Liverpool, Sep 2018
We played five games at Breakout’s Liverpool branch, and I’ve played a couple of theirs in Cardiff as well, and of those Warped is definitely the one I found most interesting and the one I’d recommend most warmly. It’s a time travel story, played for humour: your friend has managed to build a working time machine but has then carelessly left a variety of possessions in different time periods, and so is sending you to gather them up before they cause a catastrophic alteration to history.
Be warned that it’s one of the few games located in the venue’s upstairs area, meaning you’ll need to climb several flights of stairs to get to it! Our gamemaster was tight-lipped about the game’s content, choosing to leave it to the intro video to fill in the backstory. Initial impressions were that it was quite bare of decorations, but that was misleading.
As rapidly becomes clear, this is effectively a series of escape mini-games. You’re not so much entering different time periods as being faced with a sequence of vignettes or dioramas representing each period, with a small set of puzzles to solve in each one to retrieve your target item. Having solved the puzzles for one time period, you can then find a way to get to the following one. Each opens with a dramatic reveal, so you never know where you’re going next until you finish the preceding stage.
I disliked a couple of the puzzles, one involving counting and another where the intended solution felt a bit arbitrary. But with those exceptions, each stage of the game felt very satisfying, a bite-size mini-escape that used its theme well, each distinct from the others in style and content. Some played on nostalgia, others went for more of a visual effect, but each made excellent use of a very small space.
It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what worked so well about it, but something about the structure was very satisfying: perhaps the way each section was neatly separate and different, substantial enough to give a buzz of triumph on completing it, and short enough to get through several of them in the time limit. Perhaps it helped that, whenever we got stuck, there was an unusually narrow set of items within which we knew the answer must lie. In any case, I thought it just worked. Like most of Breakout’s games it’s on the short side for experienced teams, and with a larger group you might find that you bottleneck around the small number of puzzles available at each stage, so I’d suggest two or maybe three players; but it’s a distinctive format and a fun game that I’m happy to recommend.