Reading, Feb 2020
Time Trap’s wartime game is based around Bletchley counter-espionage. Set in a railway station, it gives you the job of identifying which of seven suspects is a spy. You have an additional bonus mission – apparently the spy has hidden several cylinders of coded information around the station, and you’re to find as many of these as you can.
All Time Trap’s games boast high quality sets. Station X is I think the most authentic-feeling of theirs so far, perhaps because it’s set in a more recent time period for which genuine artefacts are more readily available, and makes it easy to feel immersed in the 1940s. The room isn’t large, but uses a structure where there are typically multiple different things for the team to work on at the same time, keeping bottlenecking to a minimum.
Despite consistently smart and creative puzzles, Station X didn’t enchant me quite as much as Time Trap’s other games. One reason for that is probably the final resolution. How that works is explained in the pre-game briefing, but I’ll avoid details here; it is, however, something for which you can have correctly gathered all the clues and still get wrong. That’s entirely appropriate for the story, and adds an unusual, high-stakes challenge to finish with. At the same time, that means it’s ambiguous in a way that escape rooms normally try to avoid, and for good reason; guesswork is rarely a welcome part of an escape room, even when it’s informed guesswork. That might be something that bothers enthusiasts more than other players, since experienced players are more aware of the genre’s conventions and more likely to rely on them, and it may also depend on the expectations with which you approach the puzzle. I didn’t feel it was a design flaw so much as unexpected, something that wasn’t entirely to my personal taste but which I’d expect many other teams to enjoy.
It’s important to note that Station X is designed as a versus game, and is probably best played in that form. Both the main task and the bonus collection of cylinders mean that out-performing a rival team is more than just a matter of churning through the puzzles as quickly as possible. That makes for a much better race, not least because it means the gamemaster is free to step in with hints to help a team progress without giving them an unfair advantage over their rivals.
In any case, even if Station X wasn’t my favourite of Time Trap’s games, that’s only because their others set such a high standard; it’s absolutely worth your time. I really enjoyed the careful, detailed set design, with technology integrated subtly enough not to clash with the period setting. Puzzle design is rock solid, and makes very good use of both aspects of the theme: the railway station and the spycraft. While it’s probably best played as a competitive race, it also works perfectly well for a single team, and should be equally well suited for beginners or enthusiasts.