Room-in-a-box, Sep 2017
Episode 3 was actually the first of the Escape The Crate series I played, due to the order the boxes were delivered in (and a certain lack of patience on my part). I’m quite glad of that, since it’s a step down from the first two episodes, particularly episode 2, so playing it before them involved less disappointment.
The overarching plot kicks up a notch, with your agency’s headquarters scrambled by unapproved changes to history. Matching the theme, Roman numerals and a certain appropriate type of cipher are used repeatedly throughout – if you’re an experienced escape room player who’s encountered this type of cipher many times before, you may need to hold yourself back so you don’t crack it before you’re supposed to.
Riddles seem to be a staple of the series, with one in each game so far. The one in Colosseum comes right at the start, and provides a slightly unfriendly beginning to the game, especially since the riddle wording is a little iffy.
Common to all the Escape The Crate games is an admirable dedication to historical accuracy. It’d have been easy for the designers to knock together a story based in the Roman Empire that cribbed its setting from clichés and Hollywood movies, but they’ve put obvious effort into researching the time period and setting for each game, to include nice touches of authenticity.
Episode 3 introduces a new mechanic, where the players choose whether to complete the last couple of puzzles co-operatively or competitively. The competitive version provides equivalent but slightly different versions of the puzzles for each half of the team to work on. It’s an interesting innovation but one that comes across as a bit of a gimmick, partly because it’s difficult to actually solve the puzzles independently. The answers for each team are different, but the method of solution is the same, and it’s unlikely one half of the players will get to an answer without tipping off the others to how they got there. Still, it’s a nice variation, and players can always ignore it and take the co-operative option if they prefer.
Whether played co-operatively or competitively, the ending includes a step that seemed to me a bit obscure and arbitrary – not in a way that makes it unsolvable, just less satisfying as an answer. Everything between the start and the finish was perfectly solid and entertaining though, although with more paper-based content and fewer physical components than in earlier episodes.