Gravesend, May 2017
In Old Father Time, the personification of time itself is in trouble, and it’s up to your team to save him. That’s one of the more potentially surreal premises for a game I’ve seen, but in practice there are no Dali-esque melting clocks here – instead, it’s a rather charming fantasy woodland setting, the sort where furry animals wear smoking jackets and eyeglasses, and tree trunks may hold a tiny front door.
The operators at The Panic Room normally do the initial briefing inside the game room. With Old Father Time they instead do it before entering, because apparently players were getting too distracted by the decorations to listen properly. As that suggests, it’s a pretty room, decorated floor to ceiling. While it’s very attractive and atmospheric, what I really enjoyed were the props and puzzle items. Pretty much everything here looks custom-built, or at least custom-adapted, with extensive use of wooden materials that have the same tactile appeal as a good old-fashioned toy shop.
The game uses plenty of padlocks, but most of them are big chunky metal things that fit the room’s style perfectly. And there’s some nice pictorial hinting that means you’re never stuck trying a key on each of a succession of padlocks.
While the puzzles themselves are fairly disparate, the game cleverly fits them into a structure that makes them feel like a unified narrative, with a ‘once upon a time’ story book style.
The handcrafted puzzles aren’t always perfect; there was one moment where we thought something was fixed in place, which actually turned out to just need to be pushed a little harder. But they’re designed with skill and care, so for example one puzzle involving colour also marks each colour with different symbols, thereby avoiding any problems for players who struggle to differentiate similar shades.
The whimsical, sweet style of the room is what will remain with you, but it’s also a satisfyingly solid escape game with lots of creative touches and a lovely aesthetic throughout.