up until this point we had a great time playing.

The Verdict

Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant is a really unique ARG experience quite unlike anything else I’ve played in a very long time! It had it’s delightful moments – and an equal number of moments where we were banging our collective heads against the desk. But hey, a balance in a game like this is good, right?

In our particular playthrough, it was a little bit disappointing not to be able to fully finish the game but as I say, that may be an issue with us and not with the game – I’ll let other players judge! But for that reason it’s hard to comment on the complete story line. What we saw was a lot of fun, but how did it end? Argh! I want to know! *shakes fist at the sky*

Do we recommend it? Well, it’s not quite an escape room, no, but it’s incredibly unique and well worth a try… Especially as at the time of writing it’s completely free. Yep, you read that right. For a game that is at least 2 hours worth of puzzling goodness, you can’t go wrong. Give it a go! See if you can succeed where we failed!

Wanted: Time Traveller’s Assistant can be played for free by heading to this link here.