Loughborough, Aug 2018
Don’t make a room unnecessarily dark; or if you do, make sure every player has a satisfactorily strong source of light. That’s a subjective opinion, and not everyone agrees with it, but it’s one I’ll argue for until I’m blue in the face. If it’s an opinion you share, then be warned you may find Sands of Time frustrating: it’s played in pitch darkness, with two lanterns shared between however many players are present.
To be fair, the total darkness successfully achieves its aim of building atmosphere. Sands of Time is Break Escape’s first game, and decorated less thoroughly than their other rooms. The jumping shadows and pools of darkness created by the two lanterns allow the space to feel much more convincingly like a stone chamber deep underground than it would otherwise manage. It also boasts a more interesting and elaborate layout than was immediately apparent.
I’d describe the game design as a little old fashioned in style, in that it consists of a series of puzzles placed in the room as puzzles, with varying levels of theming. Still, there’s some creative ideas often implemented in a pleasingly physical way.
I could nitpick here and there, with a few items that looked meaningful that turned out to be just decor, and minor design inconsistencies. For example, having some letter locks that resolve to actual words and others that resolve to a sequence of random letters is something that’s not going to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the game, but avoiding that is the sort of small polishing touch that helps give players confidence when they’re on the right track. However, far and away the biggest factor determining whether you enjoy the game will be how you feel about the lack of light.
I suspect enthusiasts are more likely than first-timers to object to having too few lanterns. It forces players without a light to cluster around those who do, creating unnecessary bottlenecks. Beginners may mind that less, since the result still feels like everyone solving together as a group; but the more games you’ve played, the more likely you’ll resent being held back from just being able to get on with the game.
If that doesn’t bother you, then Sands of Time is a traditional but entertaining game that gets better and better as it goes on. Otherwise, I can only recommend going as a team of two so no one gets left in the dark.