Bury, Sep 2018
Having time to play only three of the six games on offer at Trapped In Bury, Time Machine was the one I picked more or less at random to complete our schedule, based mainly on it sounding like a theme with potential to be interesting. In fact, it turned out to be a remarkably cheeky bait-and-switch, where although you start and end the game in your time machine, the bulk of the game uses a completely different style of decoration. That might be disappointing to players who’d come for something sci-fi throughout, though personally I felt more amused than hard done by.
For the time machine section of the game, visuals are enthusiastically lo-fi in a style I’d describe as silver foil and sticking tape, enhanced with a variety of functional and non-functional electronics. That’s not intended to sound disparaging; what it lacked in polish it gained in homemade charm, like a 60s episode of Doctor Who. I won’t go into specifics about the theming in the central part of the game, but it could be described as ‘escape room default’ in appearance and style.
The quite traditional mix of puzzles included various escape room staples including a certain amount of searching. We were mightily pleased at ourselves for discovering a hidden compartment, and that satisfaction was only slightly dented to discover that the compartment wasn’t used for anything in the game. My favourite moment was a surprise that had me very briefly worried I’d broken something, which turned out to be part of the design; my least favourite was finding a UV torch with no hints for where to use it, which led to a protracted period spent taking turns scanning everything for hidden messages while the other person stood around with little to do.
But although the bulk of Time Machine was a rather standard and somewhat old-fashioned game, the framing of it with a time travel plot added quite a lot. Many games drop you straight into a room and expect you to just get on with solving, or perhaps give you a signposted starting point to get you going. Time Machine starts off with a scripted story sequence, and even if the follow-up can’t possibly live up to what that promises, it’s a far stronger way to open a game than simply closing the door on the players and starting the clock. A similarly good ending neatly book-ended the experience, leaving me quite content with what would otherwise have been a very mediocre game, and I was even happy to forgive the painfully screeching sound effect used whenever the ‘time machine’ was active.