Bury, Sep 2018
Interstellar was the second game we played at Trapped In with a sci-fi theme, and the difference was remarkable. Where Time Machine used silver foil and spare electronics as decoration, Interstellar is in a different league. Though not up to Hollywood movie set levels, it presents a thoroughly credible starship interior; and it uses a simple but remarkably successful effect making it feel far larger than it actually is. I also appreciated the way they’d chosen a flooring that completely looked the part but which was soft as a yoga mat – I guess it’s a sign of increasing age that my knees sometimes find it quite painful if I spend too long crawling or peering under furniture in escape rooms with less considerate floor choices.
The mission is simple: your spaceship has lost all power and is heading towards a black hole, leaving you sixty minutes (with no fancy time dilation effects from the black hole!) to get everything back online.
Spaceship themes naturally tend towards screens and unfamiliar equipment, and their puzzles are sometimes a little too close to just following instructions. Interstellar has its share of that, but subverts it brilliantly in its execution. If you’ve tried the smartphone game Space Team, then it has something in common with that, in that playing it starts to feel like you’re actually the crew of a spaceship, shouting out frantic instructions to one another in semi-intelligible technobabble in a way that manages to be both immersive and fun.
The light-hearted, energetic feel extends throughout the game. It throws in gratuitous puns just for the hell of it, and gets you physically involved in a variety of ways – some parts require genuine exertion, and others are equally challenging in other ways. One highlight combines dexterity with teamwork in a way that might have you snarling at your teammates when they mess it up, but has a correspondingly strong surge of satisfaction when you beat it. There’s a creativity to it that shines through even in puzzles that I might otherwise dismiss as just another way to derive a four digit code.
While pretty much all the individual pieces of Interstellar were superb, the overall flow occasionally lacked clarity. That was despite some good labelling of which parts linked to what, mainly because it was sometimes unclear what if anything had changed when we did something (aggravated by one hatch that failed to open altogether). With multiple electronic keypads, it also got a little tricky to track which ones we’d used already; it’s a shame they don’t deactivate after the correct code is entered. We also had a couple of gamemaster hints that seemed to be directing us to puzzles we’d already solved, something we saw in all three of the Trapped In games we played. Like sand in a set of gears, that added friction without preventing the game from working – the highlights were so successful we were happy to forgive it when it went less smoothly.
A couple of those hiccups may have been specific to our visit; there are certainly some points that could be tightened up a little. But even so, there is just so much to love, in the decor and use of space, in the originality of the puzzles, in the light humour and physicality of the game. Maybe more than all of those I liked that it really felt like operating a spaceship, even if it’s closer to Red Dwarf than anything directed by Christopher Nolan. It’s irresistibly entertaining right from the start, and a game well worth going out of your way to play.