Online, Jun 2020
Although I’m delighted that during this time of lockdown it’s possible to play escape rooms remotely via a video livestream, there’s no question that I’d much rather play rooms in person, and normally assume that the remote format is an inevitable step down from the live version. Trapped’s Operation X-13 is I think the first game I’ve tried where I think the version they run for remote play might have the edge over the original.
It’s a fairly classic sort of escape room scenario: infiltrate the evil corporation and find the critical data needed to thwart their nefarious plans. The corporate setting means office-style decor, which while perfectly well done isn’t the most exciting surroundings. But what’s immediately engaging is your avatar, who is a well-defined character not simply a proxy for the players. Dialogue and interaction with him was much more lively than simply instructing him what to do and where to look, and brought a whole extra charm to the game.
I’ll admit there were points where I just wanted him to hurry up and upload the damn clues already. X-13 uses an inventory system that features a 360° image of your surroundings plus a list of zoomable photos of the items you’ve found. Each time you find something, the avatar tells you a short code to type into the interface which adds the new item or items to the list – a system not as slick as those where the items appear without player intervention, but which worked well enough. There were a lot of codes to enter, over two dozen, and plenty of clue items to juggle; fortunately the venue did pro-actively remove items once they were no longer needed (a couple of times a little quicker than I’d have liked).
Curiously, there were a handful of useful items that we found that weren’t included in the inventory, maybe because they didn’t particularly need close-up pictures and the company’s trying to reduce the number of codes you have to type in. That tripped us up more than once, since we quickly began replying on the inventory system as a list of relevant clue items, and repeatedly forgot about the things that weren’t on it.
Puzzles were creative and logical, with a good naturalistic style that made it feel like we were infiltrating a company’s headquarters not just solving puzzles in a room. However, my top reason for recommending this game would be that, primarily thanks to the avatar, this becomes a much more interactive and immersive game in a number of ways. It’s certainly one that you’ll like more if you enjoy your escape rooms with a little more overlap with immersive theatre, and are happy to lean into the roleplay. It’ll also benefit from careful tracking of what you’ve found, not just relying on the inventory system provided!